Zidane and the "Headbutt of God"

The top two terms on Technorati all day have been Zidane and Zidane headbutt.  This is the headbutt heard around the world.  The headbutt that created a media circus and is, surprisingly, fueling an interest in soccer in America that hasn’t happened for the past few weeks of World Cup play or even in the 2002 Cup where the US made the quarterfinals.  Images of the headbutt made the front page of every national paper.  And the sad fact is that without the "divine headbutt," perhaps the story of the final would have been far more hidden in US media.  Some are saying Zidane may have responded to a racial slur by Materazzi – others say he was just a hot temper waiting to release after a day of frustration on the field.  Either way, the headbutt will be remembered as an infamous close to a glorious career for the French veteran.  But perhaps it will also be remembered as the spark that re-ignited American interest in the World Cup.  Controversy is a necessity for mainstream news here, and in a game that finished in a draw after 120 minutes, controversy was needed.  Robert Scoble suggested today that the barrier to Americans truly enjoying soccer could be the lack of HDTV.  With HD, every nuance of the game becomes visible – and I think in part this is true.  But soccer is a game of skill and is too fast over too broad an area to capture easily on television.  Even soccer players have a hard time watching everything happening in the game.  I think the barrier, rather, rests in whether you have played the game or not.  And with a new generation of kids having grown up with youth soccer instead of youth baseball – soccer will continue to grow in the US.  Today we may need the "headbutt of God" to make soccer interesting to the masses in the US, but I suspect by the next world cup, the American appetite for the sport will grow up as Americans who played in their youth rekindle their love for the game.

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