Big media has put the game we love in its place today. A big news story has reminded us that Major League Soccer is, in most ways, only as “major” as the big media influencers choose to label it.
Major League Soccer is looking a little less “major” today based on the flowing narratives of the Jason Collins news.
By extension, the implication is that “soccer” isn’t a major sport in the country. TV ratings for big EPL matches, Champions League biggies and World Cup contests – not to mention the collective U.S. audiences for soccer each and every weekend when folding in viewership of Mexican matches and the sundry European offerings – tell us otherwise. But that’s too complicated for the expedient sound bites, so let’s not allow those inconvenient facts interfere with a story easily told.
It is what it is, I suppose.
Collins is the NBA center who came out Monday, and the narrative has been “first player to come out in a major U.S. sport.”
Of course, Robbie Rogers did this very thing in February. Rogers wasn’t just some “former MLS man.” He was in the prime of his career (although struggling mightily to gain his balance in performance, probably related to his February revelation). And as Rogers had only recently tumbled in the national team scene, it would hardly be inaccurate to label him a “U.S. international,” which should elevate his place in the media zeitgeist.
There is no question that NBA is a much bigger beast in the domestic sports forest. Collins’ revelation is a bigger story, no doubt.
But shouldn’t Rogers’ revelation be part of this conversation? It didn’t seem to be as I saw the story told across most major outlets, on TV, on radio and in the online sports pages.
At least in our world, Rogers place was recognized. For instance, Fox Soccer’s Leander Schaerlaeckens wrote about how Rogers’ story helped to pace a smoother landing strip for Collins and others still circling life’s outer markers, with the relevant mentions of David Testo and Megan Rapinoe.
But bigger media mostly ignored the same.
David Beckham was supposed to help do something about this. That was always going to be Beckham’s target and his legacy in macro, in the much larger picture: to drag MLS and pro soccer here out of niche status and into more general market awareness.
I thought Beckham had accomplished that to a reason degree. Now, I suppose, that “reasonable degree” didn’t extend as far as I thought.