Tuesday, 15 June 2010

USA vs England: Perception vs Reality

So the NY Post debuted this now infamous cover on Sunday after the USA drew 1-1 with England at the World Cup on Saturday.

Now, to say this cover annoyed me initially would be an understatement. I mean, a draw is not a win, not by any stretch of the imagination. That's just reality. A draw does not give you 3 points, but merely 1, and furthermore, the quality of the goal which brought the USA to this point was not one for the record books. At least not for the USA. Robert Green, the unfortunate and villified English goalie decided to give the other team a hand. So in my football circle and in many other circles, where the footballer right now is King, the reality was that the USA was delusional, desperate for glory and sad. lol.

But after a good night's sleep, I overcame my annoyance with the cover, remembering our own "win" in 2006, when though we did not win by a draw like the Americans, Trinidad and Tobago in our very first World Cup ever, bravely and skilfully withstood the roar of the Lions and did not totally embarass themselves with a 10-0 scoreline (good morning Socceroos). Though we did not plaster T&T wins against the English 2-0 on our newspaper, because that would have been a laugh and that sports editor would have been run out of town, it felt good nonetheless.

I guess for the USA, a country that calls the beautiful game soccer and as one tweeter complained on Saturday, is happier to have the tv in the bar on a rained out Nascar race as opposed to watching their national team play football in the greatest footballing show on earth, a 1-1 draw was indeed a victory. A 1-1 draw against a team from a country with one of the best football leagues in the world.

But more than that, it was a sale - a great PR push around a perception that this team had the chops to be a contender. A cover and a headline and an image like this one - happy and exuberant red, white and blue clad "soccer" players celebrating a goal, regardless of its merit, is bound to create some good buzz around the team, so there could be more World Cup on LCDs over the next week or so, and less Nascar. Good news for the sponsors, the advertisers, the MLS and of course the team. It's a good PR cover for a team that does not yet have the same rabid support as the NBA, NFL, or clearly Nascar.

The perception celebrated here is that the USA had "come good" when noone else thought they would, and had proven that "soccer" had a place in the American sporting fabric; that it was not just a thing a bunch of guys did for fun, but a real passion and one which they were getting more competitive at. I cannot fault them for that in the end. It's a win.

But taking off my PR hat and putting back on my boots, the reality however, still remains that a draw in its most technical sense is still not a win and there are more games to come.

In case you missed it the first, second or 50th time...Robert Green.


Hey, thanks for sticking my tweet in there!

A perspective from the "New World:" Give us time. The older generation (attending the pub) don't get soccer and probably never will. When I grew up, I never even laid eyes on a soccer ball. There were no soccer leagues available. For many of my generation, our first experience came through our children. More young people play soccer than any other sport in America now, so watch out -- we're coming!

I think that is what the cover is trying to push - that FOOTBALL (lol) is growing and more people should take note. I applaud you wanting to even see the game, despite not growing up in a football world. We see the USA trying to come up the ranks and they are indeed coming. But...

It's going to take more than 1-1 "wins". It's going to take REAL wins against the best teams for us to embrace you into the fold. (smile)

I read the article that went along with the story (because I could not believe the headline and had to go to the New York Post site myself to verify it. The article basically tried to equate the US teams performance with that of the 1950 team in Brazil which beat England 1-0.

The thing is that such a comparison is completely unwarranted, innappropriate and quite frankly an insult to the 1050 US team which was in fact made up of amateur players against a fully English team.

A comparison would show that things have changed dramatically since then

1. The US have in fact played and beaten England (though not in competition) in the recent past (I think it was in 2000/2001 but I can't find it anywhere), the record head to head before Saturday was ENG 7, USA 2, 8 of the nine games being friendlies.

2. The US team from 1950 included a mailman, a teacher and a dishwasher. By every single member of the 2010 team was a professional, 9 of the starting lineup play in Europe as well as one of the substitutes, and in general, they played for top flight clubs, not like our 2006 which mainly had players from the 2nd and 3rd tier of English football.

3. In the 4 years prior to the 1950 world cup, the US team lost 7 straight games conceding a whopping 45 goals in the process including a 11-0 thrashing at the hands of Norway. Conversely, just last year, the US beat Spain in the Confederation Cup, bringing an end to Spain's record unbeaten run, and were leading Brazil in the final of the Confederation Cup 2-0, before losing 3 - 0.

4. The US at the start of the World Cup were ranked 14th, while England is ranked 8th, very close, so that a draw is not an unlikely event, especially when you consider the change to the ranking system which means that a team will be ranked higher regardless of the ability of the team if it has stronger opposition, which England naturally has, playing in UEFA, than the US in CONCACAF (no disrespect to the Soca Warriors).

Having said all of that, it would seem to me that having read the article in the New York Post, found here http://tinyurl.com/NYpostart, either the reporter has no clue about US football history, or far more likely this is a propaganda article designed to show how Americans are able to overcome all sorts of adversities stacked up against them, which is clearly not the case here. Now North Korea, no doubt the Dear Leader will be touting their 2-1 defeat to Brazil as the greatest event in their history... and I think that that is a greater achievement that any draw the US is able to get against a top country in the world.

I guess too, the shenanigans between the US gov't and BP and the comments coming out of the UK Parliament (both the Commons and the House of Lords) would have fueled (no pun intended) the rivalry which of course has its roots from way back in the Boston Tea Party.

TO make a long story not so long, I call this plain old propaganda, not PR.

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