When ESPN announced late last year its roster of talent the network would feature during World Cup 2010 games, the Disney-owned company definitely raised the bar with high-profile names such as Martin Tyler, Efan Ekoku, Steve McManaman, Roberto Martinez, Ruud Gullit, John Harkes and Alexi Lalas.
But very few people, myself included, expected Fox Soccer Channel to fire a shot across the bow at ESPN by hiring Andy Gray and Richard Keys to play a key role in its daily analysis and preview show from the World Cup, entitled “Ticket To South Africa.”
As much as I love the quality of British television pundits, I’m beginning to wonder whether enough’s enough.
There’s no doubt, in my opinion, that Tyler, Gray, Ekoku, McManaman, Martinez and Keys are world-class professionals. Martinez is relatively new to the punditry profession, but the times I’ve seen him on ESPN and in his interviews on other media outlets, he’s been very eloquent and it’s very evident that he’s a great tactician of the game. Gullit, Harkes and Lalas leave a lot to be desired, although there’s no doubt all three will improve their game with the professionals around them.
The 2010 World Cup will be feature the most intelligent soccer coverage a World Cup has ever experienced on US television. By hiring educated soccer talent, they’ll be able to add a touch of prestige and a high level of analysis to the World Cup games we watch.
However, I really feel enough’s enough and that no additional UK analysts or commentators should be hired. Otherwise, things will be going overboard. After all, the coverage is based in the United States on American TV networks, and we want viewers (especially new viewers) to relate to the games and not feel as if it’s some foreign export. Sure, there’ll be space and time for Rob Stone, Julie Foudy, Christopher Sullivan, Bob Ley, Chris Fowler and Mike Tirico to get airtime, but what is ESPN and Fox Soccer Channel doing to promote its home-grown soccer talent?
Other than the above-mentioned FSC names, Fox has Christian Miles, Keith Costigan (Irish), Nick Webster (English), Mark Rogondino, Bobby McMahon (Scottish), John Herz and a few others. Other than the previously mentioned names, ESPN has JP Dellacamera, Tommy Smyth (Irish), Adrian Healey (English), Robbie Mustoe (English), Rob Stone, Janusz Michallik (Polish). Shaka Hislop (Trinidad & Tobago) and, presumably, Shep Messing, Allen Hopkins and others.
My question for Fox and ESPN executives is what are they doing to promote and mentor its American presenters and commentators? After the current wave of professionals “hang up their boots,” where’s the new wave of talent to come through?
Don’t get me wrong. ESPN and Fox Soccer Channel are raising the game of soccer coverage in the United States with some of the biggest names in the world. I would just like to see more American faces and voices involved such as soccer veterans including Phil Schoen, Lindsey Dean, Sean Wheelock, Jack Edwards, Seamus Malin and others.
Do you agree or disagree? Share your opinion in the comments section below.