I’m as guilty as anyone for making “nobody likes soccer in America lololol” jokes, but I can admit when I’m wrong.
Yesterday, the United States had its opening match in the 2014 FIFA World Cup against Ghana, and a whole ton of people tuned in. In fact, the match nabbed a 7.0 overnight rating from Nielsen—not counting the 1.4 million who watched on WatchESPN—the second highest rated group-round soccer game in U.S. history. In comparison, game 5 of the NBA finals got a 6.8.
First of all, unbeknownst to me this was apparently a huge rivalry game. And from Yankees-Red Sox to Tom Brady-Peyton Manning, Americans love themselves a good rivalry. Especially against someone that is historically very, very good at beating America in soccer.
What else did U.S.. v. Ghana have? Violence! Good old fashioned American action-movie violence. I’ll admit I was half watching the game and half watching my phone until—boom!—United States forward Clint Dempsey got flying-karate-kicked in the face.
Dempsey came back in to the game all bloody and possibly concussed and I was finally all “America, fuck yeah.”
You know what else probably helped? The fact that the US was winning for, like, most of the game. Even more than violence and competition, the U.S loves winning violent competition. And I’ll admit I was not even surprised when Ghana tied the game up with about .0005 seconds left. But when the USA took the lead back with about .0004 seconds left I’m pretty sure this officially became the national anthem for like a half hour.
So, yeah, that 7.0 rating isn’t that surprising. What is surprising is that the U.S. won, but now that it happened I assume we’re going all the way to the ‘ship, baby! (Note: this probably won’t happen.)