So I have been putting this off and putting it off. See, I am an avid soccer fan. I have cheered for Liverpool, enjoy watching the magic that is Barcelona, the juggernaut known as Bayern Munich, and more (on occasion, I have even managed to watch a whole MLS Game). None of this, of course, can compare to the wonder that is the World Cup. 32 teams, one tournament, national pride on the line as 11 warriors lace up their boots (you may know them as cleats) to play what is affectionately known as the beautiful game. Seeing the worlds biggest stars, the likes of Messi, Ronaldo, Neymar, and Suarez, step into the limelight in order to give their countries one of the greatest glories available in the sports world.
As the tournament was preparing to kick off, rather the finals as the group and knockout stages with these 32 teams is known, I heard this referred to as the superbowl of soccer and Lionel Messi as the Michael Jordan of the sport. This was a painful analogy, not to mention an incredible over simplification. Let’s start with the superbowl piece. For a superbowl, where you name a “world” champion every year of a sport that is barely played beyond the border of the US, you have 111.5 million viewers. This was a record, but even if you assume it to be the average, you are talking about 446 million viewers over 4 years. By comparison, the world cup (which occurs only every 4 years) had a total viewership of 2.2 billion viewers. The means the match average was 188.4 million with the highest (the final) having 530.9 million viewers. Alongside of that, 909 billion people saw at least 1 minute of the final. Needless to say, the world cup has many more viewers, even if you elected to break it down on a yearly average, than the superbowl. Beyond this, when you note the world cup being a world championship, it has one major fact supporting that claim: the entire world actually has the chance to participate and generally does. By comparison, the superbowl is far more limited. Internationally, rugby is far more popular than American Football. Now how about Messi and Jordan. While within the US, this may be a reasonable comparison, and I do have a great deal of respect for Michael Jordan as an athlete and competitor, this is still an incredibly difficult comparison to grasp and agree with. Jordan won 6 NBA Titles, 6NBA Finals MVPs and 5 NBA MVPs. He was very good during his 15 seasons. Messi has played the past 9 seasons with Barcelona which has included 5 league championships, 3 continental championships, 4 times he has been named the best player in the world, and since 2007 he has been the best Argentinian footballer. Oh, and Messi is only 27.
All I am trying to say is please celebrate football (or soccer as we Americans/Yanks call it). Cheer for the #USMNT with the I Believe That We Will Win. If you prefer, cheer for The Three Lions (England) or Les Bleus (French), or even die Mannschaft (Germany). But please take some time to consider your comparisons. While we have suddenly found pride in this, and are claiming that we are becoming more focused on sports the world round, let’s try not to insult the beautiful game by making these quite frankly silly comparisons.
Thanks for taking the time to read my rant. Now, please continue to enjoy the sport I love!!!