The Numbers Are In – Let The Spinning Begin

Well, the precincts have reported; the numbers are in. As usual, you can look at the glass as half-full or half-empty. ESPN televised the David Beckham inaugural MLS contest with the LA Galaxy playing FC Chelsea. ESPN hyped the game at least as much as they have ever hyped a soccer game; I’ll be surprised if they hype any other MLS game to the same extent in the next year; no one who reads sports pages anywhere in the US was unaware of the David Beckham arrival. The game drew a rating of 1.0. That means that just under 950,000 households tuned in.

The soccer-bashers will see the glass has half-empty. Recall that the XFL went off the air because its ratings plummeted to 2.0; realize that pro wrestling on cable TV routinely draws ratings of 2.0 – 3.0; the women’s NCAA final game this year (Rutgers/Tennessee) pulled down a rating of 1.0. Soccer-bashers will note absolutely correctly that pro wrestling and women’s college basketball are not big time sports in the US and so the portrait of David Beckham as the “Savior of Soccer” is nothing more than wishful thinking. The soccer-bashers have a point.

The soccer-lovers – after they get over the outrage they always feel when anyone says anything negative about soccer – will look at the ratings and say that these are much higher than the ratings ESPN drew for earlier MLS games this season and that it was the most widely viewed MLS game ever on TV and that this was an exhibition game which counted for exactly nothing. So, they will see this as an uptrend and they will point to the large crowd in attendance and the presence of lots of celebrities in the audience as a sign that soccer is indeed about to emerge onto the large stage of US sports. Other than the nonsense about the celebrities in attendance – most of whom were there to “be seen at the game” and not to “see the game” – the soccer-lovers too have a point.

But one cannot ignore the data. Nationwide, less than one million TV sets tuned in to see the first of David Beckham’s games in MLS. That’s about the level of nationwide interest you see in Arena Football. That’s about the number of people who will pay about $50 to watch Wrestlemania on pay-per-view. So, the objective now for MLS – and for ESPN as their broadcasting partner – is to grow the nationwide interest in soccer to the point where its “numbers” rivals pro wrestling; TV ratings will indicate their progress toward that goal.

Soccer-optimists and soccer-pessimists need to keep one thing in mind:

        The Ultimate Optimist is a person who can think of a diaper as half-empty.

Speaking of numbers, I had a discussion with some friends the other night about the Hot Dog Eating Championship earlier this month. The thrust of the discussion is not relevant here but it reminded me that the winner of that event ate more than 60 hot dogs – and buns – in 12 MINUTES. I’ve reviewed my personal hot dog eating numbers and have made a linear projection. I can now make this announcement:

    I will NOT eat 60 hot dogs in the 12 MONTHS that will comprise calendar year 2007.

As you know, I think PETA is a fringe organization made up of annoying people. I do not think that the Humane Society is a fringe organization despite the fact that they and PETA are on the same side of the dogfighting issue. So, when the Humane Society says that dogfighting is a “popular subculture among NFL players”, that should make the league and the union and the teams sit up and take notice. If there are even a couple of other NFL players involved in raising/breeding/training dogs for the purpose of dogfighting, it behooves NFL Security to identify them long before the Feds identify them.

The next time someone tries to rationalize dogfighting as some kind of cultural “thing” in America, think about this. If dogfighting was not so abhorrent and was nearly as important a “cultural expression” as the rationalizers want to make it out to be, then at least one major political candidate would embrace it as a way to reach out to that segment of the electorate. We have a boatload of presidential aspirants in both major political parties at the moment and I’m willing to go out on a limb here and say that none of them will support dogfighting anywhere on the arc of their campaigns. The people rationalizing dogfighting are exercising their right to free political expression, which must not be curtailed. They are also exercising their right to demonstrate that they are misguided fools; that too is a right that must not be curtailed; we really do need to know who the misguided fools are.

USC women’s basketball player, Brynn Cameron, is now the mother of Matt Leinart’s son, Cole. The young couple broke up prior to the birth of the child; recent events indicate that the bloom is definitely off the rose here. Cameron has gone to court to ask for $30K a month from Leinart; currently, Leinart supposedly is giving her $6K a month to raise Cole. Now Leinart supposedly will instigate a custody battle. The first round of this confrontation will happen on 13 August.

When I read the first note on this, I figured that $30K a month was such an excessive number for “child support” that it was just a negotiating ploy. However, an acquaintance of mine is an attorney who used to practice in California. She told me that California law and practice is to base child support payments on the income level of the parent providing the support and not on the basis of reasonable and customary living expenses.

So, Cameron is asking for $360K per year. Leinart’s contract with the Cardinals is reportedly worth about $50M over six years (counting in the option year) plus whatever money he might pull in from endorsements. So, over the six years of that contract, Cameron would be asking him to fork over a little more than 4% of his gross income (not counting endorsement money). Putting that into a perspective that ordinary folks might relate to, that means if Leinart were making $100K a year, Cameron would be asking him to pay her just over $4K a year, which is $350 a month. That’s not as outrageous as it sounded at first…

Finally, here’s an item from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald earlier this month:

“The US fencing summer nationals conclude today in Miami Beach. The event has generated an estimated 450 stories beamed nationwide by the media, 446 of which referenced the word ‘Zorro.’ “

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports…

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