News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion
FRIDAY, JUNE 23, 2006


Ratings shouldn't tumble with elimination of U.S.

Chipper. Peyton. Shaq. Tee-Oh.

There are a few elite athletes whose accomplishments on the field are so outstanding that a single name is all that's required to identify them.

Now that the United States soccer team has been eliminated from the FIFA World Cup tournament, U.S. television ratings for the rest of the games will likely be miniscule.

That will be a shame, because some of the world's greatest athletes will be competing at the highest level of the world's most popular sport.

Ronaldo. Ronaldinho. Cafu. Beckham. Del Piero. Every boy and girl outside the United States knows these single names. They have become household words due to their accomplishments on the world's biggest sports stage, the World Cup.

Brazil has more talent than any other national soccer team in the world. Period.

The defending champions have won the Cup five times since the tournament began in 1930. Team Samba is the only side on the planet to have qualified for every World Cup tournament. It relied heavily in the past on the foot of another one-name wonder, the legendary Pele.

More recently, Brazil has played in the Cup final match in each of the past three tournaments and is favored again this go-around.

Cafu, the defensive anchor, participated in all three of those final matches. Ronaldo, although older and not as quick (or slim) as he once was, tallied eight goals for the Canary side four years ago. His heir apparent, the flashy Ronaldinho, is simply the best player alive today.

Beckham, who plays his club soccer for Real Madrid, is captain of the England side that has advanced to the round of 16 and faces Ecuador on Sunday.

England and Brazil could meet in a semifinal in Munich on July 5.

Other teams with a shot at the coveted Cup include '78 champion Argentina, (the "hand of God" goal by Diego Maradonna in the 1986 quarterfinal vs. England is perhaps the most infamous moment in all of sports) which plays Mexico on Saturday; perennial power Germany, which faces Sweden on Saturday; Italy, Spain and the Netherlands.

For the next 2 weeks, the rest of the world will come to a standstill as factories shut down, stores close and offices grant three-hour lunch breaks so workers can watch "the beautiful game" on its biggest stage.

History is in the making, and many here, unfortunately, will miss it.

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