It seems that with every World Cup cycle the longtime fan can mark off the check boxes when it comes to media coverage of soccer in America. The TV ratings, the many different promotional events pre-tournament where guys who have been playing for years, occasionally in the highest levels, are asked to do simple skills like juggling a ball, as if they were monkeys to the organ grinder that is any random choice of morning television or radio show. But we do have a couple of requests as the World Cup unfolds for those in the media or elsewhere:
One: Spend a little bit of prep time, will you? We'll be more than happy to help.
Believe it or not, American soccer fans are a jolly and amiable bunch and not generally the bunch of beer-soaked jerks that our friends in Europe and South America may be (you know the ones, they get the headlines in a derogatory way). Feel free to ask a question here and there of us, we'll be more than happy to provide you answers. We'll be patient, accommodating, or give you a fun soundbite if the moment arises, or this:
Sky Kerstein does a lot of work for 106.7 WJFK-FM, D.C. United's English radio station in town. He covers teams in town that he (and likely others) would put in an umbrella as "D.C. sports teams" or "Big 4 sports teams." I am a fan of some of the teams in town and moreover, enjoy Kerstein's reporting. But this leads me to:
Two: There are more than two teams in D.C. who conduct business during the summer, some time discussing those teams would be nice.
On the first day of World Cup action and one day after D.C. beat Montreal, the local NBC affiliate covered the Nats, the O's, RGIII holding a volunteer camp for kids after an OTA and...that's it, that's the list. This from a station that could presumably and easily get highlights from the CSN DC affiliate without having to go through the Sheinhardt Wig company to do so.
The downside of covering the "Big 4" and exclusively on them is that when you are called upon to actually, how you say, opine on things like soccer, the result is painful. You can either look at this example from a nationally known sports personality, or you can tune into D.C. sports talk radio whenever a soccer segment is on and they take calls. The day after the United States beat Ghana, I heard the AM station in town at lunch say that they don't like soccer because of the lack of scoring, because I guess FIFA's decision not to award seven points to every goal scored is an issue. The FM station on drive time took a call from a guy who hated soccer because of the flopping and perhaps instituting replay for such offenses. At the risk of sounding like a soccer snob, the rules are the rules sir. Moreover, if you wanted to turn games into two to three hour snoozefests with numerous replays, go watch a baseball game.
In the meantime, may I suggest:
Three: If you want to be held to your arguments about soccer, may I suggest actually seeing an MLS game?
I am perfectly willing to accept their deficiencies in quality and judgment (among others). Yet at the moment there is a committee that metes out supplementary discipline, including fines and occasional suspensions. MLS used disappearing spray before it was cool. And hey, not only is there a team in Washington D.C., but they're in first place to boot! If you do not feel like seeing the game for 90 minutes, did you know the team plays in the old home of the NFL team with the objectionable nickname that now plays in Maryland? It's true. See some DC sports history if you'd like, or even better the soccer team who, if I did not mention it, is in first place.
Now, a lot of you may not be aware of the fact that the team is in first place, or that they won a(nother) trophy last year. If you cannot find a fan of the soccer team in town by some rhyme or reason, I cannot blame you, as our numbers have dwindled over the last few years. But do not fret, because:
Four: D.C. United, you have been warming up long enough, start getting some run.
Let's put aside the on-field product has been in some disrepair for awhile, making it hard to talk about/market it. Or even the prices that dozens have had to pony up to endure such results. Let's even put aside the turnover that the off-field product has endured in the last couple of off-seasons. I think we are at a point where the communications and marketing team needs to challenge themselves in town, not to mention others. Let's try to shoot a video that is not Boswell-centric, or lean on promotions which are basically glamorized Homer Simpson quotes. The one thing that you would expect the team to be ready for (the push for approval of the stadium by the City) they appeared not to be. Encouraging.
I think that there are signs, albeit slow ones, of some sort of awakening. Going from no multimedia to some (and the work both on last year's Open Cup behind the scenes and this year's "Unmarked" recurring feature are feathers in the cap) and new stadium renderings ahead of the hearing are encouraging, but more should be done. We hope to see it soon, particularly if the United States does well in Brazil. Something about leveraging opportunities and such, particularly if Sunday's U.S.-Portugal game is positive for the Yanks.
Now by no means is this a be all end all list of action items that is designed to not immediately sway hearts and minds or the fortunes of a storied yet semi-moribund franchise for Major League Soccer. Soccer, much as in life, brings rewards after countless hours of patience. If nothing else, USA-Ghana showed us that immediate satisfaction is fleeting, brought on by seemingly endless anxiety.
But there may still be a John Anthony Brooks moment or two if everyone's willing to do their part.