Late June is something of a doldrum time for most sports editor types. Oh, there's the usual summer fare, but it's pretty low-intensity, and I like it that way.
I used to think it was just me, and then last night, I saw a slowpitch softball game on ESPN2. Even the Worldwide Leader has some downtime, and we haven't even hit the All-Star Break yet. I think it's been a whole 30 seconds since I last saw a story on LeBron James.
But there's the Euro 2012 soccer tournament going on in Eastern Europe (championship game on Sunday), plus Wimbledon tennis started on Monday. The Olympics are less than a month away (more on that in the weeks to come).
A part of me dislikes what European sporting events on TV do to my circadian rhythm, which thanks to five-and-a-half years of split shifts, is now firmly in cut time. Another part of me is completely mind-boggled of the technical obstacles overcome every time I turn on the television.
Consider the following: the first live satellite signal transmitted from Britain to the United States took place 50 years ago next month. Now, it's European soccer and tennis and such every day.
This does bring up a bit of a paradox. I claim more ancestry from the British Isles than anywhere else I know of, and so I kind of ended up being more interested in England in world soccer than any other nation outside the United States.
I'd like to go some day, but the means for transatlantic travel are beyond me at the moment.
So, unless I make it enough in this profession that someone starts paying for me to do it professionally, I'm supporting a team an ocean away that I'll never see in person, and even odder, hasn't won diddly-squat since 1966, which was a mere 18 years before I was born.
I've grown up a Detroit Tigers fan because my Dad is, because I'm from Michigan, I've been to Detroit and because I see highlights of their games every day. I became a fan of my favorite British soccer club because its name (Nottingham Forest) got my attention on a highlight show I'd watch on cable late on Friday nights in the 1990s.
In college, I once sent in a question to a call-in show about Forest on BBC Radio Nottingham. They said I was from "Mitch-igan."
It makes me feel like a bit of a poseur, frankly.
Now, I'm not bashing domestic soccer or domestic sports, but it does seem a little odd, no?
Not at all, actually. Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are household names just about everywhere but the United States.
Television ratings for the four quarterfinals are up 31 percent over the 2008 tournament in Austria and Switzerland. The England/Italy quarterfinal Sunday drew about 2.968 million viewers, while the six games of the recently concluded Stanley Cup Finals averaged almost exactly the same rating.
It's not even like interest in the sport is a 'fad' or a 'bug.' As I mentioned before, reproductions of the New York Times my brother got me in Cooperstown clearly have English football scores from all four divisions right there alongside the results of the fourth race at Aqueduct and National League batting leaders in the agate.
I'm a sports fan for the conflict and human drama, an element for which the use of hands is not necessary. When amplified by the likes of the strikingly talented Ian Darke of ESPN or the frank and bombastic John McEnroe, I'd watch European tiddlywinks. The Tour de France starts Sunday, and no one makes 175 men riding down a flat road sound more interesting than NBC Sports Network's Phil Liggett.
So, in the words of Louis Armstrong, "What a wonderful world" we live in. Because if it weren't for Europe, I'd have to watch more LeBron stuff, and I wouldn't inflict another LeBron interview on al-Qaeda at this point.
Brandon Veale can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/redveale.