By Mike Woitalla
Even the Germans who would never admit to reading the Bild newspaper
can't escape its giant headlines. They jump out from the newsstands and
can be easily spotted if someone's reading the tabloid at the far end
of a subway car.
When German Cardinal
Joseph Ratzinger was anointed head of the Catholic Church
last year, Bild's
famous headline was, "We are Pope!"
When Italy eliminated Germany from this World Cup, the front-page
headlines read, "We're crying with you!" and "You're still
heroes!" and "World champions of the heart."
While English tabloids put their soft-core porn on Page 3, Bild places its
shots of topless women on the cover. Celebrity scandals are standard
fare, but its sports coverage is also credited for it being the
best-selling newspaper in Germany and Europe's highest-circulation
The articles are brief, the photos large, and star columnists include Franz Beckenbauer, Guenter Netzer and Paul Breitner.
Headlines are often word play: "Ja-wolski" greeted the win over Poland.
At 60 Euro cents, Bild is a third less expensive than the more
respected German newspapers.
Before the World Cup, Bild
ruthlessly attacked Germany coach Juergen
Klinsmann, who once sued the newspaper for libel and won.
But as the team embarked on its World Cup win streak, Bild became a
Klinsmann booster. Not to do so would have seemed unpatriotic, and Bild, more than
any German media, is nationalistic. Before every German game it printed
the lyrics to the national anthem.
While the Germans in general have been hailed for their friendliness
and support of visiting teams, Bild
has mocked many of them. When England ("The PK fools") was eliminated
on penalty kicks, it published a drawing of a ball ("This is
the Ball"), an empty goal ("This is the Tor") and a goal with a ball in
it ("The ball must go into the Tor.").
Before Italy-Germany game, it accused the Italians of orchestrating the
suspension of defensive midfielder Torsten
Frings, who was caught punching Argentine Julio Cruz by
Italian television cameras. Although the Italian federation had not
instigated the investigation, Bild
blasted the "hypocritical" Italians, running photos of Italian fouls
and citing their "mafioso" game-fixing scandal.
Headlines read, "Now you're really gonna get it!" and "Arrivederci
Bild's list of suspended players for the semifinals read, De Rossi
(red) Italy; Petit (two yellows) Portugal; Frings (scandalous decision)
treated the Americans generously, its regional inset in Hamburg
referring to them as "Our Americans," and applauded the players for
exploring the city.
Its paparazzi photos of U.S. players about town included a shot of Claudio Reyna
carrying his son on his shoulders. The boy's face was shaded to make
him unrecognizable as per Bild's
policy of not showing photos of minors without permission, unless
they're David Beckham's
Bild's paparazzi crew was keen on catching players' wives in bikinis at
swimming pools and tracking England's "WAGS" (Wives and Girlfriends)
through nightclubs while its reporters gave accounts of what and how
much they drank.
Thanks to a telephoto lens, bath-robe-clad goalkeeper Fabien Barthez was
caught puffing a cigarette by his hotel-room window.
One of Bild's
leading sports columnists apologized for his pre-tournament criticism
of Klinsmann, who was skewered by Bild
for refusing to leave his Southern California home after being
appointed coach two years ago.
Two days after Germany's semifinal elimination, Bild's frontpage
headline read: "Dry your tears, We'll rise again!"
It was followed by a list of "50 Reasons Why We're still the Best."
They included, "Only we have a coach who doesn't mind commuting 5,800
miles to work."
The other reasons included:
"Because we got farther than Brazil."
"Because we have lots of women who know lots about soccer." (This was
accompanied by a photo of blond women wearing nothing on top but black,
red and gold body paint.)
"Because we'll always be better than the Dutch."
"Because we play like men, not like cleaning ladies who fall down
whenever they're touched (like the Italians)."
"Because 80 percent of all television viewers watched the Germany-Italy
"Because our players aren't sniveling pretty boys like, for example,
"Because we'll be good hosts until the end."