22 September ~ For the few remaining stragglers in Europe who still see the United States as a footballing backwater, the country's television schedules make for an instructive read. With relatively cheap subscriptions to the appropriate channels this past weekend, you could have watched eight Premier League games, another eight from the Mexican League, four Bundesliga match-ups, six from La Liga, five from Serie A, two from Brazil and two from Major League Soccer (and another four if you subscribe to the league's bargain Direct Kick package at around 50 quid a season).

If that didn't sate your lust for ball-watching, you could have tuned in to single games from Colombia, France, the Netherlands and, for the real devotees, the Australian A-League. Not forgetting a time-delayed airing for Hull City v Nottingham Forest, and an extra raft of games online at Fox and ESPN.

Unadulterated bliss for the football fanatic, or super-sized armchair overload? If you've spent six months hiking the Appalachian Trail with nothing but the Bible and a copy of Don Quixote for company, then the idea of flopping on to a sofa and watching non-stop football for 48 hours might be of some appeal. For the rest of us, though, the listing seems to get longer every week. Certainly, it's no burden to turn on the television at almost any point of the weekend and find that, somewhere, there's a game being played that you can possibly fall asleep to. But if you're intent on really concentrating on a game then saturation coverage brings its own problems. Namely, the pressure of making the right choice.

The opportunity to waste so much leisure time is almost overwhelming. It's true that Atlético Madrid v Barcelona at 1pm on a Sunday is a more obvious selection than Gold Coast Utd against Central Coast Mariners at three in the morning (tough luck for anyone who set their alarm for that one – it ended 0-0. Though it's nigh impossible to imagine a single person out of 300 million US residents who actually did). But when you choose the most theoretically attractive fixtures, there's still no guarantee that you'll pick a decent game. You might as well throw a dart at the list. Sure, Chelsea v Blackpool would likely be a one-sided waste of 90 minutes. But what if it wasn't, and you missed another chance to see John Terry burst into tears?

The obvious answer is to disregard the list completely and try to get some sort of a life. For around five months of the year, in spring and autumn, the US football community is mostly occupied with youth and recreational games, and so the choice is made for you. This past weekend, my schedule meant I only had time to watch Manchester Utd v Liverpool early on Sunday morning – an obvious pick, but it probably turned out to be the game of the weekend in terms of quality and excitement. I topped it off with a highlights programme late on Sunday night. When you come home exhausted from two days spent kicking, yelling and gesticulating out in the fresh air under sunny skies, you know that you were in the right place.

But come the encroaching dusks of November, there's a weather-enforced break until late March, and that's when temptation sets in. You may well feel like the game owes you some sofa time with the Eredivisie, or Botafogo hosting Cruzeiro. There's no real reason to go out unless you like shopping or shovelling snow, while the pregnant schedule looks like an object of deceptive beauty. All those matches, all those possibilities! Until, that is, you watch six games in a day, and find that you no longer even know which league you're watching, let alone what the score is.

Too much live football on television isn't necessarily killing the game, as such. It's just bludgeoning the already lazy viewer into passive submission. Don't move, just consume. Like a glutton at the all-you-can-eat buffet, you become too engorged to emote. Congratulations, you have become the modern fan. Ian Plenderleith

Comments (4)
Comment by canarly 2010-09-23 10:51:33

i enjoyed that article. After overdosing on Saturdays watching a game , then the 5 o clock tv game ,Spanish football,MOTD, ive found myself watching the FL show then after watching it being suprised next morning when I peruse the Sunday papers , that for instance Brighton beat "the Buckinghamshie club" despite watching the goals , and no doubt previously scanning teletext for the results. however , I am 55 years old. Is there a name forthis affliction?

Comment by Victor 2010-09-23 14:27:37

If watching football is part of a balanced life, you can easily say "no" to the some of the matches that are on American TV. With one son playing soccer in college, another playing club and high school soccer and another playing gridiron football, plus my own coaching responsibilities, choices are already imposed: Family First. The abundance of games on TV signal for me that the game has arrived and is here to stay. That's good enough for me. As for that weather enforced break come November, it doesn't exist. Club players like my middle son travel to tournaments and college showcase tournaments in the warmer climates and either you tag along or check in via text messages seeking an answer to the question; "How did it go"? And wasn't I in New Hampshire in early March watching tournaments?

Comment by sepps bladder 2010-09-23 21:47:15

And don't forget the mid-week Champion's League and accompanying highlight shows! Brilliant article. Especially the part about picking the "right" game. Gol Tv sometimes can't even decide as they use a split screen format for La Liga. Considering the options a few years ago(going to an Irish pub a few miles away on a Saturday morning in a 30 degree ice storm only to find out they are showing rugby or Irish hurling instead), it is a whole new world for soccer fans. I'm waiting for the weather enforced break before upgrading to FSC and everyone knows the Europa league truly comes to life in the Round of 62 or whatever.

Comment by ipswichfan 2010-09-25 16:03:05

It's funny how people here still complain about ESPN not liking soccer. My gripe is ESPN doesn't like MLS. You see plugs for all the Premier League games, but no mention of MLS scores or their next broadcast.

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