Saturday, July 10, 2010

10 steps to better TV soccer

Have you got World Cup fever yet? Neither do I, but I have watched a couple of matches. It makes me wonder why FIFA and the TV producers don’t do a few basic things to make the game LOTS more interesting for the American viewer. Besides “destroying the integrity of the game,” these 10 steps will certainly grow the game for the American TV market.

Soccer leagues have all the little kids in the nation locked up, but they won’t break through to the rest of us until they change something. Maybe FIFA is perfectly fine having the world’s most popular sporting event without the US market. OK, but while I’m trying to “do my part” and be relevant to a global event, it would be more enjoyable if they had a clue about the American TV viewer.

So with apologies to the futbol purists, here are 10 steps to better TV soccer:

1. More and better use of cameras – What are they using – 2? 3? Why not the overhead view? The end of the field long view? How about the camera on a track (used in NFL games and at track meets) to show the speed of the game when players are in a footrace to catch the ball? How about a “goal cam” to show what the goalie sees during the single most exciting moment of any game – the penalty kick? A close look shows only the occasional use of these angles. What a waste! For the American audience, they will need to use those angles more.

2. More instant replay – I don’t want to overturn the official’s call. It’s enough to embarrass them when they blow a call. They currently use the replay on penalties, during scuffles, and for shots on goal. Headers are amazing physical feats that deserve more coverage. And dare I say it… the tele-strator?

3. Border ads – I actually like the Rock ‘em-Sock ‘em football players on the lower edge of the screen during Fox’s NFL coverage. It’s fun. Let the ad creators develop the borders of the screen. I’m easily bored, OK? All that long running across that big field. Producers seem to struggle to find ad space on events that don’t have natural stops in play, but they’ve done OK with NASCAR ad availability.

4. More player profiles – this is critical when we don’t know the players. It’s a big field, but I want to see his face! If he’s a great player, you’ll have to show me why. Winning goals? Games started? Shots on goal? The goalies should be big time stars, but I want to see the stats that count. Educate us. Oh, they don’t want to embarrass the American viewer that has to be walked through fine points of the game? Maybe it’s better that we don’t watch at all. Idiocy!

5. Sponsored plays – since we’re going all commercial, how about “that header brought you by Brylcream – for winners!” “That goalie’s big hands play sponsored by Isotoner.”  Hmm... guess there aren't that many opportunities for sponsored plays...

6. More ads with soccer metaphors - The ads during the World Cup rarely reinforce soccer imagery. I like the stadium placards for Budweiser, and I like the GEICO soccer announcer. The Allstate protection goalie, good. The Adidas YouTube ad with Beckham, Snoop and Daft Punk, outstanding! I want to see highway safety ads where the driver waves a yellow card as a substitute for road rage. How about “90 minutes to win” as a call to office productivity?

7. Profile local soccer kids – Those nerdy kids who play soccer are going to need a real make over to start winning the popularity contests. Get these kids on a soccer version of punt, pass and kick. And once TV learns how to cover soccer, state championship soccer matches should find themselves on TV, sponsored by FIFA.

8. Convert kids to soccer from other sports – Are soccer players fast? Fastest on the field? Can you recruit the kid with the fastest 40 from football to soccer? Can the defensive end be converted to soccer goalie with all the celebration that his quarterback sacks used to get? Think Lawrence Taylor or Alfred Willams or Karl Malone as goalie.

9. The next star after Beckham? – who is it? Make sure he has a movie star or rock star wife.

10. And lastly, US success in the World Cup - "our" team will have to get to the semi-finals in the World Cup. Relax, you‘ve got four more years to harvest the next round of great players.

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