Cheerleading taints soccer coverage

According to ratings and viewership numbers, the Women’s World Cup completed last week with the U.S. women’s national team claiming its fourth championship (and second in a row) was a big success.

Still, the broadcasters faltered at the most important time — as the championship match culminated.

Instead of context and insight as time expired and the U.S. clinched its victory, viewers got an abundance of cheerleading and too many top-this one liners. Instead of letting the pictures and reactions “breathe” and speak for themselves, it felt as if everyone at Fox Sports with access to a microphone tried to contextualize or hype the outcome (a 2-0 U.S. victory over the Netherlands) as soon as it happened.

Sure, there were many interesting storylines and likely ramifications of the result. From a record fourth championship and the dominant fashion of the team’s tournament success to gender comparisons, legal issues and the legacy of the team itself, many things were worthy of discussion.

Eventually. As part of post-celebration discussion. With some balance and context.

Unfortunately, that’s not what happened. It felt like a free-for-all, with everyone wanting to be heard or share their opinion now.

The championship was an interesting and multifaceted culmination of effort, an historic moment in many ways. It just ended up being average sports television, though. And while the broadcasters can probably be excused for their emotions, a director or producer should have helped keep things focused. That did not happen either. The championship game drew 14.3 million viewers, down significantly from the 25.4 million who watched the U.S. women defeat Japan in 2015. That game was played in prime time, as opposed to 11 a.m. Sunday, when last week’s game aired in our region.

In terms of streaming viewers, this year’s championship game was up significantly. According to Fox, it attracted 402 percent more streaming viewers — an average minute audience of 289,000 viewers.

Of course, that’s because many more people stream content in 2019 than did in 2015. Still, those are good numbers and a trend for the future.

Even if the sport and related attention grow as some hyped-up analysts predict, that viewership number from four years ago could stand for a while as viewership approaches fragment going forward.

Finally, while the many related topics deserve discussion, they were often poorly addressed in the aftermath of the game, with cheerleader tendencies blocking out context and rational thought or real reporting.

While it’s doubtful the approach will change going forward, it’s my hope that it might. Sports fans deserve better, and it would be nice if the media would deliver that a little more regularly.

Show stopped

Belated kudos to Altoona Mirror sports writer Cory Giger for his 10¢-year run with his daily sports talk show, “Sports Central,” on 1430 WVAM.

Things ended abruptly last week. It’s always abruptly in radio and hosts, no matter the market or their longevity, rarely get a chance to say goodbye to listeners.

When the station moved away from an all-sports format, the destiny of Giger’s show seemed almost certain. Still, it was a good run and both he and the station deserve credit for the show’s success.

The testament to that success was the amount of listener reaction on social media after the news became public.

Independent minded sports-talk shows are rare, no matter the size of the market. Without Giger, sports fans are missing a piece of community and a resource.

As a fairly regular guest on the program, my opinion comes with a little bias, but Giger’s efforts were heartfelt and sincere and he consistently worked to serve listeners.

Still, do not be surprised if he shows up on air or in a different format sometime in the not-too-distant future.

Sampsell can be reached at stevesampsell@gmail.com.


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