These Are The Best Of Times
While much of the United States sports world is focused on the start of the new NFL season or the baseball pennant races I could not care less about those things. Soccer is all that matters. I'm more interested in the start of new seasons half a globe away and the stretch run of Major League Soccer here at home than I am by what's going on in the more 'traditional' sports. I don't say this to be holier-than-thou. In fact, most of my soccer friends maintain their ties to the more traditional US sports. I'm just grateful I live in a time where I can save all my brain cells and heart strings for the only sport I truly love. I used to be a fan of all of the big sports. For one reason or another, as the years passed, they faded into the background because of the power of soccer. The days of scouring the magazine stand for the latest Who's Who or Street & Smith's faded as soccer took its hold on me. It's not because of my job. Rather, my job is because of my passion. It's not work to watch the greatest sport ever invented. I hope my love of the game makes it through your speakers to your ears. I don't know how many fans there are out there like me but I'm not the only one. While many American fans might be scouring the wires for box scores and training camp cuts, this week my world was tightly wound around the board room decisions heading into the final hours of the transfer period. I know I'm not alone. Twitter was overloaded several times this week and I'm pretty sure it wasn't all because of Beyonce's baby bump. In this world we live in fans in the US have their pick of the litter. From the giants like the Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga and Serie A to championships a bit closer to home, like MLS, NASL, USL, WPS and college to games from the Mexican first and second division. Here at GolTV, there is more competition every year. For the soccer fan that means more choices to see their favorite sport. In fact, US fans have more soccer at their disposal than anywhere else on earth. In addition you can also watch games from Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia, Ecuador, France, Greece, Japan, Peru, South Korea and Uruguay. These are just some of the other leagues you can watch on your television and I'm sure I missed many more. This doesn't even include all of the other leagues available on the internet. We are raising a generation of soccer fans that don't need to feel like second-class sports citizens, but are even free to discard the old standards of the Big Four of football, baseball, basketball and hockey. Whether or when it overtakes the established sports is unimportant. Soccer is growing out of its niche and into the mainstream. Think of the reaction to Landon Donovan's goal against Algeria or Abby Wambach's score on Brazil. The United States is already at a stage where soccer can etch its indelible moments onto the national's psyche. Because the mainstream ignored it, soccer fans were forced to find new avenues to feed their need: satellite and cable television, the internet and now twitter. And now those industries are growing while print and over-the-air networks wither. NBC's recent decision to become the latest soccer outlet shows that the mainstream is finally waking up to the power of the sport. The first time I realized that soccer had truly taken root was during World Cup 2006 in Germany. I was fortunate enough to be part of a great crew broadcasting the matches back to the States on satellite radio. The broadcasts were well-received and following the games we would have a post-game show. Within seconds of the games ending the phone lines were lit up and jam packed for hours. Yes, these were soccer fans, but they were also housewives and long-haul truckers, college students and restaurant workers. There is something surreal about breaking down Ghana's performance with a guy named Bubba hauling broccoli through Montana. At the start of MLS, I remember talking with other fans and people in the soccer world about what it would take for the sport to succeed. My view was that it was inevitable. Fifteen years ago, we were already at a stage where fans who grew up with the legendary NASL or leagues from Europe or Latin America had entered the business world. Soccer just needed to wait until those fans matured to the point where they were the ones making the business decisions. Now we see more teams, more sponsors and more outlets. The time has come. Sports is passion, sizzle. And it's always easier to sell soccer when the person making the decision shares the same passion. In the networks and on Madison Avenue we're already seeing it happen. There will be pitfalls, but soccer cannot be stopped. I am glad to be living in such times. What do you think about where soccer stands now? Please comment below, or tweet me @PhilSchoen. I'd like to hear from you!