Covering the Coverage: Part II- Sports Radio

soccer radioWith the Summer winding down, we thought we would take a look at the coverage of American soccer in the United States.  Last week, in Part I, we took a look at the mainstream media.  To read that article, click  here.  Today, we are going to take a look at that seemingly inpenetrable bastion of major sports; sports radio.  In almost every city in the country the airwaves are filled with stations devoted to sports 24 hours a day.  Whether entirely locally produced, or reliant on ESPN, Fox Sports or TSN for content, these stations provide non stop sports, typically in a call-in format.

What is almost universal in these stations, is the absolute lack of soccer coverage.  In many markets, even soccer scores (whether USMNT or MLS) are hard to come by.  Hosts rarely (if ever), mention soccer and those who do often limit their comments to a few snide remarks.  Callers are often discouraged from making “soccer calls” either by the lack of soccer coverage or by the producers who screen calls and don’t want to see their hosts embarassed.    Those calls that do get through are typically limited to World Cup or a remarkably big event (Beckham, etc..).

ESPN does occassionally devote segments to soccer, and some stations do have the occassional regular soccer show (like Balboa’s in Colorado).  Some stations also broadcast their local MLS game (although even for me soccer on the radio can be a bit tough to take), yet still ignore their teams.   In fairness, some hosts are willing to give soccer a go (e.g. Planet Mikey in Boston), and will at least entertain callers on the sport.  However, their soccer IQ is typically low.

Soccer fans have of course found their alternative medium.  Call-in pod casts are gaining popularity and provide an outlet for soccer fans looking to chat about their sport.  WSD was also a popular soccer call-in program.

The big question for soccer fans is whether it matters.  Should soccer fans be content to be confined to “soccer media” or should they try and break through by filling the airwaves with their calls?  Is soccer not discussed because nobody calls to discuss it, or does nobody call to discuss it because it is never discussed?  Tell us about your city; does soccer get play on the local airwaves?

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5 Responses

  1. Seattle sports radio pays very good attention to the Sounders. Players, the GM, and even the newspaper beat reporter are regular guests on the shows.

  2. None of my friends care about sports radio (most in their 20’s). Few care about radio (occasionally they will listen to the news or a bit of music if they are tired of listening to their mp3s). Talk radio seems to be on the way out.

    Almost everyone who I’ve heard talk about what it is like (some on podcasts or online, others face-to-face) have commented on how backwards everything is in radio. Talent is rarely recognized. Mediocrity is rewarded. Personalities are shoehorned in to fitting a know formula that previously successful. Stations react to viewers changing tastes slowly. If they do react to a trend it is often with a very limited understanding of what the trend is.

    As a result radio is on the decline. Sports talk radio is on the fringe. So is soccer in the U.S. The difference is soccer is on the way up.

  3. Let me make it clear that the second paragraph is about people that have worked in radio or are presently working in radio.

    Podcasts are the way to go now if soccer wants to attract a young fan base.

    Also MLS and its teams should focus on concerts and night life (in sponsoring events and in giveaways).

  4. I like sports radio. but we are a generation away from it covering soccer in NY. Good luck getting Kay or Francesa to discuss the Red Bulls

  5. I agree with victory. One of the main problems I see is that the hosts generally have a very low soccer IQ and do not follow the sport. As a result, they don’t even have the tools to discuss soccer, even if some callers wanted to. Hopefully, the next generation of hosts will be more attuned to soccer. Colin Cowherd of ESPN-Radio, who I generally find somewhat annoying but who has a large national audience, is actually willing to discuss soccer from time to time and has professed his love for the national competitions. As mentioned here previously, Bill Simmons has now devoted significant column space and podcast time to soccer. Things are definitely looking up, but traditional sports radio will definitely one of the last frontiers of the mainstream media for soccer to conquer. I am neighbors with a Seattle sports radio station’s program director and he lamented how much time they were spending on the Sounders and called Seattle’s current infatuation with soccer “faddy”. With 24,000 season ticket holders and 5,000 already putting down deposits for 2010, he may have to change his tune.

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