Sounders reality show a joke

There is no greater publicity stunt in today’s world than having your own reality TV show. If you’re a washed up actor, a wannabe singer, a future backup dancer, or a twenty-something tool that wants to room with other twenty-something tools for a few months, then reality television is for you. If you’re a major professional soccer franchise, however, you shouldn’t have to rely on an overdramatized gimmick to sell your team on the local fan base.

That’s not stopping the Sounders FC, though. In partnership with KING TV, the local Futbol Club (or is that Film Crew?) began videotaping tryouts in November, complete with contestant profiles and likely all the drama that is usually associated with unscripted snippets of “real life.” The final results will be aired immediately following the completion of the Superbowl on Sunday, February 1st with the winning selection being announced. If nothing else, this should get a large number of preteen adolescent females interested in the one guy who will never leave the bench barring a freak accident that incapacitates all but 11 (or fewer) members of the team.

There are a handful of reasons why this TV show is a horribly bad idea, but I’ll limit myself to outlining three of them (full disclosure: when I said handful I really meant “three,” but the sentence was going nowhere and I had to make it interesting…the transition from the previous paragraph was admittedly weak).
  • Reason #1: Respectability. How often do you associate “respectability” with reality TV? Never. Reality TV in and of itself is a low-brow form of entertainment (think circus, clowns, rodeo) meant to stimulate the minds of an impressionable viewership. So when you are a team that’s part of a league that plays a sport fighting to gain a certain level of respect in the American sports spectrum, why whore yourself out to the local broadcasting pundits with this farce of a show? I’m gonna go Maury Povich on you for a second here: If you want respect, you have to respect yourself first (audience cheers, mom cries, seventh-grade dropout remains unmoved while faced with the prospect of bootcamp). TV talk show jokes aside, this isn’t a move that will fuel respect, and when you’re fighting to gain respect, it just doesn’t make any sense to take that big step backwards.

  • Reason #2: Past history of local Reality TV. Some of you hardcore locals may remember a couple years ago when KIRO broadcast an American Idol-like show called “Seattle Stars,” which was essentially a junior high school talent show for people over age 21. The majority of the contestants were people who spent their Friday nights in karaoke bars, butchering songs by Journey and Richard Marx while simultaneously having their friends video tape the entire escapade so they could upload it to YouTube the next day in hopes that a major record producer might stumble across it. It sounds bad, but was actually much worse when viewed live. The entire “Stars” production was amateur (it was hosted by sportscaster Gaard Swanson of all people) and reeked of desperate programming from the get-go. And where the hell are all those singers now, you ask? I don’t know. Kent, probably. The point is, local reality TV is flat-out bad, and I can’t see the Sounders show being anything beyond that.

  • Reason #3: Do you really want dudes like Larry, 390-pound retired bartender from Index, selecting members of your soccer team? No one should want that. I’d be pissed if localites were allowed to pick any members of any of my teams. I wouldn’t even want the opportunity to weigh in on the decision myself. I know that you, me, and everyone else out there who isn’t a professional scout, field coach, or front-office guy is not nearly as good at selecting members of any sports team as the staff being paid to do just that. You wouldn’t want some random guy off the street prescribing you medicine for that rash of yours, and likewise the average joe shouldn’t be meddling with any kind of organized athletic institution in the way the Sounders are promoting.

Over the past few months, I’ve gotten to the point where I actually care about what the new Seattle Sounders do on the field. I’m not a soccer fan really, but I do want to see this team succeed. It’s civic pride, if nothing else. That’s why I don’t want to see this reality TV thing go down. It’s a step in the wrong direction for a franchise that, so far, has made all the right moves.

16 thoughts on “Sounders reality show a joke”

  1. The Super Search is not a method to build a roster, but it is a nice promotional idea, and certainly KING 5 has really been showing the commercial(s) a lot lately. Talk about FREE publicity.

    As for the fact the chosen player will actually make the Sounders roster…relax. They held tryouts in Yakima for a reason: Junior Garcia. He’s one of the finalists, and was national MVP of the PDL (College age players) last year, and a very nice prospect at forward or midfield. Gee, I wonder if the Sounders *knew* that? ;)

  2. Okay, so what you’re saying is this is show is somewhat scripted, like most “reality” TV. That’s understandable, they basically did the same thing with ESPN’s “Knight School” a couple years ago as well so it makes sense.

    How do you (and other Sounders fans) feel then about the gimmicky side of things? Are you okay with this as a publicity stunt, or would you rather see this team suit up and play under traditional scenarios?

  3. This is not a new thing.
    A couple of high profile Euro teams have had similar “reality” shows in the past.

  4. Alex, I am more than OK with it. Pro sports are also entertainment, and Sounders FC are just coming into Seattle. They need all the general public (good) attention they can get.

    I don’t think ‘publicity stunts’ are always bad in and of themselves.

  5. the Sounders FC were careful to make sure the few choices the fans had would be players that were legit prospects and not just joe blow from the local.

  6. It sounds like so far, most people are cool with this. How do you guys see this impacting the team? The free pub is a perk, for sure, but do you think the reality show will bring in any more fans?

    It seems like if you’re a soccer fan (and more specifically a Sounders fan) that you already have your tickets purchased and are ready for the season to start. If you’re more fairweather, like most sports fans in this city probably are, chances are you won’t be swayed by a television show to go out and spend money on a ticket package. So what’s the projected impact, in the fans’ opinion?

  7. Step #1 before selling tickets is to have Seattle sports fans and general population know you exist. The season is going to sell out anyway, but they are working for longterm name recognition. Plus, no harm in having some fun while finding a decent local player.

    Tickets: of the 24,500 available per match, 18,500 have already been taken by season ticket holders. The 6,000 left to sell per match will be scooped up by partial packages and individual match sales that start in February.

  8. SSFC is doing things no other professional sports team has done in the Seattle area, that is provide a level of fan interaction within the club that very few in the U.S. can even compete with.

    The membership association is the bulk of this. Also, they gave the people a real voice in keeping the name and traditions of the Sounders.

    While this Sounders Super Search is a promotional tool, it is getting fans more involved with the team. Many teams do this all over the world. Just in MLS Chivas USA, FC Dallas and I believe Kansas City all do something similar.

    The reality of the situation in US Soccer is that not all players with potential get spotted. It is really a pay to play sport in this Country and that leaves many out of the loop.

    Look at Chivas USA. Their Sueno MLS winner, Jorge Flores, performed quite well as a rookie last year after breaking into the first team. They also brought in a promising young player named Justin Braun they found playing in some adult league. While this is a “reality” show, it also provides those who think they have what it takes a shot at making an MLS team. It has the ability to find a player with the potential and quality to play in MLS.

  9. I appreciate what you guys have said so far. Personally, I wasn’t aware that so many other MLS teams have followed this same path to selecting members of their teams. That doesn’t change my opinion on the matter, but it does help explain why the Sounders would want to do this in the first place.

    If any of the more casual fans out there want to interject an opinion, I think we’d all be interested to hear how this translates to the more generic Seattle soccer fan base.

  10. From what I have gathered, Jorge Flores is a Chivas fan favorite and, when he finally got a chance to start, could not stop scoring goals (3 in 3 games as I recall). Win – win. That said, this is a publicity stunt, and everyone knows it, so what is the harm.

    And guess what – it worked. It got you to write about the Sounders.


  11. To be fair, I’ve written about the Sounders before and I’m sure I’ll do it again. Like I said, I want to see this team succeed and think they can do good things for this city.

    But to reiterate my point, it seems unnecessary for a franchise that has done everything right up to this point to have to rely on a stunt to sell their product. That’s really what I’m getting at. Beyond that, I’m behind the Sounders 100%.

    What the hardcore Sounders fans need to realize is that if they want to expand the fan base, they’re going to have to accept the fact that many prospective fans are not nearly as knowledgeable or passionate about soccer as they are. I don’t know what it is about soccer, but I’ve never seen a sport more inclusive when it comes to the fan base. You don’t see it in any other sport really, but the elite soccer fans think of themselves as “holier than thou” and tend to scorn anyone who doesn’t reflect their passion or intelligence when it comes to their game. Every sport and every team has a hardcore group of fans, but it seems like soccer is the only sport where those fans cannot accept the fact that EVERY fan is not like they are. I think it’s a big part of the reason why soccer has yet to catch on in America. If football, baseball, basketball, and hockey fans can be inclusive, why can’t soccer fans?

  12. Maybe US soccer fans feel as they do because their sport gets no recognition in this country. How many soccer games are shown on TV in a normal middle of the MLS season week? ESPN shows one game on Thursday. Compare that to the number of football, baseball, basketball, or even hokey games available and you can understand why they feel the way they do; because you have to really love soccer to spend the time and the money necessary to support it. You have to put in effort just to find the information about players and teams because the news doesn’t do a story everyday about soccer like they do for the other major sports. Any casual fan can sit down and watch a baseball game; there is one on almost every night during the season.

  13. I’d say that explains the behavior but doesn’t justify it. Think of it as you would a start-up business. You want to attract as many people to your business as possible, so you can make the most money. In order to bring people in you basically have to kiss a lot of ass. You either offer a product much better than the competition, or make up for the disparity by offering great customer service, affordable prices, etc.

    American soccer is not much different than a start-up business. Except that no one’s kissing ass to bring in fans. If the WNBA can get on TV multiple times per week during their season, why can’t MLS get on air during theirs? The hardcore fans seem content saying “F— everyone” for the hardship their sport has endured, when they should be answering questions as to how they can make it better. Because it can get better. The Sounders have proven that. They’ve already attracted a number of people to the team who aren’t necessarily hardcore soccer fans. At this point, they should be considered a model for the rest of the sport in this country. If you sell the product to the casual fan, you can increase your fan base, make more money, and build the franchise.

  14. Just to clarify a few points that might help to alleviate some of your concerns.

    SSFC coaches and staff are the ones who selected the best individuals at each camp in Spokane, Yakima and Tukwilla. It is from those that they chose that the viewers will get to vote on. The coaches and staff will then chose the winner from the top three.

    This isn’t your normal reality tv show either. If you watch the evening magazine clips each Thursday, first one aired on the 8th, you would see it isn’t gimmicky reality tv. They basically do small bio pieces on a few of the contestants and show some footage from the try out.

    Here is a link to the first episode, showing the Spokane tryouts.

    Now, what will they do on the final show after the Super Bowl? I don’t know. But I doubt it will be gimmicky.

    Regarding your comments about soccer fans be an exclusive bunch. I can understand why someone might think that. But you have to understand a few things about those fans. Soccer is treated as nothing more than a joke and trashed by many in the sports media in the US. It goes beyond just not giving soccer time, they put it down and make jokes of it constantly. They refuse to cover it, and when there is news they have to cover they make jokes about while doing so.

    Now, things are getting better with regards to this. But, if you treat someone like dirt long enough, how do you think that will effect their behavior?

    With that said, if you want to let loose and are willing to participate, go stand with the supporters and make an effort to participate in their support for the team. You will have a good time. You will be welcomed with open arms if you come down and want to participate in supporting the team.

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