Wednesday, June 14, 2006
What holds three billion people's attention?
With an estimated global viewing figure of three billion people. football (aka soccer)is now considered to be the most watched sport in the world. Despite the rivalry between loyal fans, the beautiful game in the wake of war and international disputes is also considered to be the “peacemaker” of the 21st century. But what is it that makes twenty two people kicking a round ball about that makes it so compulsive viewing for millions? According to a recent study published in the New Scientist what holds our attention is the excitement factor. Simply put the idea anything can happen in the next 45 minutes. Other codes have their attractions but soccer takes the crown, according to the findings of New Mexican researchers from Los Alamos National Laboratory. The research team analyzed results from more than 300,000 games over the last century from the US's national hockey, football, baseball and basketball leagues and the top English football league. Researchers looked for factors which attracted spectators to a specific sport. Their results showed the "upset frequency" was highest for soccer, followed by baseball, hockey, basketball and finally American football. Rugby and cricket were omitted because they do not have a big following in the US. Seems the “Jack the Giant killer” i.e. the prospect of an underdog beating a favoured team was particularly compelling. This has been certainly true in this the first week of FIFA World Cup competition. So far no real surprises in the preliminary results but it is still early days. By contrast the researchers compared data from the past 10 years and found the “upset frequency” associated with English football Premiership and baseball would indicate the popularity of soccer has fallen behind. The authors concluded that soccer might have become more predictable in recent years and therefore less exciting to watch. Something which is obvious to all is the popularity of football shirts to the fans. Thousands rock up wearing the current colours of their favourite team. When I was a boy I had an English teacher who was convinced many sports fans would follow sport which they had themselves never participated within other than to watch play. The one exception was football where each member of the crowd would with little provocation join the players on the field and dressed accordingly, to prove the point.