Another Loss, Another Win

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

The USA is out of the 2014 World Cup. While their run was a success it seems that the American media still doesn’t get it. While they celebrate the efforts of the team, and in particular goalkeeper Tim Howard, they still ask the question, ‘will soccer ever be big in America?’

Very quickly on Team USA. Back to back appearances in the road of 16 is something to be proud of. While the argument can be made that the US should have gone deeper into the tournament it is clear that the team continues to get better each and every World Cup. Yes, Howard was amazing against Belgium but do not overlook the work done by Matt Besler, Jermaine Jones, Kyle Beckermann and Fabian Johnson. Add in youngsters like Julian Green and DeAndre Yedlin contributing like they did and things are looking up for the Gold Cup and the next round of World Cup qualifying not to mention 2018.

Yet from CBS to ESPN, media anchors and producers continue to bang the drum and remind people that soccer isn’t the NFL, but it’s big in the rest of the world. They also ask the question, ‘what will it take for soccer to be big in America?’ It already is folks.

How? Lets take some metrics. While we didn’t painstakingly go back and count how many live shots there were from Brazil or how many mentions of the World Cup or Team USA there were across all the media outlets, the fact is that there was a lot. Most of those mentions were positive too.

Then there are the ratings. Some 23 million Americans watched the USA v Belgium match on TV and online Tuesday afternoon. That doesn’t count group events like bars, offices, and the thousands that showed up at viewing parties like the one at Soldier Field. 

Yet outlets and pundits continue to doubt. Keith Olbermann the other night on his show complained that American’s should use American terminology and not a traditional soccer vocabulary. He went as far as claiming that while Ian Darke is great, soccer will not be accepted in this country because there is not an American announcer. Guess Olbermann missed the 2006 World Cup when American fans rebelled against American announcer Dave O’Brien for his inexperience and poor performance.

Olbermann

Olbermann will get his wish though in the next World Cup when the broadcast rights switch over to Fox which will use Gus Johnson as their main announcer.

It is clear that soccer is making it in America. The viewership shows that. The media that is doubting it shows that. Is it the NFL? Of course not but nothing is. Not MLB, NBA or the NHL. Some telling signs to look for in the future include attendance and ratings of MLS games over the next few seasons. In part two we’ll dive into why the media and the non soccer community in general continue to ask these questions.

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Failing Eventualy Does Matter

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

Dan Bylsma was let go yesterday by the Pittsburgh Penguins. It marks the end of a tough six months behind the bench for the Penguins and for Team USA in the Winter Olympics.

Bylsma is the winningest coach in Penguins history (252-117-32) and lead them to a Stanley Cup in 2009 (albeit he came on in February of that year.) But blowing a 3-1 series lead to the New York Rangers may have sealed his fate.

Dan Bylsma

The fact is that Bylsma couldn’t get the Penguins back to the Stanley Cup Final even with players like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin on the ice. While these players have had injuries over the years (Crosby missed most of the 2010-2012 seasons with concussion type symptoms) the Penguins were still a force to be reckoned with and were always an odds on favorite to win the Cup.

Two other things didn’t help Bylsma the first six months of this year. First was the non-medaling performance by Team USA in the Winter Olympics and then a 5-1 shellacking at the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks on national TV during the Stadium Series.

Bylsma probably won’t be out of work for very long since there are three teams besides Pittsburgh looking for head coaches right now.

While the Penguins organization felt that a change needed to be made the move also points out again that sports is a ‘what have you done for me lately’ business. Yes the expectations are high in Pittsburgh and they should be. Look at the team they have now and the history they have. So remember that while you may hear buzzwords like ‘fail fast’ going around right now, you can only fail for so long before you have to pay the piper.

 

The Mental Challenge

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

Once again the USA Hockey team lost to Team Canada in the medal round of the Winter Olympics. The Women’s team lost to Canada too, blowing a 2-0 lead. The women will take home a silver medal and the men will go home empty handed. Either way, you don’t win silver or bronze but lose gold.

Winter Olympics

Canada’s national sport is hockey. The US, not so much. Team Canada’s hockey team is a whose who of professional hockey players. From Sidney Crosby and Patrice Bergeron to Ryan Getzlaf and Patrick Marleau. You could make a medal winning team of Canadian players who weren’t on the roster.

Does that matter? Yes. Is it all that matters? No.

The US had as good of a shot as anybody at winning the gold in men’s and women’s hockey. The talent level is good enough and so is the coaching. Now it may just be a question of psychology.

The men have now lost to the Canadians in the medal round of the last two Winter Olympics. If and when they meet again, it’s going to be a mental challenge more than anything.While it may not be as challenging as beating the Russians back in 1980 it’ll still be a challenge.