Wednesday, July 31, 2013
Can Major League Soccer save ESPN and the negative light it shines on athletes in America?
While the National Football League, Major League Baseball, NCAA Football and others continue to make headlines for the wrong reasons, Major League Soccer is making headlines for the right reasons.
Earlier this season LA Galaxy's Robbie Rogers became the first openly gay male athlete to play in a major professional sports league in America. Leading up to the announcement that he would join LA this season, Rogers' story became increasingly popular throughout the mainstream media and a key focal point of change and growth in American professional sports.
Rogers made his first appearance with the LA Galaxy in the 77th minute on ESPN's MLS Game of the Week on Saturday, May 26; a 4-0 win over the Seattle Sounders. In front of a packed house, Rogers was gifted one of the loudest, uplifting reactions from MLS fans all season.
Flash forward a couple weeks later and it's almost as if nothing ever happened. What might possibly be the biggest story in Major League Soccer this season went from something controversial, problematic and revolutionary all at the same time to almost a non-issue.
If you compare Rogers' story to what is going on with Johnny Manziel right now, which is more inspiring, motivational, positive? Easy. So why does the mainstream media seem to focus so much on negativity? Instead of highlighting and praising athletes for the positive role they're portraying, the media seems to look for ways to accentuate their mishaps and make them the subject of even more controversy. Sometimes you can even catch the analysts on TV giving the player some form of fatherly advice.
A lot of people, including myself, think that soccer in America has not been given the respect it deserves from the mainstream media. Rarely do you see something highlighted on television or in the newspaper with regards to soccer. It's something that I think is going to change eventually, but when?
U.S. soccer does not generate nearly anything close to what the NFL or MLB does with regards to revenue, but from a media standpoint what are we teaching our youth? We shine a light on players in other sports who continue to let us down, while players in Major League Soccer are doing things lift others up. News has never been more accessible than it is today through social media, and according to this article (written 4/8/13) 37% of teenagers in the U.S. have their own smartphone. I'm sure that number has only gone up since then.
Aaron Hernandez (NFL), Alex Rodriguez (MLB), Ryan Braun (MLB), Johnny Manziel (NCAA), Tiger Woods (PGA) and even Kobe Bryant (NBA) have become global icons for their respective sports. All of these athletes have worked very hard to get where they are/were in their careers, but at some point or another have let us all down. When was the last time you could say that about a U.S. Soccer player?
Here are some of the latest search results from Google with regards to the six athletes named above. I've also included U.S. Men's National team player and LA Galaxy forward, Landon Donovan.
Google - Estimated number of results (7/31/13)
Alex Rodriguez - 157,000,000
Aaron Hernandez - 105,000,000
Tiger Woods - 68,400,000
Ryan Braun - 68,000,000
Kobe Bryant - 61,100,000
Johnny Manziel - 35,700,000
Landon Donovan - 19,100,000
You could argue that the difference between Alex Rodriguez and Landon Donovan (approximately 137,900,000 results) is so large mainly because Rodriguez is under investigation for steroid use. We all know that he makes more money than Donovan and that he's a bigger star among the mainstream media, but why do people insist on giving a bad seed more and more publicity?
Rodriguez is 38 years old and he hasn't done anything for the United States of America. He really hasn't done all that much for Major League Baseball either. If anything, he's ruining the entire sport and its reputation. Didn't the U.S. Men's National team just win the 2013 Gold Cup? Shine some light on that.
ESPN has seen a decline in ratings this year and it serves them right. Some people are even having a little fun mocking it (Dave Letterman's Top 10 lowest rated shows on ESPN). Breaking news is great, but when you go on and on about the same subject it gets old. If soccer is the most popular sport in the world, why not put it on TV more often?
This brings us to some good news! ESPN FC, ESPN's new soccer show that will air Sunday through Friday at 530pm ET starting August 11. What this show does ratings wise could be very beneficial for the growth of soccer in America. Details regarding the hosts and primary focus of the show have not yet been released, but we'll find out soon enough.
ESPN's show will not be the only new soccer show set to air in August. Fox Sports 1 will introduce FOX Soccer Daily on August 19. This show is also 30 minutes long (starts at 4pm ET) and will be recorded from a studio in Los Angeles. For more details on the show, click here.
As a kid, I grew up idolizing all athletes. I was in awe of them. But now, because of their actions and the way they're portrayed on TV and in the mainstream media, I've become more cautious. Anybody can be a good athlete, maybe even a phenomenal one if they work hard enough, but character is what earns you respect in my opinion, and until you have that...you're nothing.
Here's hoping that ESPN FC kills it! In a good way.