On Sunday, January 6th the highly respected U.S.-based television program, 60 Minutes, did a segment on FC Barcelona and La Masia. The feature shed light on the philosophy of the Catalan club and all that it is, although the 15-plus minutes that was dedicated presenting them seemed more of an "in-a-nutshell" introductory piece to the American audience than anything as in-depth that an avid follower of futbol, or a die-hard Blaugranes fans might appreciate.
It must be noted that 60 Minutes airs at a primetime spot on CBS every Sunday, alongside other similar investigative reporting programs on competing networks. And according to Fast Affiliate Rating, this episode featuring FC Barcelona had a rating/share of 1.4/4 (adults age 18-49) with roughly 9.52 million viewers as opposed to the competitive network program that had a rating of 1.5/4 with 6.26 million viewers. The rating was second only to the live NFL coverage of the Seahawks vs. Redskins, at the time of polling.
The timing to bring the Catalan club and La Masia to the attention of an American sports culture that's slowly realizing the need to established developmental programs in soccer was perfect. According to the report given by 60 Minutes there are currently 19 youth academies (domestic and non-domestic) in operation that feed various teams in the MLS. That isn't saying much, but there's an evolution that's slowly starting to gain momentum. Let's hope, for the sake and success of the sport in America, that this continues to thrive even in its mere infancy.
Easier said than done, but what better model to follow than FC Barcelona's.
The episode packed punch after punch, the club's record-breaking successes in recent years; fielding the all-LaMasia graduates, winning 14 of 19 trophies over the last four years under Guardiola, the coming of the ethereal being from the center of the universe, known as Lionel Messi. More importantly the program highlighted the most integral parts of the club's foundation: the rich culture, history and undying devotion of the Catalan people, the club's many members, and millions of FC Barcelona fans worldwide who embrace their mantra: "més que un club".
Clearly the underpinnings of the feature were not to market the Catalan club to the American people (and it didn't seem like it at all). FC Barcelona can do that all its own without the help of programs such as 60 Minutes. Furthermore, its impact might have had a different effect had it aired in any other country, due to the overgrowing popularity of the club, and the stronger foundations of the sport in those countries. In a way, the segment felt somewhat more directly aimed at the sports psyche of a culture that's attached to football and basketball via an umbilical cord - one guilty of embracing the game a month every four years. There's enough evidence to conclude that this country's heart is not in futbol.
Considering that, was it a slap in the face by way of a third party? The cynic might laugh and agree. However, it was far from such an insinuation, actually.
Rather, the feature was a sharing of the love, sacrifices, achievements in the sport celebrated by one club: FC Barcelona.
(Note: I became a fan of FC Barcelona in 2007, have been ever since. For me, this feature in 60 Minutes was pure class and totally awesome. A fan, living in the United States, and seeing my favorite club being featured in primetime television was nothing short of enthralling. And, that a highly respectable program like this one had the balls to do it first, in such an encompassing fashion, was brilliant. I loved it. FC Barcelona Forever!)