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Today’s guest post comes from my friend Adam Navis. Adam is the Director of Operations for Words of Hope and is also studying the intersection of faith and writing for the focus of his D.Min. studies at Western Theological Seminary.
It’s Monday, the day after Germany defeated Argentina in the World Cup Finals. I’ve watched more games during the 2014 World Cup than ever before (4). I was a few years ahead of the youth-soccer boom in America, but I’ve got enough younger (and international) relatives that getting together to watch the World Cup is now a thing that happens in my life.
But to watch a World Cup game, I have to go to my in-laws house because we don’t have broadcast television. For five years now, our family has gotten all our television through Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and iTunes. We did this to save money, but it has also meant that our three children have grown up being able to control what they watch, when they watch it, and more significantly – they don’t watch commercials!
This fact is highlighted every year during the one time when they do watch commercials: during the Super Bowl. This is another event where we have to leave our house to watch it. But watching the Super Bowl confuses my kids in a way the World Cup does not. They don’t understand what commercials are. They think they’re a part of the show, but they can’t make sense when the story line changes every 30 or 60 seconds. And when sexually explicit commercials come on, my wife and I realize we don’t really have a good answer when our kids ask us “why are those people doing that?” And yet, it is these commercials, plus the half-time show, and the over-hyped pageantry that is part of the experience of the Super Bowl. It is almost more important than the actual game. I mean, really, do you remember who played in the Super Bowl when Janet Jackson had her “wardrobe malfunction?”
In contrast, most Americans consider soccer boring. Which makes sense when you think of the sugar-rush that is American sports: slam-dunks, home runs, touchdowns, cheerleaders, superstars, the Goodyear blimp, and both in-game analysis and factoids scrolling on the bottom of the screen (sometimes for games we’re not even watching). There is so much stimulation that the game and the commercial breaks blend almost seamlessly into one another.
Compare this to watching a World Cup game. No pauses. A few commercials during the break. No star studded half-time show. No marching band or cheerleaders. Just screaming fans, a relentless clock, and nuanced, technical play. Yes, there has been drama (biting players? Yowza!), but for the most part the stories have been about the games, the players, and the sport.
Perhaps in ten or twenty years, kids will be different. They’ll still see plenty of advertising and be over-stimulated from iPads and smartphones and game systems. But maybe they won’t have commercials branded on their DNA like my generation did. And a dad can dream that they won’t crave the drama and the pageantry and sensationalism that is such a lure of American sports. Maybe then America will be a country that is not only able to make it to a World Cup Finals, but be able to appreciate a sport that the rest of the world already considers the greatest game of all time.
Thanks for this. My wife and I have a similar experience with our (TV-deprived) kids. Also: commercials is one reason I quit watching TV: the "break in story line" that you describe seemed to me absurd. It crystallized for me one evening after a touching scene from the movie, "Tender Mercies," drew to a close, only to be followed by a maddeningly loud commercial for who-knows-what. I thought that no human should be subjected to that! : )