Fishermen and outdoor enthusiasts everywhere awoke this morning to find ESPN2 airing funny accents, dribbling and goals rather than the usual rods and reels. I can only imagine the horror they felt.
In a move that will make any US soccer fan weep with joy, ESPN has recently, and at the 11th hour, secured the rights to up to two English Premier League fixtures per week. Â The two time slots fall at 7:45 AM EST or 10:00 AM EST on Saturdays and all of the Monday 3:00 PM EST fixtures. Â With the top league in the world now on a major cable network for all to see, soccer will have its day here in this country. Even if it is quite early on Saturday morning, especially for the West Coast viewership.
But this morning, while watching Chelsea v. Hull City in HD, I couldn’t help but think how great it is that the highest level of soccer will be on display for those who find little joy in the currently mediocre talents of the MLS. The sight of Didier Drogba scoring from a vicious set-piece to draw Chelsea level at 1-1 had me yelling at the top of my lungs before the 9 o’clock hour had even rolled around, leavingÂ my wife truly worrying about my mental state.
For at least the first broadcast ESPN has chosen to us the English commentator feed rather than using its own “talent”. Â I truly hope this continues as the nuances and presentation of the game will be genuine for the viewing audience. Â Anyone who has watched a US broadcast of soccer can relate to their constant need to lay the ground work, so to speak, for each and every minute of play. Â They are keen to explain every little tweak on the ball to both solidify their credibility and tell you how you should be feeling about what you’re watching. Using native English play-by-play is a fantastic tactic and will do well towards raising the viewing audience to its level, rather than dropping the level of commentary to the lowest common denominator.
Before I let this article get ahead of me here, suffice to say this is the start of a great trend from ESPN to bring the world’s game to us and show what top-flight football really and truly is to the negative talking heads of the sports media. Now we can hope for the Worldwide Leader to really go great guns and get a much larger chunk of the Premier League’s television contract beginning with the 2010-2011 season… word on the street is that it is already in the works.
Soccer just became 0.1% more accessible in the US and my wife now knows she’s lost me another 0.1% to it.