Offside: Soccer and American Exceptionalism

By Andrei S. Markovits; Steven L. Hellerman | Go to book overview

Seven
The Coverage of World Cup '98 by the American
Media and the Tournament's Reception by the
American Public

THERE SIMPLY can be no doubt that in the course of the last two decades of the twentieth century, coverage and awareness of the quadrennially held world championship of soccer, otherwise known as the World Cup, has grown tremendously in the United States. The data are clear: While barely present in the sports pages—let alone the general news sections— of American “papers of record” such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times, as well as America's leading sports weekly Sports Illustrated, until the mid 1980s, all of these publications covered the subsequent tournaments with increasing intensity and expertise to the point where—by the 1990s—the World Cup formed a featured part of their sport section during the tournament's actual duration. 1 This was already true for the World Cup of 1990 held in Italy in which—tellingly—the United States was present for the first time after a forty-year hiatus.

Of course, the coverage intensified mightily four years later when the championship was hosted by the United States. Interestingly, the quantity and prominence of World Cup coverage in 1998 did not substantially decrease from what it had been in 1994 (save, of course, from “local angle” news features in the nine host cities of that year). All major American newspapers devoted large parts of their sport sections to the World Cup; most had their own reporters in France who wrote daily stories. In addition, these newspapers utilized articles from wire services such as Reuters and the Associated Press. A number of times, World Cup stories and/or photos appeared on the very first pages of prominent American papers, including those mentioned above, plus the Boston Globe, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Miami Herald, and the San Jose Mercury News. Just as in 1994, USA Today offered some of the most extensive and bestinformed reporting on the World Cup in France. All sixty-two games were televised live on either ESPN, ESPN 2, or ABC, as well as by Univision, the Spanish-language network. While no local sport station sent any of its reporters to France, and few, if any, led their nightly sports news with World Cup–related matters, they all reported the daily scores of the matches and regularly featured highlights of the goals. Anybody in the

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