First, an apology. I was selfish. I took the news that the USA-Mexico World Cup qualifier taking place August 12th in Mexico City would not be on a widely-available English-language outlet with entirely too much calm. I get Telemundo, and I could briefly subscribe to mun2 if I so choose, and I let those facts color my reaction. Obviously not everyone is as "lucky" as I am.
Many of you have commented that you don't get either Telemundo or mun2, and will be left to hunt down a soccer bar or internet feed. Even if you do receive Telemundo, it's maddening that the English feed of the match will be on a niche channel that most of us had never heard of until yesterday.
More than maddening. It's inexcusable.
First, let's properly direct our anger: Is ESPN to blame for not stepping up and paying Telmundo (and by extension, NBC Universal, Telemundo's parent company) what they wanted for the US English-language rights? Maybe, but as long as the ESPN ship has sailed, it's a pointless exercise to focus our attention there. It should all go back to the source, to the entity that holds the rights and ultimately decided to keep them for themselves, spitting in the face of USMNT fans everywhere by planning to air the match on a channel with an extremely small cable footprint. Add in the fact that mun2 is often only available through the purchase of an additional tier of channels (as is the case with me), and NBC Universal's actions are even more disgusting.
Other outlets exist. Outlets with widespread availability. Here's the list of NBC Universal's television properties:
At least one of those makes sense as a home for USA-Mexico. The USA Network has hosted sports programming fairly regularly over the years, and I simply can't imagine that their 4-6pm ET schedule on August 12th can't be rearranged for a highly anticipated soccer match. In fact, the network is running an NCIS marathon on that day (according to their online listings), and while that show may be somewhat popular, I seriously doubt that the umpteenth episode in a row would get better ratings than USA-Mexico.
As fans, what do we do? Now that we not only know who should receive the lion's share of our anger, and have in mind an alternative that would clearly makes sense, what actions should we take?
That's the easy part.
Not only should you email NBC to voice your displeasure and demand that the game be broadcast elsewhere (preferably the USA Network or a channel with similar distribution), each and every soccer-friendly media figure in the country should be made aware of the issue.
Colin Cowherd recently stated that the USA-Mexico qualifier at Azteca is the most important game in the history of American soccer, a potential tipping point in the popularity of the game here. Cowherd has a voice, a national profile, and the means to make a stink; while I wonder if his ESPN affiliation means he won't comment (I hope not), there's always a chance. It seems worth the effort to barrage him with emails (firstname.lastname@example.org) and tweets (herdonespnradio).
Email Bill Simmons. Email Michael Wilbon. Email anyone you can think of that might care. Email your congeressman if you want to. Let everyone know that this issue matters to you; it's the only way it might possibly change. Let everyone know here in this thread or elsewhere around the Internet soccer community who might make a good target.
This match at Azteca is the highlight of the USMNT year. The FMF has already made it difficult enough to see by setting kickoff for 3pm CT; we shouldn't be forced to hunt and scrounge to see it as well. There are enough of us to make a difference, and a collective campaign is the only way to do so.
I'll be sending emails and doing my part, whether this campaign gets off the ground or not. Selfishly ignoring the problem before, I've now see the light; come on Telemundo/NBC Universal..
GIVE US OUR YANKS!
Per Jason Gatties' suggestion, there is now an online petition for the effort:
Sign it, send it to everyone you know, tweet it, post it on message boards-do whatever it takes to make this a campaign that actually carries some weight.
*UPDATE* Apparently I should have researched this particular petition site a little; it seems that ipetitions makes it appear you have to pay to sign. THIS IS NOT THE CASE. THERE IS NO CHARGE TO SIGN THE PETITION.
Online petitions are nice, and they're certainly easy, but clogging up email in-boxes and fax machines are even better. I realize that the effort needed can often be a deterrent, and so I'm making it easy for you:
First, copy and paste these email addresses into your email's recipient box.
email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, Lyndsay.Iorio@nbcuni.com, email@example.com, Perkins.Miller@nbcuni.com, Jeff.Zucker@nbcuni.com
Make the subject "USA-Mexico on USA Network" or something similar.
Next, copy and paste this text into the body of your email:
Dear Sir or Madam,
I am an American soccer fan. Yes, we do in fact exist, and we are likely more numerous than you might believe.
As an American soccer fan, I was distressed to learn that the United States Men's National Team's upcoming World Cup qualifier with arch-rival Mexico will not be broadcast on a widely-available English-language network.
This is unacceptable. Soccer, and in particular the USMNT, are growing in popularity at a rapid clip. The team's recent strong showing in a tournament last month has drastically increased their profile, and more Americans than ever are following them. USA-Mexico is not only a crucial game for World Cup qualification, it's also the most compelling, intriguing, and attention-worthy game on the 2009 calendar. The soccer community is anxiously awaiting the match, and will watch in larger numbers.
Broadcasting the game on a network few of us receive or would be forced to pay added cost for is not only unfair, it's bad business. Cutting the potential audience for the game off at the knees does not seem the best way to maximize it's potential worth to NBC Universal.
Therefore, I respectfully request that you move this match to one of your other more widely-available networks. USA Network would seem to make the most sense, though I am not picky. Please allow us, the American soccer community, see the game that we are so looking forward to. I'm convinced that this move makes sense for your company as well; aside from the millions of eyes tuned to your one of your networks, the PR ramifications are obvious.
An American Soccer Fan