Watching the World Cup on American TV: mission impossible?

Watching football should be easy

Watching football should be easy

When I realised that I would be in Philadelphia at a convention for the start of the 2002 World Cup I could never have guessed just how hard it would be to watch a game. I mean, they have over 100 channels don’t they? And I was staying at the Crowne Plaza, so I would think they would have enough TV options to have at least one channel screening a game?

Wrong! I missed the opening game, having unsuccessfully flicked through every possible programme and found every sport except for football. ‘What is wrong with this country?” I thought to myself. Still, not to be defeated my work colleague and I asked around at the convention as to where I might be able to watch the England match the following morning. It was a 5.30am kick off local time, which made the challenge a little more difficult. But I guess we had asked the right people, because at around 2am that night I received a voicemail telling me of an address where I could see the match live, a little over three hours later.

Our taxi took us to the other end of Philly and dropped us along a non-descript street. Around us were old houses, a few were boarded up and it looked like the last place you would want to be, before dawn in a shady district of a American city known for its crime rate. The taxi was gone, and we were left to walk up to this large door, already feeling we’d been duped. But the door opened as I gave it a push and in front of us was a long corridor. As we headed along this unlit passage, a murmur of noise grew and eventually we came to its source, behind another large wooden door.

Very easy in Laos!

Very easy in Laos!

On pushing this door it was as if we had been transported to another world. England flags and Union Jacks covered the large room, a giant TV hung on the wall showing the players warming up on the pitch and the room was filled with around 50 people, mostly young men wearing England shirts. Where had they all come from? The beers flowed, the bacon butties were dished out, and England went on to draw 1-1 against Sweden. It was, all in all, one of the most surreal football experiences I’ve enjoyed.

A few days later I was in New York and this time did manage to pick up a channel to watch the mighty Poland lose to the hosts South Korea. Maybe I should have stayed in Philly? On the way to the airport, the cab driver had the news on the radio, and as the USA had just won a big game I was sure this would be a big story. I should have expected it, but the football success that their countrymen were enjoying got a one line mention after the college basketball results. “It’s a women’s game” the cab driver explained. What could I say?

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8 Responses to “Watching the World Cup on American TV: mission impossible?”

  1. LOL I totally understand how you feel…

    While Worldcup is really big all over the world, the USA might be the only country in the world who doesn’t watch football (soccer as it’s been called over there) or the majority don’t even care about this game after all.

    I always missed WorldCup during my entire stay in the USA.

    June 9, 2010 at 9:25 am Reply
  2. How depressing! Although that experience in the the middle of nowhere in phily sounds fantastic! Those kind of unexpected experiences are the best!

    Thankfully Australia seems to have caught up a little bit when it comes to getting excited about the World Cup. Plenty of venues in Melbourne will be showing games.

    Still the hysteria is somewhat less than what I experienced in Europe before Germany 2006. I still remember travelling through Holland and seeing every little village decorated head to toe in national flags! I can only long for Australia to get to that level, 2022 perhaps?

    June 9, 2010 at 9:45 am Reply
  3. Yes, Europe gets pretty crazy about any football tournaments (although S America and parts of Asia also would be great to visit during the World Cup). Australia are on the up, aren’t they? THis is about the only sport they haven’t yet mastered!
    Thanks both for the comments.

    June 9, 2010 at 4:04 pm Reply
  4. I know there are quite a few places that are having World Cup parties here in Austin. I was invited to a few to drink the day away but unfortunately I have to be at a wedding. LAME.

    June 9, 2010 at 8:38 pm Reply
  5. Football’s definitely on the rise in Australia. The World Cup gets a lot more airtime in Australia now then say 8 years ago, it will really sky rocket if Australia can win hosting rights for the 2022 World Cup.

    South America would be fantastic, I’m going to do my utmost to get over to Brasil for the 2014 World Cup. Gutted I missed this one after attending 2006.

    June 10, 2010 at 12:29 am Reply
  6. I hope it proves to be much easier here in Malaysia, despite the awkward local kick off times. The first England game kicks off at 2:30am here. Not very convenient really.

    I can bear the thought of missing the England matches though, it’s hard enough to think that I won’t be able to watch every single game religiously like I would at home.

    June 11, 2010 at 3:22 am Reply
  7. Unfortunately this just about sums up the USA. They must be the most insular nation in the world. They are only bothered about anything unless it directly affects them.
    They usually don’t miss a trick to sell advertising but surely their must be millions of nationalities working or staying in the USA such as yourself who are desperate to watch the matches.
    I am off to Greece on Sunday in the full knowledge that it will be on.

    June 11, 2010 at 1:27 pm Reply
  8. The Greeks will be even more crazy about the games than we are in England. From what I gather the USA this year has embraced the World Cup far more than ever before.
    Enjoy the late night Brendan!

    June 12, 2010 at 12:12 pm Reply

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