Tuesday, 24 June 2008

The World Game

One of the benefits of watching the Euro over the internet is that you get to watch games' coverage from all sorts of different countries. The picture is always the same, it's just the commentators that are different. That is...
With last week's quarter final between Germany and Portugal, I ended up watching the American ESPN coverage. The commentators were very British (the sidekick analyst had a very northern accent if not Scottish), but there was something else that was very American sports coverage like: At the bottom of the picture there was this eternally scrolling ribbon of sports news that kept me up to date throughout the quite thrilling football match with the latest baseball and golf scores, as well as the latest worldwide sports news. While watching the game, I had learnt many a time that it would take France's Ribery 8 weeks to recover from the wound he had acquired playing Italy.
The thing about those flashing news items is that they're a pain in the ass. For a start, they keep on flashing: I was watching the game in bed in the middle of the night, and the flashes kept waking Jo up; that was the last time I was allowed to watch a game in bed. More to the point, though, those items are a distraction: you try to watch the game but your eyes keep on steering towards the repetitive bullshit running down the bottom of the screen.

The question is, why do we need those news items in the first place? Well, my argument is that we don't need them; however, Americans do, because of the sports they are used to.
Allow me to explain.
The dominant sports in the USA are American football and baseball, both of which are games where for each second of action you get ten seconds of idleness. On the other hand, in Europe, where there's football and then there's very little room for anything else, you don't get such nonsense because people are used to a game that is essentially flowing (that is, unless Italy is playing).
Now I'm not saying that American football and baseball are inferior to football. Not at all. Yes, it's true that I find football incredibly more interesting than those two American sports, but it is quite obvious most Americans enjoy their sports more than they would football; the preferences are clearly a matter of culture.
My point with this post is simple: to demonstrate how cultural preferences in sports can have an effect on you with things that are not directly related, such as the way you would prefer to watch other sports.
And perhaps this also explains why football never really got a hold in the USA. The culture there just doesn't fit the game.

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