Is The U.S. The Best Place to Experience the Premier League?
Right now I’m playing with ESPN3.com’s multi-screen view, where you can have as many as four games viewable in the same browser window at a time in what they call a mosaic. I’m watching replays of Barcelona against Villarreal, Scotland against New Zealand in rugby and Juventus versus Roma. It’s a dream come true for a sports buff and is a far cry from the old days where you were lucky to tune into a dodgy shortwave radio reception or being able to watch highlights of a game for the first time four to five days after the game occurred.
Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve never had it so good. With a combination of Fox Soccer Channel, ESPN2, Fox Soccer Plus (and/or FoxSoccer.tv), the FoxSoccer iPhone app and countless streams of Premier League-related news and podcasts courtesy of the Internet, we’re now living in a time where we’re getting close to nirvana for soccer fans. Sure, there are some things that need to be improved and made available, but you can now legally get almost everything you could possibly need or want as a supporter of an English club in the Premier League.
Even on the streets in America, Premier League jerseys are far more common than shirts for the teams in the domestic league. In the old days, you’d practically have to send money to your grandmother in England for her to buy a jersey from the club shop and then send it in the post, keeping your fingers it would get to you and wouldn’t be absconded by your local postal service.
Just today, for example, I had the pleasure of watching a scintillating match between Aston Villa and Manchester United. Just when you thought ESPN’s production couldn’t get better, they spring another surprise. Today it was the pre-match interviews with Gerard Houllier and Alex Ferguson, both exclusive interviews for the U.S. viewing audience as the game itself was being televised on Sky Sports in the United Kingdom. While ESPN’s pitchside interviewer thankfully refrained from asking Houllier whether he knew if Brad Friedel’s mother was watching the game from her home in the United States, I was awestruck by how incredible the build-up to the kickoff at Villa Park was. I mean seriously, can their production get any better than this?
For the next game at the traditional 3pm kickoff in the United Kingdom, I had a choice between watching Manchester City against Birmingham on Fox Soccer Channel and an incredible five other matches live on FoxSoccer.tv. So I decided to watch as much as I could of all of them. I had the game from Eastlands on my television set, and then flipped through “the channels” on FoxSoccer.tv to watch bits and pieces of the other matches. Manchester City is doing its best job at trying to be more boring than watching paint dry, so while that was on in the background I ended up focusing more of my attention on the games beamed to my computer via FoxSoccer.tv such as West Ham United against Blackpool, Tottenham versus Blackburn, Wolves against Bolton, Wigan versus West Brom and Newcastle against Fulham. The beauty of being able to flip between the different game was wonderful especially seeing the very entertaining draw between West Ham and Blackpool as well as Wolverhampton’s late comeback against Bolton. When you think about it, the games involving Bolton, Wolves and Blackpool of late have been more entertaining than many of the Big Four games. And more power to them.
The mosaic screengrab from ESPN3.com above was from Wednesday’s rare Premier League treat where the broadband channel had Manchester CIty against Manchester United (the less said about that game the better) as well as Aston Villa versus Blackpool, Everton against Bolton and Wolves versus Arsenal. It was a dream come true to be able to watch four games at once and to easily switch between the commentary of any of the four.
Does it get any better than this? Yes, definitely but the room for improvement is becoming less and less. We have almost everything we can possibly need. Yes, Fox Soccer Channel could improve their production but we shouldn’t take their product for granted. They are the ones who are paying millions for the rights to show the Premier League in the United States, which most definitely limits the amount of money they can spend on talent and sets to make their Premier League “product” profitable for them. Without Fox, who sub-licenses some of their games to ESPN, we’d be screwed. Fox Soccer Channel provides us the Premier League drug that we crave. And the more we watch it, the more addicted we become.
Living in America and experiencing the Premier League on our TV sets and Internet, it’s never been any better than it is now. So thank you Fox Soccer Channel and ESPN. We can be a bit harsh on you at times, but at the end of the day we love what you do and appreciate you bringing the beautiful game to us. We’ll let you know when you can improve, but keep up the good work. We’re loving every minute of it.