Comment: US sport reigns supreme

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Mickey Charles, president and CEO of Philadelphia–based company The Sports Network tells MEI why he believes the US is the centre of the sporting universe.

Who has the bigger balls? Or more of them? That is a difficult question to ask, and when posturing, the US is part of the response. Certainly true in the former instance given our world position and what we are either called upon to do or decide to do on our own. I will limit the finite response to bigger to any who would care to venture forth with an answer and address the latter by simply stating that it is no contest regardless of how boastful anyone else might become at this captious moment in time. The perspicacious among you might well feel differently, and that is your right, but the facts are undeniable and favour the folks that the world at large loves to embrace or reject and renounce to suit their needs and political purpose at the moment. It is a maelstrom of idiocy. However, the US, like it or not, is the centre and core of the universe when it comes to sports. Look at the 2011 Super Bowl, number XLV, held in Arlington, Texas and justifiably heralded as the biggest sporting event on the planet. Face it – and not only does no one dispute the figures nor question them but how can you, by what paradigm of your own – The National Football League finished off its supposed biggest television year ever with what it claimed to be the most–watched television programme of all time, as this event averaged 111m viewers on the Fox network. Now, remember, no one was counting and there was really no way of truly knowing but this is the stuff that ratings and projections are made of, that decides elections, twists and turns the populace to act in a certain way and become, for however long it takes, Lemmings on the prowl. . . following the undetermined crowd. The million man march in Cairo was very much smaller than planned but it sounded good and the media rushed in like sharks in a feeding frenzy. Regardless, this was a big one – the game – and, as they have said, maybe the biggest ever. The event surpassed 2010s Super Duper Encounter by 4. 5m viewers. And, lest we forget, however they arrive at the bottom line, all are quick to point out that the Super Bowl numbers only include viewers watching in homes; they do not include parties watching in bars or those who paid to sit under heaters in the parking lot outside Cowboy Stadium in Dallas to see the game unfolding indoors on giant screen TVs. The figure for total number of viewers watching at least some part of the game also set a new record with 162. 9m. Does anyone actually contact everyone while holding this really huge calculator in one hand, or do they, as is more than likely, call one small segment of the world, like a 12–person focus group behind a two–way mirror and then multiply what they are eating, drinking, watching by 10, 000 or 100, 000 or even more? Do you understand that this figure is one half the population of the country, of the Colonies, as some abroad still refer to us? Further, despite some bad reviews, the halftime show with the Black Eyed Peas also improved slightly in ratings over some previous half–time performers, including Bruce Springsteen, The Who, and Tom Petty. But it did not quite match the all–time half–time record, still held by Michael Jackson. Duh!No surprise there. A video tape of Jackson would have drawn more viewers. We have more balls than you can imagine, or count, with a puck or two tossed in for good measure, not to mention a frolic in the swimming pool, gymnastic gyrations, ice skating, bike riding, wrestling, boxing, kayaking, white water, skiing, snow–boarding – not to be confused with George Bushs water–boarding, auto racing, golf, tennis, bowling, track and field, lacrosse and hundreds and hundreds of competitive events between the largest number of colleges and universities, high schools, in the universe. Simple fact of life. The Super Bowl garnered $86, 000 a second for a commercial and they have become the centre piece of the game, even more so than the event itself. They are previewed, highlighted and then spoken of as if we were about to witness the Academy Awards of Super Bowl commercials. Their entertainment value and creative highlights have swept over talk shows and YouTube like a tidal wave. Where else is there a venue, like Cowboy Stadium, that cost $1. 2bn to construct, likely all of it done with OPM (Other Peoples Money) where the owner, or owning company – Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys – are on the hook for the payments that receipts, TV revenue, stadium sales of food/team paraphernalia/memorabilia, etc. , will pay for? Further, it is more than a stadium – it is a museum on the inside with artwork undertaken by famed artisans from around the globe. Yes, there are the Olympic and Paralympic Games, FIFA World Cup, The Commonwealth Games, the ICC Cricket World Cup, IRB Rugby World Cup, and others on the international sporting stage but even South Africas 30 days of football at the FIFA World Cup does not measure up to the MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL, collegiate football and basketball. It just so happens that the Super Bowl is the NFLs version of magical marketing at its finest. The reach of the audience, no matter how inflated the numbers might be, like the doll you purchased recently but which did not live up to expectations, is still awesome but did the Darth Vader VW commercial really make you go out after the game and order a SUV version for the wife and a smaller one for yourself? Not. The tires on your car come with the car and all the beavers, speaking of those that gnaw through trees, cannot save enough drivers from going into the swelling river to make any of us rush out and change from the Good Year or Pirelli that come with our vehicle to Bridgestone. But, good commercial, as was the one regarding the e–mail inadvertently sent to the civilised world at large. Budweiser is, well, Budweiser. You either drink it or you do not. A reminder to have another? Doubtful. Convincing you that you are doing the right thing? You either know by now and your palate agrees, or you do not. The same is true for Coca–Cola and Pepsi. Happy with your job? I figured that. So much for Career Builder. On a diet like the rest of us? I guessed it. No Snickers on the shopping list this week. Doritos? You either have them or you do not. Teasing a dog until he smashes through the door, which falls on you, will not turn the trick. If my broker is doing a good job for me in this most dismal of markets I am not rushing to Etrade no matter what the baby in the highchair says. Who is Stella Artois? What is Stella Artois? For the uninformed and uninitiated, it is a 5% ABV lager originating from Leuven, Belgium, predominantly brewed in the UK. It is named Stella after the Latin word for star. Pilsner lagers such as Stella Artois head the list for domestic consumption, making up almost 75% of Belgian beer production. OK, that helps but are you really going to switch? I repeat, $86, 000 a second to convince you to do so. The point is the intense absorption rate of the American public, their insatiable appetite for sports, their need for heroes and living vicariously from the achievements of others and prowess of their team, agonising over their failures. Everyone, everywhere, does the same thing but to a lesser degree. America is the eclipse leader in this regard, blotting out all others, throwing more balls around than any sane person can handle at a given moment, on a given day. The undisputed title–holder. Argue as you may, this is the way it is. More balls than you can believe, certainly count. There is no castration of it in sight, only growth. Do what you will with that one but we have more balls to go around than you do. And, by the way, bigger is better!About Mickey CharlesMickey Charles is president and CEO of real–time sports wire service The Sports Network (TSN), based in Philadelphia, US. For further information about The Sports Network, visit: www. sportsnetwork. com. The Sports Network2200 Byberry RdHatboro, PA 19040 Tel: +1 (215) 441–8444 Fax: +1 (215) 441–5767

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