Whether you are a fan of Jim Rome or not, his influence on the American sports world is undeniable. He has a daily 3-hour national sports talk radio show and had a half-hour TV show on ESPN, Rome is Burning (He is leaving ESPN and taking his show with him to CBS).
His style is different than other personalities in that he references his followers as ‘clones’ and what they have to say as ‘takes.’ He antagonizes his listeners and encourages them to compete against each other, personality vs. personality or fan vs. fan.
His radio show is heard on more than 200 stations, including Armed Forces Radio. He dominates the airwaves of the U.S. and Canada and is streamed to all corners of the world via the internet.
Oh, by the way, Jim Rome hates Soccer. And he is not bashful about giving his opinions on the matter.
His rants often don’t make a lot of sense. Obviously, his characterization of Soccer is badly mistaken and rooted in old jockish traditions where football, basketball, baseball, and hockey reign supreme. He doesn’t get Soccer. He is completely twisted in his evaluation and ‘the beautiful game’ doesn’t mean anything to him, while he freely admits its popularity around the world.
What makes Rome such a fascinating figure in American sports media is his opinions carry weight and his brand is bigger than any one media company, even ESPN. This was proven when he was hired back on to do a TV show for them after being fired years earlier for being too much of an instigator on a previous show. Only a few people are able to be bigger than sports media companies in the U.S. Arguably, Rome is the biggest.
Most importantly, what makes Rome fascinating is his ability to admit an oversight on his part. Maybe its because he has become so popular and he simply calls it as he sees it, not worrying what others may think. Through the years (and he has been doing it for 20+ years now), he has declared errors in his thought process and mistakes in judgment. What’s so interesting about this positive characteristic in Jim Rome is, he has gone back on his opinions on different sports, said he looks at them in a different way and then talks great about them.
He openly did this about face for NASCAR, MMA (UFC) and horse racing. His support in the past and present for NASCAR and UFC has driven business for them. In many instances, he brings guests onto his shows to talk specifically about high points of these sports, including promoting events and matches. Single-handedly, Jim Rome has helped NASCAR and MMA rise above the U.S. consumer sports fray and has been one of the main reasons these sports have been profitable above expectations.
Besides his unabashed, undaunted support for the big 4, football, basketball, baseball, and hockey, Rome has helped non-mainstream sports get needed attention, brought them respectability in the U.S. sports world and pushed them closer to mainstream.
How can Soccer convince Rome to come over to its side? How does Soccer turn him from a basher to a supporter?
His negative attitude definitely hurts Soccer because he gives so many other U.S. sports fans reasons to not give the sport a chance. To ignore him would not be the responsible thing to do on the part of MLS. He may be able to use his influence in the future to turn those fans to supporters of Soccer.
Rome is flexible enough for a transformation on Soccer. His track record proves this.
It starts with relationships and it’s all about approach. MLS must take the proper steps to get Jim Rome involved with its game. MLS should be aggressive and not think its beneath them to recruit someone to their side who has so much power over U.S. sports fans. For starters, invite him to Home Depot Center (as he resides in L.A.), wine him and dine him, and hope for a great match.
Howard Alperin is Managing Editor of AmericanizeSoccer.com