The Thrill of Victory

First, thanks to everyone for all of the positive feedback on the blog. This week has already broken all previous traffic records for the Beverage (a fairly low bar), and we are grateful for the readers and the kind words. But the traffic spike here is apparently part of a much larger trend for World Cup-related stuff on the internet.

In our last post we discussed the impact of the internet and cable on television ratings generally and sporting events in particular, noting the unremarkable premise that more entertainment options beget smaller audiences for individual programs. But one clever reader pointed out that the Beverage was ignoring in this analysis people actually watching the game on the internet.

And it turns out that the mid-morning EDT starts are causing this World Cup to break new cyber ground. If one can decipher the graphic below, it apparently indicates that the moments following Landon’s game winner against Algeria yesterday morning produced the second-largest internet traffic spike ever. Really.

Now it is all clear, isn't it?

Last Friday’s USA v. Slovenia game was ESPN’s highest rated soccer program ever, with more than 5 million TV viewers, but almost 1 million additional viewers watched the game on the internet through ESPN3. (Worth noting again that the 1 million internet viewers ESPN got for weekday morning soccer would count as a very successful prime-time hockey telecast.) Similar things are also happening at Univision, where online traffic is at an all-time high. Anecdotally, someone shared with me an office email imploring employees to please go to the comfortable conference rooms and use the large flat-screen TVs to watch the game because streaming video was crushing the network. Sound like March Madness?

The Beverage is not a huge fan of Malcolm Gladwell (he keeps writing the same article over-and-over again for the New Yorker – briefly summarized, “It is hard to think of new stuff because people have been thinking for a long time and they’ve already thought of most of the good stuff.”), but one does get a sense that this World Cup has achieved some sort of tipping point for U.S. soccer interest.  It will certainly fade after the World Cup ends, but it may end up like figure skating, a sport about which people apparently care a great deal…but only for two weeks every four years.

As for Wednesday morning’s game itself, before it fades too far into the recesses of my already taxed memory I’ll give some quick impressions:

Stirring, stirring stuff. If you can’t get excited about that, you don’t really like sports. You just like beer and chicken wings and cheerleaders and have been confused all these years by their cohabitation with football.

Most impressive was the utter BELIEF that was clearly evident in the team, both against Algeria and last week against Slovenia. If you’ve not watched soccer much before, it is important to recognize that comebacks and last-second winners like we produced in the last two games just don’t happen very much at all.

If we hadn’t had the last goal against Slovenia disallowed, it would have been the first time that any team had ever come back from down 2-0 at halftime to win a World Cup game. As it was, even the tie we earned represented an historic comeback, only the fifth time any team has come back to tie a World Cup game when trailing 2-0 at halftime. And the winner scored in injury time yesterday? Only the fourth such goal scored in the last four World Cups.

So this is all to make the point that we were facing very, very long odds as both of these games wore into the second half. But you never saw it in the faces of Bob Bradley’s team. Late on in the game yesterday morning – when I’ll confess that deep in my heart I might have already given up hope – the lads were still charging boldly forward at every chance. Unlike, it is worth noting, our opponents, who looked lackadaisical enough to prompt the match commentators to wonder aloud why they weren’t trying to score and leading some to suspect that they might have been playing for a 0-0 draw and the honor of having sent the Evil Empire packing (The Beverage does not endorse this view).

Belief is a powerful thing, and the dysfunctional events of the past couple of weeks in the England and France camps show us that “team” matters in soccer. As our squad was waiting in line to come out of the tunnel yesterday morning, Half-n-Half pointed out that Clint Dempsey was gently resting his forehead against Jozy Altidore’s back. Nothing much, but just a casual reflection of the real spirit that exists among Bradley’s charges.

These guys like each other. They like what they are doing. They are not, like some in the England camp, pining away the hours until they’ll get to return to their rockstar lives and shiny “TV presenter” wives and girlfriends.

And now we all like them too. Unlike some bitter souls, I am happy to welcome the rest of America to the party. Pull up a chair. Stay a while. This could get interesting.

2 Responses to “The Thrill of Victory”

  1. 1 Anonymous June 27, 2010 at 7:11 am

    You’re right, Beverage, your blogs made me one of those interested viewers. Wished I hadn’t cared on Saturday.

  2. 2 Gary the Bartender July 7, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    Follow up Questions/comments, esp. re: internet usage spike information.

    First, the obvious question, what was the #1 internet spike of all time? The answer, as of the time of your post, appears to have been Day 1 of this years’ World Cup. That spike appears to have been surpassed (actually annihilated) by the next day’s simulataneous World Cup matches occurring at the same time as the uber-Marathon Wimbledon match. Nine of 10 events, (since 2005) have been sports related and most of thos have been World Cup related, and specifically US Soccer related. Furhter proof of your hypothosis that soccer is arriving.

    Second, I noted that the underlying article said that 6% of total tweet volume in the minutes after landon scored included the phrase “USA”. That doesn’t even include the Landon Donovan specific tweets, or those that included “GOAL”. Nor does it attempt to take into account the % of Facebook status updates that would have included similar langaugae. Shouldn’t we have some related statistics, the FB/Tweet Topic Volume Index? If so, what % were related to Landon’s goal w/in the 20 mins or so after. My guess is that it is more than 20%.

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