SportsProf

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Thursday, May 12, 2016

A Sign of the Times on ESPN.com

If you like sports, you read that website.  In the middle right, there is a list of headlines with hyperlinks to the text.  One of those headlines is that Everton sacked Roberto Martinez. 

Say what?

Everton is not a team in any of the major US sports leagues.  It isn't a university, either.  And yet, on the American website, the firing of the manager (read:  head coach) of an also-ran top-division English soccer club gets a headline of this prominence -- even at a time when ESPN has a website dedicated totally to soccer. 

What should we read into this?

1.  It's a slow news day, and, sorry, but outside Max Scherzer's striking out 20 of his former Tiger teammates there is no sports news this morning.

2.  Soccer has become a much bigger deal in the U.S.

3.  More global readers read ESPN.com than in years past.

4.  Many Americans got to know Roberto Martinez during ESPN's telecasts of the World Cup in 2014 and came to like him, so he's somewhat better known in the U.S. than, say, Guus Hiddink.

5.  Perhaps those who read ESPN.com right now do not find baseball as compelling as fans thirty years ago did.

6.  All of the above.

And why?  Well, for one thing, the average age of an MLB fan is about 56 years old, and hockey seems to have a limited audience beyond those who attend games.  It's the off-season for college football and basketball, and while the NBA playoffs can be fascinating, they don't hold the broad sports audience night after night.  Whether they should at this stage is a totally different issue.  But with soccer -- and the nascency of its being broadcast from England into the U.S. on NBC Sports Channel -- there is much more interested, especially because a) mostly all games but Cup games have concluded and b) we could be upon one of the most volatile transfer seasons in recent memory.

While this is great for soccer, it is not as good for those who got displaced.  My read is that the elders of baseball should be very worried about the demographics of their fans base.

As for Martinez, he seems to be a good guy who lost his team.  He's a natural in the broadcast booth, and here's to wishing him well and finding the next good job.

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