Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Game of the Decade...

... that 95% of sports fans in America won't watch: Manchester United vs. Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League Final.

As far as soccer (from here on out referred to by its proper name, football) and ratings go, this is the match-up everyone wants to see. The game pits two of the biggest and most celebrated clubs in Europe, both of whom employee the efforts of the top international talents (Messi, Ronaldo, Eto'o, Rooney, Henry, Puyol, etc.) in the sport. And unlike Kobe/LeBron, where the league officials are having to step in and orchestrate the happening, this match-up is legit. This is a final where the two best teams proved their respective mettle and earned a berth to compete on, arguably, the grandest football stage.

While the fareweather football fan may tune in, they'll ultimately be disappointed by what they see. A 2-1, or worse, 1-0 game will be viewed as further fuel for the recurring firestorm that is the argument against football. An appreciation for the supreme talent and incredible ball control that these players possess will surely fall short. Talent and touch don't mean beans to American fans. They wants goals, fights and/or streakers (and maybe not in that order).

There's a reason why it's called "The Beautiful Game." Finesse, fitness and are key, and are aspects that tend to be missed. What casual fans don't realize is that in football nothing comes quick and easy. Defenders don't take plays off like in the NBA, where scores skyrocket into the high 90s. There's more to watch and analyze than just two players, like the pitcher/batter duel in the MLB. Goals are a process. The build up is ultimately more important and typically more appealing than the finish. The passion for victory is far greater with these teams, from top to bottom, than what you'll find on an NBA roster.

Plus, 15% of the camera time for the game isn't on the celebrities in the stands or the uninspiring insights of the less-than-aesthetically-pleasing announcers.


Messi (left) and Ronaldo will fight for it all. Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

The game is on ESPN at 11:45 PST. Tune in. Game on.

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