Sky Sports and Coke Zero seem to have a hit on their hands.
Combine an England and Manchester United superstar with a bunch of talented kids, add some stunt-based competition against bleak, urban backdrops, back it with a techno soundtrack, and you're bound to get a few viewers.
It's called "Street Striker" and it's sometimes interesting television, both as a progression of the "British/American Idol" reality variety, and as a matter of getting to see some flashy, ball-handling tricks on concrete, blacktop, and off of brick walls.
It makes a fan wonder though, does kicking a ball into a dumpster or knocking over plastic barrels with it, really translate into glory on grass?
The show's intro reports, "Wayne Rooney learned to play on the streets," and it's also true that the legends of the game's prodigies are also rife with stories of learning to play on hard surfaces and in hard circumstances: Pele, Ronaldo, George Best, Garrincha, and on and on, but kids playing amongst themselves to score goals and win "games" is a bit different, I think, than doing tricks in front of television cameras or otherwise.
Tricks are tricks, and likely helpful as a matter of training, but don't mean much in the actual play of real games.
Like Tiger Woods keeping a golf ball in the air with several strikes of his wedge, or Roger Federer hitting forehands cross-court between his legs, knocking over mannequins in a parking garage with a soccer ball may not really mean much on the field.
Still, ManU is the biggest brand in sports, and Rooney is (now) their biggest star. In the course of the show, he comes across as a nice guy since the show doesn't really call on him to opine in the snide manner of Simon Cowell, and the kids are genuine, as kids often can be.
The show is just completing the third season filming and some of the previous season episodes, filled with the competitive "challenges," are available on You Tube.
The biggest challenge, however, may come in the future when the winners of these pseudo-competitions either become stars in real stadiums or just fade away.