Friday, September 14, 2007

when trying is worse than not even making an attempt.

(Joshua Masayoshi Huff)

Any regular JJ Collective reader will know that we’re all fairly huge football/soccer/whateveryouplease fans. Of course, our allegiances differ (Ben and I both love Arsenal, Pat is an Aston Villa fan, and occasional contributor David Byrd is Liverpool diehard) but we all love the game.

I’m not really sold on women’s soccer, but it’s not because I haven’t tried: I watched the Women’s World Cup in 1999 and watch a great deal of their friendlies on television. And, let’s face it—the women’s team is more successful than the US Men’s National Team. Based on what, you ask? Well, based on the fact that the US Women have won two World Cups.

You may say that there aren’t any real “powerhouses” in the women’s game in the way that Brazil, Argentina, England, Italy, Spain, France, Germany (perhaps Portugal and Holland as well) dominate (I named pretty much half of Europe there, I know)…but the fact of the matter is that there are dominant teams, it’s just that they’re a bit different. Sweden and the United States are two powers in women’s soccer that field above average but not stellar teams in the men’s game (Brazil and Germany are ahead of the pack in both Men’s and Women’s).

Basically, just because the Women have won twice in a competition only created 20 years ago doesn’t make their accomplishments worth any less (don’t even cite Uruguay being damn near dominant in the early years of the men’s Copa Mundial). In fact, I’m damn proud of them. This, surprisingly, isn’t my point: I’m upset with the advertisements Nike has put out to “promote” the women’s team ahead of the world cup.

Nike’s ads tell fans (errrr…Americans, because, according to Nike, the women have no fans) that it’s time “to meet the team you’ve never heard of.” We’ve never met? Most sports fans remember Brandi Chastain’s bra-exposing celebration after the US Women won the World Cup in 1999. Don’t try to say that we’ve ignored them. That photo was the cover of Sports Illustrated and most American sports section. Never heard of? Give me a break.

So, onto the ads. First off, Rainn Wilson (aka Dwight Schrute) was cast as a main auditioning in his RV to become the public relations officer for the team. Wilson comes off as bumbling, incoherent, unprofessional and almost illiterate—obviously, this is the way that the script was written.

However, while auditioning, Wilson is shown to have no idea just how successful the team is—saying that they could be big on morning radio and with “local government.” I know, I know, the point is to show that no one in America knows how good they are because they’ve been ignored for so long (along with football/soccer in general), but this disrespects the 90,185 in attendance for the final in 1999 at the Rose Bowl between the US and China (won by the US in dramatic fashion, in case you forgot).

Clearly, there is an audience for soccer in America. I know Nike, Gatorade and the USSF want to spread soccer in order to maximize profits—however, by pandering to the country by using Wilson in such a role is demeaning.

Bsto pointed out that he was tired of the announcer’s on ESPN’s telecasts of the Men’s National Team’s game and how they pointed out just how similar Oguchi Onyewu was to an “American Football” player. Who cares? Does that make the game any more enjoyable for someone who doesn’t already watch soccer? No, it does not.

There are those of us out there who aren’t stupid and who know what the women have done—and, reality check, Nike…we’re the only ones watching the commercials and thinking about them at all. By pretending that no one knows about soccer, you belittle and push away the core audience that actually does care.

Wilson also says that he can get “Big oily muscle men during every time-out.” Obviously, this is acting and meant to be a sarcastic remark—but come on. It was such a cheap joke that not only could one see it coming from a mile away, one could also hear themselves groaning in disgust thirty seconds before the groan actually emanated from their own mouth.

I watched the match between the US and North Korea, and though it wasn’t very pretty, it was very hard fought and I enjoyed it thoroughly. I don’t think soccer needs cheap gimmicks and jokes to make it relevant to a bigger crowd. Maybe America just doesn’t get it—that doesn’t mean that Nike has to make fun of both America and hard-core footie fans in the process.

We get it, we get it: America doesn’t care about soccer! These women can walk around in anonymity! Man, that’s rich comedy! Haha! Potential PR flaks think all these women care about is publicity and muscle men during non-existent time-outs! This is rich! Only the absolute best writers came up with this stuff!

For so long, people have said that soccer has failed thus far in America because it is poorly marketed. I’d rather have it be poorly marketed than be marketed with absolute tripe like these ads.

Will I watch more of the Women’s World Cup, including today's match against Sweden? Sure, but in spite of and not because of these horrible commercials.