The following is a completely biased message (as the headline of this column suggests), since I consider myself a soccer guy who happens to currently work in the TV business. Full disclosure: My resume includes stints as a PR person with the 1994 World Cup, a First Division soccer team in England and a Major League Soccer franchise. So, I’ve sold soccer before.
But for me, fútbol is more than a past career; it is a passion. I have attended most of the major sporting events in the U.S., from Super Bowls to World Series Game 7s to Final Fours, but none of them rated as my best live experience as a fan. That is a toss-up between Ipswich Town upsetting Inter Milan in the UEFA Cup, or tiny Swansea ousting mighty West Ham United in the FA Cup. I know; you have no idea what I just said. Don’t worry; no one else in America does either, which probably explains why I didn’t get a lot of dates in high school.
But my ties to the game haven’t left exclusively happy results, as I actually met my wife—a former sportswriter—in a press box at an MLS game in San Jose.
Bias aside, the most fantastic sporting event in the world is about to captivate audiences all over the planet for the next month. And you’d be smart to join in. And you probably will, as we are famously an event society. Watched a lot of curling or figure skating since the Olympics, have you?
The 2010 event takes place in South Africa, which will make for beautiful pictures. The stadiums will be packed with colorful and boisterous fans. Be warned: The audio may be less than inviting, as the local fans blow shrill horns the entire match—called vuvuzelas—that make my mother-in-law’s voice seem engaging by comparison.
But the commentary will be worth it. In English, ESPN will have brilliantly understated voices with British accents, led by the talented Martin Tyler and Derek Rae. (Still more full disclosure: Rae hired me in 1993 to join the World Cup, so I kind of owe him my professional life.)
And if you’d like to sample more passionate and boisterous broadcasters, flip to Univision, especially when the lying, cheating Mexican team (our arch-rival) is plying their evil trade on the pitch.
The game you don’t want to miss is the U.S. playing England on June 12. It is not hyperbole to say that if the Yanks beat the Brits, it will be the biggest upset since 1776. And a bigger deal to the English than that. And here, it will set off a media firestorm—and high comedy—as we get to watch members of the soccer-ignoring TV world try to pronounce the name of American defender Oguchi Onyewu.
About 17 times in the next month as the World Cup heats up, I will come home and tell my wife I am going back to work in soccer full-time. She’ll do what she does when I say anything: roll her eyes and ignore me. But she and I and the rest of the world will be glued to our TV sets for the next month—and so should you.
E-mail comments to ben.grossman@ nbmedia.com and follow him on Twitter: @BCBenGrossman
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