Commenter K on yesterday's quick wrap wonders aloud why the NHL gets ESPN SportsCenter coverage, but MLS gets excluded. He's got a point that I'm not sure would have existed six years ago. I don't want to pick a fight with our estimable NHL friends, so I'm not going to say that MLS is better or more popular than the NHL. I don't think that argument would hold water. But certainly MLS and the NHL are in the same tier of popularity in the post-lockout world? So why does NHL get game recaps in SportsCenters, and MLS doesn't?
K wonders if the new TV Deal with ABC will help things, and I think again he's got a very good point. While most of the focus on the TV contract has been "Wow, maybe they'll show commercials for upcoming games!" it might even be more effective just to have highlights shown Saturday night. Saturday night during the summer doesn't have much competition from sports other than baseball, so getting 5 minutes of "In MLS Action, a wild-one out in Columbus..." would be great. The local sports show, Comcast SportsNight is willing to do this, so it is not impossible to fit it into the format. Not only that, MLS lends itself to this sort of packaged editing. For everyone that complains about soccer's length, you'd see just the highlights, and soccer highlights are often breathtaking displays of athleticism that might actually make the league look good. Sure, long-time fans are just as excited by possession building to a crescendo, only to be thwarted by a well-timed tackle from a DMid, but that takes some experience watching the game to appreciate, and we need more eyeballs at this point.
So perhaps there is a chance. The new TV deal's most effective marketing might not be ads, or game-time placement, or anything like that. It might just be 5 minutes a night where over-excited, lingo-spewing, slang-inventing pseudo-hipsters recap games. I think we deserve it.
Then again, if I have to listen to Stephen A. Smith explain how Freddy represents the "NU SKOOL" of MLS, I might just have to shoot myself.