Why It’s Time for ESPN to Say Goodbye to John Harkes

Sporting events and commentary go in hand in hand with each other. How odd would it be to watch a soccer, football, and baseball or hockey game without someone offering analysis and play by play action of the game? As a fan of several sports I have been subjected to many announcers in games; some good and some that weren’t so good.  I have to say I have never felt I had to mute the TV because of announcer. Well that was until I heard John Harkes.

In recent years I have become a fan of Major League Soccer and games are either shown on my local channel in Seattle, as well as ESPN or Fox Soccer Channel. I was first introduced to Harkes as announcer during the last World Cup in South Africa and quickly realized he must be regarded as one of the worst announcers I have ever heard in any sporting event. Every time I watch a MLS match on ESPN I hope John Harkes will not be announcing or, if he is, I immediately hit the mute button. There isn’t anything pleasant or engaging about this man as an announcer.

Of course networks or other sporting outlets naturally select individuals with a strong background in the sport and many but not all are former athletics or coaches. It makes sense since you want the individual to have a command of the game. However, that is only part of the deal because you want an individual that can communicate to the viewing audience and have that special connection. You want a person that has passion for the sport in what he or she does. One of my favorite announcers was John Madden. This guy who just loves the NFL and everything about it. When he spoke, he had a complete command of the game and with a witty down to earth personality, it’s no wonder he was so successful in connecting with the audience. When he decided to leave his job to spend more time with his family, it was like losing a friend.

Looking at John Harkes it is the complete opposite, I would be happy to lose him as a friend.

I am not going to analyze John Harkes’s playing career because that is not the focus of the story. However, considering his impressive playing career, you think he would know a little more about the game than he presently does. During the matches before I employed the mute button, I noticed how very little Harkes comments on the game but would divert his attention elsewhere. Talking about unrelated things and taking the focus away from the game and directing elsewhere, mainly towards himself.

When I have heard Harkes comment on games, he does so in a very negative fashion. For example if a goal is scored, it’s not a good goal shot but he instead dwells on the negative aspect of the event. The defenders or the goalkeeper screwed up. The striker got lucky. It couldn’t be the fact it just was a good goal. Then he gives the audience a lecture as if we care about his glory days and how he would have done it differently. He constantly reminds the viewers of his former playing days and how he is better than anyone else on the field and provides little or no comments on the game.

Harkes loves to call soccer shoes “boots,” the common term in England. Well, in the United States people call them shoes (or cleats). There is a reason why they are called boots in England.  In the 19th century, men in Britain would play soccer in their work boots. Later came the leather shoe or boot, which was introduced.

It just makes him sound so phony and unconvincing.

We all use clichés at times in everyday conversation but this guy is the master of them. He could try to be a little more original in his presentation. During the World Cup, Martin Tyler made a comment about him using a cliché in reference to Peter Crouch. Harkes said, “Crouch is tall and looks like he’d be good in the air, but pundits say that he’s actually quite skilful with his feet.” Tyler laughed and said, “A bit of a cliché, good feet for a big man.” Then there was silence with Harkes presumably annoyed.

Furthermore the man has no connection with the fans in my opinion. Yes he can speak English but he doesn’t have a personality besides an inflated opinion of himself. In those rare occasions he comments on the game he states the obvious. I don’t need to be told the object of the game is to get the ball in the net. I just thought the players would all run around the field for ninety minutes kicking the ball aimlessly around. Of course the US men’s team would be just fine if he was playing again. It’s time to move on Harkesy.

I have been a fan of Ian Darke, Martin Tyler and Ray Wilkins. Having said that I don’t think you need to have an English accent to be a good soccer announcer. I have listened to soccer announcers from various countries. You want quality and a person who has a personality, which Harkes completely lacks. I think instead of being a soccer announcer Harkes would have a very promising career in a soap opera with his cheesy grin and orange tan.

I want to listen to an individual who has passion for the game, a good personality, who can communicate and has knowledge of the sport. Also, I want a person who is just a pleasant individual. So, if the person has an American, Spanish, Russian, Italian, French, German or English accent, I don’t care. But for the love of God show this man the door.

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