Friday, January 30, 2009

Buy the HYPE

Allow me to preface this post by stating for the record, that 1. I am a fan of American football, and 2. I am upset that my favorite NFL team, the New England Patriots, fell short of the playoffs this season, despite winning 11 games. So let's consider the air cleared before I launch into this mini-tirade.

I don't care about what kind of music Eric Green likes. Nor do I care about which hair products Troy Polamalu uses. And yes, I did notice that Mike Tomlin looks like Omar Epps. Like, two years ago in fact.

The Super Bowl is still more than two days away, and I'm already sick of it. The press conferences. The silly questions. The ad nauseam search for the perfect soundbite.

I get it, already. There's a big game going on come Sunday involving two teams that, outside of Pittsburgh and Phoenix, few people really care about. People like hype, the stupid questions that show up on late-night TV, and the multi-million dollar commercials. The rest of us, however, view it for what it is: a championship game.

That being said, I would absolutely send one to the afterlife for MLS to have 1% of this kind of media exposure for MLS Cup.

Yes, I am jealous. I'm jealous that it's Kurt Warner being asked the same questions over and over rather than Taylor Twellman. I despise the fact that a third-string quarterback gets twice as many questions asked of him in one week than a superstar goalkeeper gets during an entire MLS season. It makes me want to throw myself into the path of a speeding car.

I often dream of what an MLS Cup week would comprise of with all the journalists, live reports, "breaking updates" and endless storylines. I fantasize about a trash-talking striker guaranteeing a Cup, or a certain bald goalkeeper showing up to media day in his hairy alias.*

(*Isn't Matt Reis the EXACT the kind of player you'd want in front of the media? That guy, let me tell you, is exactly what this league needs more of. He's personable, funny, and will say whatever's on his mind. Oh, and he's a pretty decent 'keeper too.)

It frustrates me to no end that this sport isn't promoted to the full extent. What MLS needs is a what we in the hip-hop culture call "a hype man."

You can probably guess what this guy (it's ALWAYS a guy) does. Before and after the MC spits, the hype man shouts a bunch of nonsensical phrases, like "AWWWWWW YEAH!", "WHAT! WHAT! WHAT!" or, my favorite "PUT YO' ****** HANDS TOGETHER FOR THE REALEST ***** ON THE ***** FACE OF THE ***** PLANET ******S!******!"

This cat gets paid for just hyping his boy. Because you know what? The label, the MC, the groupies, etc. all know the same thing: it works. Hype works.

So where's the hype in American soccer? You want more soccerheads? Here's a hint: feed Americans some hype. We can't get enough of it. We eat, drink, and sleep with the hype. We love things big, overblown, and thrown in our faces. Hyperbole is our forte'.

You know why the NFL is so big here? Why office interns and CEOs alike play fantasy football? Because the NFL is constantly being promoted. Yeah, I know that they have alot more money to play with than MLS. But take a look at the look at how many NFL-related commercials you see this week, nevermind on Sunday. Americans love American football because they've been constantly told to like it for the past fifty years or so. And we do.

MLS would be extremely wise take cues from the NFL and adopt a far more aggressive approach in promoting itself. I know Don Garber is a former NFL guy, and I sense that he really wants to apply some of the lessons learned there to MLS. I think he has to a certain extent. The Commissioner's State of the League address the week before the Cup and highlighting the first week of league play as an event - First Kick - (much like NFL Kickoff Weekend) are steps in the right direction.

But these are only baby steps. Alot - and I mean ALOT - more needs to be done. Where's the excitement before the All-Star match? What about MLS Cup? SuperLiga? U.S. Open Cup? These are just some of the events that the American public knows little to nothing about. And I have a problem with that.

It boils down to hiring people who genuinely believe that soccer has and will continue to succeed here. I'm not talking about who has the best resumes. Because if you don't have people who truly believe in the success of the product, then American public will never learn about Landon Donovan, Sacha Kljestan, or Taylor Twellman.

Soccer will become big here in America. I honestly believe that. But until enough people actively push this league, or promotes it in the same fashion the NFL does, the time when MLS's big moment will only be further delayed.


Jason D said...

It's definitely a frustrating situation. Since football is king in this country, it won't change for MLS under the rest (or some anyway) of the world starts to pay attention to our league. We probably have a long way to go before that's the case.

BrianTheOC said...

A long way to go indeed. As long as we're moving forward, right?