Jürgen Schmidhuber's

Closest Brush with Fame

(On millions and billions)
Rudi Völler (right) as world champion in 1990
During Schmidhuber's obligatory service in the Army (1981) comrades frequently came to his bunk bed to talk to the guy who slept right beneath him. Until then Schmidhuber had never heard of him, although he already was a locally well-known, promising football (soccer) player at the beginning of his career. He was very nice: since Schmidhuber did not own a car, his roommate sometimes gave him a ride in his fast Renault Alpine. His name was Rudi Völler.

He is the only guy Schmidhuber has ever met who has been watched by more than 2 billion spectators simultaneously on three occasions: 1. World cup final 1986: vice champion against Argentina (right). 2. World cup final 1990: world champion against Argentina (top left, with Lothar Matthäus). 3. World cup final 2002: vice champion against Brazil, as coach (top right).

It seems hard to top this, since no other audiences match those of finals in world's most popular sport - the only events (other than wars) able to shut down entire nations.

Unfortunately, Völler (in the green shirt) probably has no idea who Schmidhuber is any more.

top: vize world champion as coach in 2002

Some even claim 3 billion spectators (half of humanity) per world cup final, but this is probably exaggerated. Generally speaking, one has to be careful with sources of audience estimates. For example, organizers of Eurovision song contest and Oscar / Grammy awards shamelessly inflate the true numbers by a factor of 10 or more, apparently simply summing up populations of countries where they broadcast, even when relatively few really tune in.

True, Völler lags behind Schumacher in terms of total audience, since the Formula One cumulative viewing audience exceeds 50 billion per year (source: BBC Sport). But Schumacher's peak audiences are clearly smaller than Völler's: They usually fall short of 0.5 billion - essentially it's always the same folks (350 million or so) who are watching him again and again.

To put things in perspective, here are some halfway reliable audience estimates for the top non-world cup events: Lady Di's funeral - 2 billion, Olympic opening ceremonies - 1.5 billion, moonlanding - 500 million (but back then there were fewer TV sets, of course), Formula One - 350 million per race, Superbowl - 250 million.

Schmidhuber's second closest brush with fame came when he briefly and somewhat accidentally shook hands with a Hollywood actor (S. Stallone) as he opened a restaurant in Berlin. Stallone's peak audiences are measured in millions, not billions, but he appears to be quite famous as well. Schmidhuber also had the pleasure to meet several Nobel laureates, but they were not really famous in the traditional sense.