Montpellier’s Diego Simonet had quite the goal yesterday vs Metalurg in their opening match of the 2017-18 EHF Champions League campaign. The EHF posted a video highlight of the goal and it was promptly reposted by ESPN’s Sports Center Instagram account.
13 hours later the video highlight had been viewed over a million times, liked 140,000 times and had received 2,600 comments.
From time to time I’ve written a few commentaries about handball’s very limited exposure in the U.S. and how increasing that exposure via TV isn’t just something that would be kind of nice to have, but that it is very most critical need for the sport in this country. I know I’m just “some guy” with opinions, but my goodness could anything more demonstrably show how valid that opinion is?
A million views in just 13 hours! Peruse the comments and the broken record of “what is that?” and “why isn’t that played here in the U.S.?” that’s asked over and over and over.
Now sit back and reflect that this is just one highlight posted to an ESPN Instagram account. It’s not even clear to me whether the highlight made the TV Sports Center. At least it wasn’t in the Top Ten Plays on the broadcast I saw Saturday night.
Now just imagine if ESPN showed handball on TV or even just on their digital “Watch ESPN” platform. As I wrote 5 years ago from that day forward just about every discussion about handball in the U.S. would be preceded with either, “Well, before handball was on ESPN” or “Well, since handball’s been on ESPN.” I’m not kidding. It would be a monumental game changer. Such a development would make everything USA Team Handball might want to accomplish easier and more effective be it fundraising or youth club development or national team recruiting.
And, before you “pooh pooh” such talk as simply wishful thinking look back at this post back in 2012 when arguably ESPN’s most prominent personality, Scott Van Pelt, wore a USA Team Handball shirt (that he had to make on his own) during the Olympics. He and others had discovered the new sport, and perhaps with the right facilitation maybe a deal could have been brokered for U.S. broadcasts on some TV network. Maybe, I wouldn’t be having this whimsical could of, would of, should of discussion.
It took a couple of years, but handball did land on a network in the U.S. Unfortunately, though, it was beIN Sports US, which has very limited distribution and doesn’t promote the sport effectively. I highlighted my frustration with beIN Sports, the EHF, USA Team Handball and other entities (including myself) in this commentary in 2015.
Two years later, things are actually worse as beIN Sports now doesn’t even bother to show the EHF Champions League Match of the Week on TV. Although, you can view it on its digital beIN Sports Connect platform. If you can figure out what’s channel the match is on. For yesterday’s match between Barcelona and Rhein-Neckar the online beIN Sports TV guide said Ch 8, but I eventually found it on Ch 9. I even watched for a bit until in the 2nd half the transmission got so garbled I gave up and watched NFL football instead. Sigh…
I always like to think that it’s always darkest before the dawn. That this crazy situation where handball can’t even be seen in the U.S. is just a temporary situation that will pass. That ESPN or perhaps the new NBC Olympic Channel will pick up some handball rights. Or that the digital TV revolution will bypass TV altogether and handball will have its own Roku or Over The Top (OTT) viewing options.
With the 2028 Olympics in LA now a certainty one can only think that it’s just a matter of time before handball finds a home in the U.S. Sports scene. That the opportunity to promote the sport effectively will be such a win-win for everyone involved with the sport that this frustrating situation will seem passé and quaint. I’ve been saying that now for decades, but sooner or later, I’m going to be right. Let’s hope for sooner.
Commentaries on Handball’s lack of exposure and the importance of TV broadcasts.
- 2009 commentary on Rugby TV broadcasts in the U.S.: Link
- 2012 Olympic Commentary on how few people in the U.S. are fans of the sport: Link
- 2012 Olympic Commentary regarding the Catch 22 TV paradox: Link
- 2012 Olympic Commentary regarding Europe’s lack of engagement with the U.S. market: Link
- 2012 Olympic Commentary regarding new European efforts to engage the U.S. market: Link
Side Note: Back in 2013 I wrote an article on Diego Simonet’s debut with Montpellier and I speculated as to whether he might be the best Argentinian player ever. I’ll go on record now that he is. Sorry Eric Gull. Question now, is whether he might be eventually recognized as the best player to come out of Pan America. A much higher honor considering the number of Cubans that have made their mark.