The world's advertisements

By Daniel Holz | June 21, 2010 8:45 pm

I’m not a fan of professional sports. I find the whole scenario of people rooting for their local team, consisting of a bunch of (generally egregiously overpaid) athletes that have no particular connection to their “hometown”, somewhat absurd. I can’t even watch the Olympics anymore, since it seems like a two-week long promotional ad, with a few minutes of mind-blowing athleticism thrown in now and then. I generally prefer playing sports than watching others do so.

USA_winsHowever, I confess that I absolutely love the World Cup. I love that the entire world (with the possible exception of the US) becomes mesmerized. Europe and the Americas are well represented. But so are Africa and Asia. Even North Korea managed to qualify. I love that the games are shown without interruption: two 45 minutes halves (plus extra time), with no break for commercials. Just nonstop football/soccer. Yes, the uninitiated complain that almost nothing ever happens. But they are missing that something is always happening. The game is relentless. These are amazing athletes, from all corners of the globe, playing with no rest for 45 minutes straight. There is individual brilliance. There is brilliant teamwork. Granted, the rash of 0-0 games has been disappointing. Although play is generally exciting, it’s still fun to have a goal now and then. Especially if you’re forced to watch in the 3:30am–5:30am slot, as we are in Asia.

Clear evidence that the whole world is watching can be found in the advertisements which appear on the billboards circling the field. There are, of course, familiar names. But there are plenty of advertisements that, at least for me, spark no recognition whatsoever: Mahindra Satyam, Continental (not the airline), MTN, Seara, and an ad in Chinese that I couldn’t even read. It tells you something when someone is paying for what must be some of the most expensive advertising real estate anywhere, anytime, and the vast majority of the “West” can’t even read the ad. This is truly the world’s game. Despite the United States’ protestations (e.g., the “World” Series) otherwise.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Sports
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  • https://www.mullvad.net/ db

    It’s pretty cool to watch a game along with a billion others. That’s a significant part of the entire humanity.

  • http://www.astro.multivax.de:8000/helbig/helbig.html Phillip Helbig

    Note that in Europe, the Eurovision song contest and the marriage of Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden to her small-town boy personal fitness trainer had a comparable media coverage (but practically no advertising). In both cases, the communal vibe (like with the world cup) is part of the attraction.

  • Ronnie76er
  • Karen

    I have also enjoyed the feeling of being a part of a global community while watching the World Cup games. However, I’m a bit put off by all of the tripping and diving and elbowing – I’m not sure all of this is conducive to a peaceful global society.

  • Ben Martin

    Note that in Europe, the Eurovision song contest and the marriage of Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden to her small-town boy personal fitness trainer had a comparable media coverage…

    Eh? The Eurovision undoubtedly attracts loads of viewers but the marriage of a Swedish royal? Perhaps it garnered attention in Sweden but nobody else cared much about it. For instance, the Daily Mail here in the UK is addicted to stories about royal families but the Swedish princess managed only a quarter-page piece on page 14.

    As for the football, it’s refreshing to see an American who gets it. While I’m partial to watching baseball, preferably live, any time I’m in the US, nothing beats a good game of football. It’s a pity that the US team hasn’t attracted more attention from their own fans given that they’ve been so consistently good over the past decade.

    That, together with the attempted coup in the utterly clueless England camp, not to mention the comically bad behaviour of the French squad, has made this world cup particularly entertaining.

  • Sleeth

    World Cup?… What’s that?

  • CoffeeCupContrails

    From a member of the rest of the world, thanks for the article!

    Good to see the US participate in an international team sport and play it in good spirit.

    No offense, but I don’t wish to see the US get too good at it! If it gets too popular here in the US, football/soccer will start getting uber-commercialized with ungodly sums of money (and with more breaks?) in no time.

  • marcos

    Yes! You got the idea behind football/soccer. Welcome aboard.

  • asdf

    Sports is like porn: who the hell wants to just watch?

  • Mentat

    Soccer has its charms, but I find Frungy to be the superior sport.

  • Brian137

    I too am enjoying this year’s World Cup competition. No more nail biting, like the NBA finals; just a cool, calm experience, with that constant, reassuring hum in the background. I like watching the fans jump up and down arm-in-arm, and zero and one are among my favorite numbers, as is the somewhat more exotic and elusive two.

    I like the fact that teams from so many countries (thirty-two) get to play at least three games each, and that fans of sixteen of those teams will experience the satisfaction of moving on to the next round. My friend was going on and on early about Germany, but has become much quieter recently. Perhaps he is engaging himself in research, like Sean.

  • Gary

    Daniel,

    The world cup is t-ball for those who think zero-zero is a point winning tie.

    Even losers are winners.

    What a joke on brain cells.

  • http://cosmicvariance.com JoAnne

    Daniel says, “Yes, the uninitiated complain that almost nothing ever happens. But they are missing that something is always happening. The game is relentless….. There is individual brilliance. There is brilliant teamwork. ”

    You were talking about baseball, right? Nothing more exciting than a pitcher’s duel where you are hanging on the edge of your seat at every pitch.

  • nobody

    “Granted, the rash of 0-0 games has been disappointing. Although play is generally exciting, it’s still fun to have a goal now and then. ”

    Well, you are wrong my friend, as only 3 out of 36 games were a 0-0 game (as of writing this). [1] Most games had at least 1 goal, while 1 game (Portugal vs North Korea) even had 7 goals!

    On average there are 2.1 goals plus/minus 1.5 and the median is 2 goals.

    What more do you want my friend?

    References:
    [1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Cup_2010_schedule

  • Brian137

    U.S. vs. Algeria starts in a couple of hours. I find myself rooting for the United States despite my publicly-proclaimed disinterest. Feelings are feelings, and thoughts are thoughts. Better to enjoy.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/sean/ Sean

    Woohoo! Emotional win for the U.S. over Algeria. Way to go through in dramatic fashion.

  • Koray

    As dramatic as it could get. I don’t remember any other time when a team that deserved to win the group was saved from going home by a stoppage time goal.

  • olderwithmoreinsurance

    How exciting, a total of *2* scores per GAME! I can appreciate soccer, but can’t really get excited about the quintessentially un-American game (good play almost always goes unrewarded and scores are more often luck than skill). But some of the world’s best athletes? that’s preposterous, an average NBA (or Euroleague) small forward could SPRINT 100 meters with an average soccer player on his back and then vault over the goal. Their conditioning, while good, also doesn’t compare to that of a world class cross-country skier or multiple-day tour cyclist. I actually prefer watching cricket, in person, over soccer. The format of the World Cup is so seemingly democratic for a reason: games are decided by chance so often that you HAVE to play multiple games to crown anything close to being a legitimate champion. All that being said, I’m glad the U.S. advanced (though I didn’t get up early to watch it), as they’ve been the victim of horrendous officiating. The game is so popular world-wide for the simplest of reasons: it’s incredibly cheap to play.

  • Lonely Flower

    Congratulations to USA from Egypt!

  • bittergradstudent

    @CoffeeCupContrails:

    In what way is the BPL less commercialized than your typical American sports league?

  • Roman

    @19
    You don’t know what you are talking about, do you?

  • Brian137

    Who can actually watch a whole soccer game? I figured, “Good time to do some laundry.” Game takes two hours – laundry takes two hours. I sort of gave up after about the 85th minute and left the TV to take the laundry out of the drier. When I returned, the game was obviously over and the TV screen showed a player from the United States’ team with tears streaming down his face. Poor guys must have lost. The camera panned over to some fans from Algeria, and they didn’t look so good either. Come to notice it, these announcers seem pretty perky. I understand, I understand! Somehow we must have won.

    Saturday afternoon, Ghana. Mark it down. I usually root for the African countries. Oh, well.

  • Low Math, Meekly Interacting

    Big mystery to me: Just why isn’t the USA into futball like everyone else? What about it, exactly, are we so averse to? Is it any more silly than baseball? I think not. It does seem like interest has picked up now that we have a team that doesn’t abjectly suck, anyway, but saying we don’t watch because we suck raises a lot of chicken-egg issues.

  • Fermi-Walker Public Transport
  • wds

    I do find these things a bit tiring because they bring out the tribal side of people. If you’re not convinced nationalism is a dirty word, the world cup is a good time to change your mind. I must admit being somewhat taken with the south africans who dress up like fans of various national teams. A lovely statement about cultural identity.

    Also #19: you do realise different sports have different patterns of exertion? Trying to compare the two is mostly useless, you could devise tests in which either athlete wins, based on what they actually train for. Not that you sound like you know anything about your chosen subject, anyway.

  • Mantis

    Personally I am very happy to not be a part of the billions that watch world cup (or other sports for that matter).

  • Football Fan

    Mantis — and we’re glad for you :)

  • spyder

    Just why isn’t the USA into futball like everyone else?

    Perhaps a couple of facts need to be brought forward in this regard.
    Behind the host nation South Africa, the most tickets for the 2010 World Cup series were sold to the USA. More Americans are in South Africa rooting for the squad than any other nation, and more than several nations combined. I am fairly certain that constitutes liking futball/soccer like everyone else.
    The average game attendance in the US for MLS in 2009-2010 is consistently exceeding that of the NHL for the same time period. One could make the claim that MLS is more popular than the NHL; though i am not one to do that. If the US makes it into the quarterfinals (round of eight), i would proffer that given the sharp rise in season prices for NFL, NBA, and MLB–the MLS next year will set attendance records.

  • Low Math, Meekly Interacting

    Wow. OK, so if there’s an audience out there, why the heck aren’t the major networks and advertisers trying harder to cash in? I can buy (last time I checked) Revolution tickets starting around twenty bucks a pop. Tickets to a Pats game in the same stadium would set me back roughly an order-of-magnitude more. Fenway and the Gahden used to be within reason. Now? I don’t even bother, and I make more money than I did when I could afford to go. Hell, half the reason I’ve gone to Revolution games is because I and a few buddies all could attend for less than the price of a flat-screen TV to watch the game at home on in HD. Is soccer just cheap worldwide?

  • Woody Tanaka

    “Just why isn’t the USA into futball like everyone else?”

    I kind of like soccer. Not my favorite, but I don’t hate it. But I do understand why people in the USA are pretty unimpressed:

    1) Not enough scoring. It’s not about action or movement; there’s plenty of that. It is that there is too much back and forth movement without any payoff. What’s the point? The lack of payoff is why people say it is boring. Also, the offsides rule is stupid, make it seem like the game is actively seeking to keep players from scoring exciting goals. Defense is too easy.

    2) Games that end in a tie.

    If (going by this round of World Cup) over 10% of your games end in a 0-0 tie (5 out of 48), and 25% of your games end with a score of 1-0 (12 out of 48), that means that 1/3 of the time, only 1 single goal will be scored in 90 minutes of play. You simply are not going to attract the average American sports fan with that. If teams scored 5-6 goals per game on average, and a 0-0 tie was a one in a thousand occurrance, then you have a formula for success in the US.

  • Grobenheir

    Woody, are you saying that the Americans suffer from collective ADHD and can only be pleased with games who present gratifications every couple of minutes?

  • Woody Tanaka

    @Grobenheir
    Not at all. What I’m saying is that if anyone wants to know why soccer in the USA isn’t terribly popular, that’s pretty much the reason: scoring is fun, defense is not (except for occassional great saves by goalies). Perhaps it’s cultural, perhaps it’s conditioning from other sports, who knows, but American sports fan find repeated play back and forth, back and forth, with no payoff (which is what you have when 1/3 of your games generates 1 or fewer total goals) to be distractingly dull and a rather pointless waste of time.

    If soccer wants to be successful in the US, it has to address that point. If it doesn’t want to change, then it will remain a fringe spectator sport and the majority of sports fans in the US won’t notice it and will focus their attention on other things.

    Maybe they’ll get mildly interested when the World Cup comes around, for a couple of weeks, like they get interested in gymnastics and downhill skiing at Olympic time, but then they’ll forget about it for another 4 years.

    What I don’t understand is why soccer people seem to never accept that as an answer. You hear all kinds of nonsense about Americans having ADHD or being not interested in it because we don’t dominate at it, but they can’t fathom the fact that people who weren’t born and raised into their beloved sport simply find the game to be dull.

  • Pepe

    “Also, the offsides rule is stupid, make it seem like the game is actively seeking to keep players from scoring exciting goals. Defense is too easy.”

    I disagree. It’s not the rule itself but the amount of mistakes referees and linesmen make when applying it. The rule is necessary to avoid easy goals -if a forward can wait next to the goalie for the ball, it would be way less interesting. With the rule, they can’t cross the defense line before the pass its done.
    Anyway, every sport has its rules. In rugby you can’t throw the ball forward like in american football, and it doesnt make it less interesting

  • Woody Tanaka

    “The rule is necessary to avoid easy goals -if a forward can wait next to the goalie for the ball, it would be way less interesting. With the rule, they can’t cross the defense line before the pass its done.”

    All that would do is force the defense to cover those forwards, which would open up the rest of the field, which might lead to more goals.

    “Anyway, every sport has its rules. In rugby you can’t throw the ball forward like in american football, and it doesnt make it less interesting”

    Well, I think to the American sports fan, the fact that the offsides rules means less scoring does, for that average fan, make the game less interesting.

  • changcho

    Woody my friend, it clearly shows you know very little about the subject…

  • Woody Tanaka

    changcho,
    “Woody my friend, it clearly shows you know very little about the subject…”

    I’ve never claimed to be anything more than I am: an American sports fan with casual exposure to soccer. Someone who doesn’t hate the game, but who doesn’t love it, either. In short, I am, I think, the kind of person which soccer will have to win over, if it is to be anything more than the 3rd or 4th tier spectator sport which it currently is in the US.

    So I can only give you my opinion regarding the offsides rule. And that is that during the World Cup games I watched, there were a number of exciting plays that looked like they might develop into good, exciting scoring plays, but were called off because the forward was, it seemed, an inch past the defenseman a millisecond before the ball was passed. There was one game in particular (a half, actually) in which such called off plays outnumbered scoring plays, it seemed, six to one. As someone who wants to like the sport more, I found it frustrating which made my interest wane.

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