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World Cup: Congratulations Italy!!

July 10, 2006 - 0 Comments

SAN JOSE, CA – You’ve all heard the World Cup anecdotes: when asked if he was following the World Cup, a US soccer fan asked, “which U.S. teams are playing?” An editorial cartoon depicts the globe as a soccer ball and says, “how the world views the World Cup,” next to a small soccer ball that says, “how the US views the World Cup.”This truly is a world tournament only rivaled, in my mind, by the Olympics. The finals between Italy and France were broadcast nationally on regular TV yesterday in the U.S., but otherwise, you had to rely on cable or satellite for other tournament games. I was in Brussels a few weeks ago and the games were broadcast in nearly as many languages as you could name, all on the public television infrastructure, and the bars and sidewalks cafes were packed to capacity watching the games.So, what gives? Why does the world stop everything to watch the Cup, while the U.S. is barely aware that it is going on? To be sure, U.S. football, baseball and basketball were all invented in the U.S., so we might have a nationalistic bent to those sports, but the World Series in baseball doesn’t really have the world participating, does it, other than a handful of Canadians, Koreans and Japanese? The last non-US citizen to play a role in the Super Bowl? I have no idea…maybe a kicker? The National Basetball Association is getting a little more global with prominent players from Argentina, Canada, France, Spain, Germany and China…and the U.S. hasn’t fared as well in international touraments (see, Olympics), so perhaps the popularity of basketball is catching on.What’s my point?More of a rant, than a point I guess, but the most popular spectator sport in the U.S. is: anyone? anyone? You got it. NASCAR racing. The rest of the world? Soccer (aka football). What does this say about the U.S. versus the rest of the world? I would say that there is a bit of a disconnect in our understanding of the rest of the world and the rest of the world’s understanding of us. (Admittedly, with the last name of Earnhardt – and being from North Carolina – questioning the popularity of NASCAR could be a bit sacrilege…)This, in name, is a policy blog, so my forced segue begins here: the U.S. is not the most popular nation in the world right now and if we view the most popular sport in the world merely as a afterthought, then we’re not really doing ourselves any favors in our quest to help our global reputation. Policy is all about understanding all sides of an issue and then working together to come to an agreement. If the US wants to have better policy relations, better trade relations, better diplomatic relations and better world relations, we could do a lot worse than being a little more open to the rest of the world’s interests and concerns…starting with soccer/football. Innate in all of us is the “fight or flight” reflex and when one side of a negotiation consistently enters the room and says “my way or the highway,” you only leave the other side two options.In sum, congratulations, Italy! And, let’s ALL look forward to the World Cup in South Africa in 2010. I’ll see you there.For REAL technology policy dealing with the World Cup and broadcasting rights of the games, please read my colleague, Richard Allan’s recent blog entry: World Cup: Global Event, Global Network, Local Rights.

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