Monday, February 09, 2009

Where's the HYPE? Part 1 of an ongoing series

I just checked my alarm clock. Yep, we’re less than 24 hours from USA-Mexico, and the only mainstream promotion I’ve seen for this match so far is a slick, 15-second spot in between SportsCenters while jogging at the gym Saturday morning.


I thought this was a serious rivalry. Wait, it is. Especially this time around, because it’s a World Cup Qualifier and not just an obligatory friendly.

Apparently, no one at U.S. Soccer or ESPN got the memo. Either that, or they misplaced it.* I work in an office. It happens.

(* Just like I misplaced the "not" before "just" in the fourth paragraph. I've since edited it. To anyone who caught it the first time around: leave a comment, and I'll give you big ups in a future post. Honest.)

But this is a big memo. If there’s a bone I’ll pick all the way to the grave, it’s that the people in charge of American soccer – from the head honchos at U.S. Soccer all the way down – have total ineptitude when it comes to promoting the beautiful game. It’s soccer, guys (and gals), not soapbox derbies or ostrich racing. Sheesh.

And I could’ve sworn myself wrong when I received a tidy little Myspace message encouraging supporters to wear red at the match. What’s this? Maybe the Yanks would break out those awesome “Don’t Tread on Me” jerseys they found themselves kitted out in – of all matches – a friendly against Latvia* prior to the 2006 World Cup.

(*I actually went to this match – my very first US MNT match – and my mom purchased the limited edition red jersey for my birthday. God, I love that jersey. If it were possible to have a crush on a piece of sports apparel, I’d ask that thing out on a date for Saturday night. Gorgeous. The kind of beauty you'd show off in front of friends and jealous enemies alike.)

But, there appears to be little evidence to support the use of the red DTOM jersey, which is another clear indication that suits at U.S. Soccer don’t get it.

For American soccer fans, there are three certainties in life. Death. Taxes. USA-Mexico. God bless the Spanish-American War, NAFTA, and that Taco Bell chihuahua. So why doesn’t the federation go out of its way to promote the heck out of it?

Here’s some free advice: keep that glossy 15-second commercial. I like that. But make more of them. My pulse raced and adrenaline spiked every time I saw it while running on the treadmill.*

(*I’ve discovered through three years of treadmill hopping and the seven occasions in which I’ve watched the US Men’s National Team while on said machine that the two go together like Doritos and soda. Starburst and Sprite. Popcorn and chili powder.)

However, let’s take it a step further. Actually, few steps further.

The idea of the red Don't Tread on Me jersey for USA-Mexico matches would be a great way to ante up the rivalry, no? Why the heck not? It’s an event - an event that we American soccer fans are rarely afforded in a culture dominated by American football, the NFL, and American football. So, please, to the powers that be, USA-Mexico would be the perfect opportunity to break out the “Don’t Tread On Me” jerseys. Reinforce the idea that this is a big deal. It sends a clear message to the Mexicans that you don’t know who you’re messing with. Attitude. I like it. Now run with it.

Another idea: I say the Sam’s Army section at every USA-Mexico match has discounted admission. Like, a paper Lincoln per seat. I want to see hordes of American soccer get buck in there. I want bedlam. I want to see a tidal wave of red in that section. I want chicks in red bras to…oh wait, sorry.

Speaking of bras – I want Brandi Chastain there. She’s a great sideline reporter. I love her insights. Okay, I admit, this is probably due to the fact that my mom loves her. But almost every American knows/remembers who she is. A little star power wouldn’t hurt.

Lastly – although I’ve got many more suggestions – shouldn’t we get some live reports from each camp in the 72 hours leading up to this? Isn’t that what major events like the U.S. Open, major BCS bowls, and rivalry matches across the spectrum receive?

I know that’s the media’s job. But really, if ESPN is so intent on increasing its coverage of soccer – see the Spanish, English and Mexican league scores now featured on the ESPN Bottom Line – why doesn’t U.S. Soccer push for live updates to be featured on the 6pm SportsCenters? It would be foolish to say that there isn’t an audience for this – a 90-minute sellout seems to support the idea that a lot of people are a lot more interested in this than say, I don’t know, the endless blabber that gets broadcast on the station between 4:30 and 6:00pm. Somebody give me a Vicodin.

Okay, it’s obvious I’m getting emotional here. But I can’t help it. I’ve had the date circled on my 2009 MLS calendar since January 1. My red “Don’t Tread On Me” jersey awaits on my door knob, ready for action come Wednesday.

USA-Mexico. This is a big deal. So why won’t U.S. Soccer treat it that way?

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