Women’s soccer has earned its keep

Commentary

Women’s soccer season — specifically, the once-every-four-years “season” that coincides with the Women’s World Cup — has started and games will air on Fox, Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports 2 through the conclusion of the tournament on July 7.

Team USA, the perennial tournament favorite facing a stronger-than-usual field of challengers, opens play at 3 p.m. Tuesday vs. Thailand, with the game airing on Fox. The second game for Team USA will be at noon Sunday vs. Chile, also airing on Fox.

Lead on-air talents for the tournament include JP Dellacamera, who will handle play-by-play with analyst Aly Wagner.

They’ll get most games featuring the U.S. women’s national team. The other broadcast booth pairings are: Derek Rae-Danielle Slaton, Jenn Hildreth-Kyndra de St. Aubin, Glenn Davis-Angela Hucles and Lisa Byington-Cat Whitehill.

It’s a mix of proven veterans and former players with international experience who should be informative and solid. Best of all, we’re well past the point where the broadcasters feel the need to lobby for support of the sport, or the tournament, or women’s sports in general during broadcasts.

We’re to the point where it’s about issues in the sport and, most of all, who wins and who loses. That’s a good thing. Those watching are already interested. Some might be more casual fans than others, but there’s no need to convert them to soccer or rave about value of the sport itself.

Now, any news surrounding the efforts of U.S. players to get paid more should be covered. That’s news, and it’s relevant to this tournament and the women’s team’s comparisons to the men’s team as they seek equitable salaries for international competition.

Still, the games themselves should have enough competition and drama to keep things interesting.

Plus, Team USA certainly has an abundance of personalities and talent, including captains Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan, Becky Sauerbrunn and Megan Rapinoe. Starting goalie Alyssa Naeher was a standout at Penn State, as was defender Ali Krieger.

Conference cash

A recent report from USA Today showed Big Ten Conference revenue totaled $759 million in 2018 — up significantly from $512.9 million in 2017 — that money comes in large part from TV deals, and the cable bills and satellite subscriptions of sports fans.

That total breaks down to $54 million per school in the conference, putting the Big Ten alone as the wealthiest in Division I athletics.

According to the same report, more than 170 of the 213 public-school athletic programs outside the Big Ten reported less than $54 million in total operating revenue for 2017. Remember, the $54 million was just the conference media income for schools like Penn State.

Here’s how other conferences break down in terms of per-school payouts from media deals: SEC — $43.7 million; Pac-12 — $30.9; Big 12 — $34.3; and ACC — $30.7.

Finding fans

After the certainly reasonable concern expressed by many sports talking heads about the need for protective netting at baseball stadiums in the wake of a young girl being hit with a foul ball and injured last week, it’s interesting — and a seeming disconnect — that many broadcasts continue to show fans in the stadium after they’ve gotten their hands on a foul ball under more mundane circumstances.

Broadcasts have made it a policy in recent years to not show on-field disruptions by fans, and to perhaps not even mention when a drunk fan scrambles out onto the field or some other fans create a disturbance. It seems that if such things are not shown then they did not happen.

So, if foul balls in the stands are so dangerous, should the result of what happens when balls go flying along the first or third base line be shown?

My sense is that at some point what we see when watching ballgames might change as a result of the recent discussions. That might be a good thing or a bad thing, but it’s almost certainly and about-to-happen thing.

Preseason plans

In case you missed it, one of the Steelers’ four preseason games will be televised nationally.

That’s the Aug. 25 game at Tennessee (NBC). Other games, likely to air on WTAJ-TV, carrying KDKA’s coverage, are: Aug. 9 vs. Tampa Bay; Aug. 17 vs. Kansas City; and Aug. 29 at Carolina.

CFL presence

ESPN will carry every CFL game this season, with many on its over-the-top ESPN-Plus service. Still, at least 20 will be televised, with the first three coming Friday and Saturday. That’s Montreal at Edmonton (9 p.m. ESPN2) on Friday with Ottawa at Calgary (7 p.m. ESPNNEWS) and Winnipeg at BC (10 p.m. ESPN2) on Saturday. Altoona’s Julian Howsare plays for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

Sampsell can be reached at stevesampsell@gmail.com.

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