I want to apologize in advance to the rest of the world. I know -- and I suspect I'm one of the handful of Americans who does -- that the 2006 FIFA World Cup
is about to kick off in Germany on June 9th.
For any Americans reading this, soccer is a sport played on a field about the size of our American football field, but with goalposts that have a net (not the basketball kind) where the intent is not to put the ball completely through the net, but rather land in it.
The field in soccer is known as a "pitch," not to be confused by what happens when the guy in the middle of the diamond on a baseball field does when he throws the ball towards home plate.
Soccer throughout the rest of the world is known by a name that is not generally used in America: "football." And that football is not to be confused with the kind played here in America.
"Football football," as I'll refer to it here, will have an estimated cumulative 32 billion viewings throughout the the world during the 2006 tournament.
That's about 31 billion, 750 million more viewings than most American sports combined, just to give you an idea of how many people will be paying attention to World Cup 2006.
Of that 32 billion, about three of them will be American.
To help Americans understand the scale of the World Cup, note that single digit billions watch the American football championship -- called the "Super Bowl" -- every single year.
Logically, then, one has to wonder: If the Super Bowl is so Super, why does the World Cup have 30-something billion viewings when it's held only once every four years? If there's demand for 30-something billion viewings of the World Cup, perhaps it should be held every year and the Super Bowl relegated to once every four years?
Being an American myself, I can't be expected to explain such oxymorons.
While you ponder that, however, allow me to pass along a few football football (soccer) tips that should be helpful to Americans as this global phenomenon passes them by next month.
First, the mascot. This year's official mascot is GOLEO VI (think "goal," the soccer kind, not the hockey one, and you'll get a pretty good idea of the genesis of the name).
GOLEO VI is the official mascot, not to be completely outdone by his sidekick, Pille the talking football (the football football kind, not the American one). If you saw the movie "Castaway," starring Tom Hanks, Pille is kind of like Wilson, the volleyball that Hanks' character talks to, except that Pille isn't a volleyball...although he kind of resembles one.
Second, if you do business with people outside the U.S., June would be a very good time for you to go on vacation.
Why? Think what happens during the American Super Bowl, except multiply that times about 30 full work days. Work is simply not part of the equation (Hey, do you work during the Super Bowl???)
Most of the 30-something billion viewings previously mentioned will be by people watching the World Cup matches and yelling at their televisions (most of which will be housed in the lobbies of hotels and office complexes so that people can watch the games while at work and on business travel).
And you can surely bet that the Internet will be pretty well clogged up trying to serve up scores and video from the latest matches to a few billion people concurrently. So, take my advice, go on vacation.
Third, if you are an American and you absolutely must do business during June, whatever you do, don't call your counterpart outside the U.S. when their team is playing a World Cup match. I know it will be confusing with the varying time zones and all, but doing so will simply reinforce how absolutely clueless an American you are about football football (soccer), and very likely move you promptly to the bottom of your colleague's call-back list (the calls for which will begin again sometime in mid-July when the World Cup ends).
Fourth, just because you played soccer in the YMCA when you were 12 or watched an indoor soccer league match on TV once does not qualify you to have an intelligent discussion about the sport with your South American or Latin American or European or Asian counterparts. You will likely just embarrass yourself and your country by attempting to do so -- it's much better to smile and feign complete ignorance, which is what most of those 30 billion people expect when it comes to Americans' knowledge of soccer.
Finally, a tie in football football -- unlike American football -- is not necessarily a bad thing. Actually, it can be something of a routine occurrence during the World Cup, depending on what Group your team is situated in...ah, never mind. Soccer is too complicated to try and explain in a single blog posting.
Just know that the U.S. is in Group E, Berlin is 6 hours ahead of the East Coast, most of the games last 90 minutes unless there's a shootout (in which case the amount of time left becomes irrelevant), there are no timeouts, there won't be a lot of points scored in most of the games, and Brazil is almost always favored to win.
That ought to get you by until the next World Cup...to be held four years from now in South Africa. Got it?[Read More]