The problem is, we don’t have cable TV. So we can’t watch many World Cup games at home. ABC shows games on the weekend, but if you want to see, say, Ecuador vs. Costa Rica, you need cable. And half the time, you need Univision, the U.S. Spanish-language cable network.
Since it’s good Spanish comprehension practice in addition to often being the only option we have, Eileen and I have frequently gone over to her parents’ house to watch the Univision live broadcasts of the games. It’s been fun. We engage in a similar ritual of camping in front of the Ruzicka TV every summer for the Tour de France.
With the World Cup, however, we’ve had the unique experience of seeing both Univision broadcasts and ESPN/ABC broadcasts, all of which are targeting people living in the U.S. but different cultures within the U.S.. Univision roots for pretty much all of the South and Central American teams, since it’s mostly targeting hispanic immigrants. There’s a little more emphasis on Mexico, but they celebrate victories by Ecuador, Argentina, and Brasil pretty equally.
It’s been interesting noting the difference between the Univision coverage and the ESPN coverage. This country is obviously not too into soccer (which really should be called football, just, you know, cuz of logic), but I’m not here to criticize us for that. Yes, I happen to like watching soccer way more than baseball, golf, football, or basketball, but sports spectating is a social phenomenon.
I was just having this discussion with some other teachers on the last day of school. One of them remarked that he just can’t get into soccer. I told him about how insane it was to be in Quito when Ecuador beat Brasil and Argentina. There was a real feeling of unity. People were waving Ecuadorian flags out their car windows and honking. You could have gone up to complete strangers and hugged them. It was great.
And it made it hard not to get into it. If you are surrounded by people who love a sport, chances are that you’ll get into it. I admit to watching several “March Madness” games — in part because of the hype — even though I normally don’t watch much basketball.
Of course, there are other factors involved in fandom. You’ve got to understand the game; you’ve got to appreciate its difficulty and the skill of the players; it helps if you get to know the players’ names and faces. But I still contend that the social aspect of sports is really the most important.
All sports are absurd. When you sit back and think about them, they’re silly. Many of them involve attempting to put a ball in a designated place. Isn’t that just a little bit wierd?
If the U.S. wants to remain stalwart in its shunning of the most popular game in the world, that’s actually fine with me. I’m not going to complain about it. That being said, Univision’s coverage of the World Cup kicks ass. The few times I’ve seen the ABC/ESPN coverage, it’s been more about gossip than about the games. One example was ABC’s touching little human interest story on Landon Donavan’s selfless dedication to his future brother-in-law. Another was the “controversy” surrounding Eddie Johnson’s outrageous comparison between soccer and war. Like sports and war have never been compared before. Give me a break. I think one could argue that sports are a healthy manifestation of the same sorts of instincts that cause war and that the war metaphor works. In fact, with that metaphor in mind, consider the following statement: the U.S. chooses its own sports.