With the “unveiling” of David Beckham in LA, we have been treated to the usual (and, what, the 10,923rd?) round of lazy, half-informed, unreported journalese on the crucial question of WHEN WILL THE (STUPID, IF THE WRITER IS BRITISH) AMERICANS TAKE TO THE (SORT OF GAY AND WEIRD, IF THE WRITER IS AMERICAN) SPORT OF SOCCER/FOOTBALL (OR WHATEVER THE COMMUNISTS CALL IT)?
As a so-called professional journalist, I am always astonished at what editors let writers get away with on this subject, though I suppose it has become a staple in the same vein as old favo(u)rites like DO POLITICIANS LIE?, SHOCKING VIOLENCE CLAIMS INNOCENT LIFE and HOW STRANGE AND UNKNOWABLE ARE TODAY’S TEENS, WITH THEIR GADGETS AND HOODOO MUSIC?
It’s an easy way to earn a day’s pay, I suppose: chuck in a few well-worn tropes about how Americans just don’t get the game because there aren’t enough commercials, or how the players are all soft because they can reasonably expect to live to 50, unlike gridiron pros; add some ungrounded speculation about how the World Cup, Freddy Adu, David Beckham or [INSERT SOMETHING HERE] might or might not change things; hit the bar. It’s not quite as easy as quoting your cab driver while filing from foreign soil, but it’s close.
Bad news comes for all hacks, however, in the form of a post on The New York Times’ so-far excellent soccer blog. The jig is up, the party is over, because when nearly 1 million people in New York City alone are watching a Copa America semifinal match, I’d say the fait is accompli.
Some will say the gonzo ratings for ArgoMexico don’t matter because the commentary was in Spanish. That misses the real story, which is that the language “barrier” is irrelevant to the growth of the US soccer audience. Enough Americans either speak Spanish fluently or know enough to get by to understand Univision. (How conversant do you need to be? “Pelota” and “gol” are pretty easy to work out, and most everyone can appreciate the Latino TV Cleavage Factor on some level.) Any American who lives in an urban environment is exposed to spoken and printed Spanish every day. A lot of Americans were born in or have travelled to Spanish-speaking lands.