CALLING ALL US WOMEN’S NATIONAL SOCCER TEAM FANS
How many of you watched the game this weekend against New Zealand? How many of you huddled around a laptop, praying you wouldn’t see the dreaded “buffering” sign come up in the middle of a brilliant play? How many of you watched along with the 20,000+ that were in attendance in awe of this team while also in awe of how it still does not get TV coverage?
That’s what this is going to be about. I write a lot about how amazing this team is. I talk about their skill and their poise on the field and about how they earn their number one world ranking every time they step on the field. But today I want to talk directly to all the other fans out there like myself who are sick of watching these games through a buffering live stream or not at all. I don’t know about you, but if Abby Wambach goes up for a header and mid jump, my screen freezes; you better believe that computer is not going to live to see another day. So in order to avoid the risk of multiple laptops being throw across rooms or desktops having a foot put through them, what can we do to help grow this game in media coverage?
I understand everything comes down to money. I also understand that I don’t understand anything about the inner workings of how much money different parties make or lose under different ratings brackets. I am not going to sit here and act like I know anything past the basics of how a station determines if they can make money off of a specific show or sporting event. But I can sit here and say that there are numerous examples showing us that people care…that they are watching…and they are talking about women’s soccer in the US.
Women’s World Cup 2011: While the US played some of the best soccer of their lives in the Women’s World Cup final this year against Japan the whole world was tuned in on the edge of their seats cheering, watching, and oh yeah…tweeting their asses off. During that game Twitter announced they broke the record for tweets per second. At its peak the game was bringing in 7196 tweets per second. I’m no expert here but that kind of seems like there is some sort of slight, vague interest there, right?
Post Women’s World Cup 2011: When the women came back from Germany they immediately jumped into a whirlwind of interviews for everything from ESPN to Rachel Maddow to David Letterman. Everyone wanted to talk to them and everyone wanted to know more about their journey. Yet, after about a month of intense media coverage it seemed the media world was content to going back to forgetting they existed. I understand we don’t have World Cup to happen every month for major soccer coverage to occur. But if even a third of that media coverage continued in showing support for them, we could possibly be looking at a very different scenario now for how women’s soccer is covered here. Six months ago these women were national heroes who everyone wanted to talk to and now we are back to watching games online through ussoccer.com, because not even ESPN3 is picking up international games in most cases. (Which ussoccer.com deserves a BIG thank you for doing so)
USA vs New Zealand February 11, 2012: In a soccer specific stadium that plays host to FC Dallas of Major League Soccer, the USWNT took on NZL in a friendly match. While FC Dallas averages around 12,000 for their games the ladies sold it out with a crowd of over 20,000. I find it interesting that a network will pick up a game that in the team’s own city a team can only bring in an average of 12,000 fans, yet no one will pick up the game turning people away at the door because they are sold out. The fan base is growing by the day and it is being proven in games like this. If you air it, people will watch. (Said like James Earl Jones in Field of Dreams) On top of the stellar attendance they got, there was again big Twitter news. Alex Morgan who is one of my favorite players and a continuing rising star of the team was trending today. This is big news for two reasons in my opinion. First: This game was not televised. She was trending in the United States and also Worldwide. So that means that there were enough people across the country and across the world who wanted to watch this game so badly that they watched it via web cast and then tweeted relentlessly about this young superstar as she scored two late goals to win the game for us. If there are that many people tuning in online…how many do you think we would get if it were on TV? Even fans who aren’t diehard fans are now tuning in online to watch because they need their fix of USWNT and that is a lot of times, the only place to get it. Second: I lied a little before when I said ‘Alex Morgan’ was trending. Her name wasn’t actually trending, her nickname was. ‘Baby Horse’ was trending. Morgan was the youngest on the team last year when she got this nickname, hence the ‘baby’. And due to her long beautiful strides she takes as she gallops down the field, cue the ‘horse’. I know this because I am a fan; the only people who know this, are fans. Which means this wasn’t a random instance of people who have never seen a game generically tweeting about how they saw a picture of Alex Morgan online and thought she was cute, or about hearing she was going to be in Sports Illustrated this month, or because they heard someone talking about her and they were asking who was Alex Morgan. This was a large group of people throughout the US and the world tweeting specifically about her and the game today because they are fans who are watching and who know and love these players. Also, let me remind you this was for an international friendly. This game has no bearing on qualifying for any major tournament or overall ranking. So what I’m saying is: It doesn’t have to be a World Cup for the US to pay attention and want to watch women’s soccer. We are paying attention in the small games, so you better believe we will be in the big ones.
Again, let me reiterate; I am not a TV analyst of any sort, I do not know ratings compared to cost and distribution ratios. I am just a fan and a writer who loves this game and who sees how much millions of others love this game and want to see it more appreciated. We are a patriotic nation who loves competition and loves being number one. Well guess what? The USWNT is number one in the world. This is a unique sport that is loved and played all over the world year round which we participate in and we are ranked number one in. We have the opportunity to get behind a team who makes us proud every time they step on the field and dominate countries from every corner of the world, while representing us. Millions have caught on and millions more will be soon to follow. But without games on TV, and without networks like ESPN or Fox Soccer willing to even cover stories surrounding them on a steady basis; those millions are going to take much, much longer to get through to.
So what can we do? Write to ESPN? Write to other networks? Yes, by all means I think the more people reaching out the better. And take it down to that grassroots level: write to your local paper or local sports anchor. Find the many different organizations popping up everywhere working to suport the game of soccer and grow it in the US. Talk to other fans and friends and talk about ways to help support it. I’m a writer and a comedian so basically, I never shut up. But really, that is what we need. The more talk the better. Take pride in relentlessly talking about this team. Pat yourself on the back when you realize you haven’t come up for air in 30 minutes of talking about Abby Wambach. Buy yourself a cookie when you reach out to other local fans to talk about ways to grow the game. Do an Alex Morgan fist pump and jump in the air when you…well…that’s just fun to do any time.
So I’m asking you…new fans who just started watching, diehard fans who paint their faces and go to games screaming like beautiful maniacs, long time fans who ripped their shirts off right along with Brandi Chastain watching from home in 1999: What else can we do? Keep the dialogue moving and keep reaching out to anyone and everyone you think can help make a difference. I want to hear your ideas too. Whether you post them here to start some dialogue or hit me up on Twitter @Gillian_E_Dubbs…either way. Let’s talk and not shut up until we can turn on the TV, kick back and watch the beautiful game in beautiful HD of our beautiful US Women’s National Team doing some beautiful work against every country put in our path.