Early in the 1990′s, when we were deprived of being able to watch a lot of live Premier League matches on television in the United States, many of us (myself included) would look up to the journalists, football supporters and pundits in the United Kingdom as a valuable source of knowledge, expertise and perspective on the beautiful game.
While there are still some well-respected experts in ‘ol Blighty, a lot has changed in two years. Since 2010, soccer fans in the United States have been able to watch every single Premier League match live through a combination of FOX Soccer, FOX Soccer Plus (or FOX Soccer 2GO), ESPN2 and ESPN3.com. Now contrast that with the average diet of someone living in the United Kingdom, whether the person is a journalist, supporter or pundit. There is no comparison. The limited number of live matches shown on UK television means that we, in the United States and overseas, have more access to seeing the games first-hand than anyone in England has.
So in the past year, especially, what I’ve tended to notice is that some of the opinions expressed by co-commentators, pundits, football fans and the like are not well informed. A perfect example of this is Blackburn Rovers. Unless you’re a Blackburn supporter who can afford to attend every single home match as well as travel with the supporters to see all of the away matches, you can’t be as well-informed as someone living in America who has watched every single match on television or the Internet.
So when I hear pundits and even Blackburn supporters commenting about how poor the club has been, I completely disagree with them. They’re only basing their opinion on the amount of Blackburn matches they’ve actually watched. And much of that is framed by what they see on BBC’s Match Of The Day television program, every Saturday night. Yes, there are a few times during the season when Blackburn is live on television, but the majority of times they are practically invisible to TV viewers in England. And highlights from MOTD often give a distorted view of how well or poor a team played a match.
It’s not that the fault of residents in England who are unable to watch as many matches on TV as those overseas. But I’ve learned to rely on their opinions far less than I used to. For example, take The Guardian’s Football Weekly podcast, remove the humor and you’ll find that you have very little substance left in terms of real analysis of football matches (unless the journalists watched the game on television for a minute-by-minute text commentary, or were fortunate enough to attend the game in person).
Just because we have access to every single live Premier League match via US TV and Internet doesn’t make us experts. But it does give us the opportunity to form an opinion based on far more intelligence than what our counterparts in the United Kingdom get to see. It’s quite surreal to me that we here in the United States have a better lens on how well a team is performing than its own supporters in England. While Blackburn Rovers is still in relegation trouble, I think that many of you will agree that they’re actually playing quite well as a football team. That’s just one example of many, but you get the point.