Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Problem With ESPN

Here in America, ESPN is truly the "worldwide leader in sports." Millions of people wake up with Sportscenter in the morning, and go to bed with it on in the evening. Anyone in America that follows sports seemingly gets their information from ESPN.

The only problem? ESPN has literally no respect for soccer.

Let me start by saying that I understand the soccer isn't the most popular sport in America. I understand that most people in America would probably consider the NFL, MLB, NBA, and Nascar to be more popular, meaning ESPN putting hours upon hours of soccer on their networks would probably get them bad ratings.

With that being said, ESPN must understand that soccer in America will only go as far as they are willing to take it.

People have argued about making soccer popular in the United States, but I feel that no one has questioned the way in which soccer is presented on ESPN.

Many people are casual observers of sports, and Sportscenter is the show in which they derive most of their information. Here is where many of the problems arise:

There is absolutely no way that soccer will become popular in the United States if the anchors on Sportscenter continually make a joke of the highlights they are presenting. Anchors such as Neil Everett always make a joke of the names of teams and players when they talk about a soccer highlight, and act as if no one in America actually cares about what they are presenting. The only way a soccer highlight makes an appearance on Sportscenter is if a crazy goal is scored, or if they are contractually obligated to show it based upon their exclusive network rights. 

I'm not sure if soccer is some inside joke at ESPN, but I know that the people on TV would surely get reprimanded if they laughed through an entire NFL highlight, or harshly make fun of the city in which a team plays in. 

I can't tell you how many times I've watched ESPN and had to change the channel because the people on TV were passive aggressively bashing soccer. 

And what about the people at ESPN that actually do know about soccer. Where are they? 

Currently ESPN has 1 show dedicated to soccer called ESPN Soccernet Press Pass. You can't find this show on ESPN however, you have to go to one of their family of networks. Press Pass is currently on ESPN Classic for 2 days a week with a weekly coverage of 2 hours, all on a network that few people even get. 2 hours a week on ESPN Classic? Fishing legitimately gets more coverage than soccer.

ESPN has all the tools to make soccer in the United States popular. They have a seemingly endless budget, which in turn has given them the rights to the Champions League tournament, the World Cup, and the United States national team. 

Coverage of these tournaments is good when it is happening, and interest seems to sharply gain due to many casual observers noticing the high level of play that the MLS rarely provides. However,  after the tournament is over, ESPN does nothing with the new casual viewers. They make no attempt to draw new fans in.

I believe there is plenty of high level soccer year round, that if shown, would not hurt ESPN's ratings at all.

David Beckham proved that a proven superstar going to the MLS is not going to make soccer in America important.

I feel that the job truly belongs to ESPN.

What do you think? Should ESPN even try to make soccer popular in America?


Andrei Filimonov said...

Well it is no surprise they lost Champions League rights to Fox.

mad6986 said...

hopefully Fox does a better job than ESPN, but I don't think Fox can have the same affect that ESPN could have

Anonymous said...

In America, we want crashing cars and hicks. In America, we do not know how to spell socer

Anonymous said...

One of two things should happen. Now that Setanta looks to be going under Sky should develop a North American soccer channel or ESPN should have an English language soccer channel to rival Fox. I have always been amazed how they made poker a sport but are unwilling to show the beautiful game.