The soccer commentator is the heart and soul of a broadcaster’s coverage. Spoil that and you ruin the entire broadcast. FOX can mess with the pre-show analysis, half-time show and post-match interviews. They can change the name of their network. Change the graphics. Whatever else. But do not mess with the commentating.
Some readers believe I’m overreacting over this whole situation. FOX’s contract with the Premier League will end in a few months anyway, but the fact of the matter is that the record needs to be straight that the hardcore soccer fan base do not want to have non-soccer talent commentating on the game. It’s insulting to soccer fans.
While I would much prefer to have the British commentators bringing the game to us via the world-feed, I’m not against Americans moving into the commentary seat. My opinion is that the best talent should be commentating on the game. If that happens to be an American (and there are a few very well respected ones who are far more skilled than Johnson; people like Phil Schoen and Glenn Davis), more power to them. But do not give us a basketball play-by-play announcer who has never commentated a major soccer game.
I’m all for giving Johnson a chance, but my biggest concern here is that FOX Soccer is breaking the rules. They’re ditching proven world-class commentators in their Premier League coverage in favor of an inexperienced soccer novice. Instead of hearing Martin Tyler, Gary Neville, Alan Smith or Stewart Robson commentate on the massive matches over the next few months including Chelsea-Manchester City, we’re getting Johnson and Warren Barton. While Barton’s professional soccer career is impressive, how much experience has he had as a co-commentator? As a pundit, he’s mediocre. As a co-commentator, I shudder at the thought of hearing him on the airwaves.
Johnson is also scheduled to commentate on other Premier League games this season, according to Sports Illustrated.
I understand that FOX wants to give Johnson real-world experience in a major game, and it’s their decision. But by doing so, they’re causing a massive rift with their loyal soccer core. They risk damaging all of the hard work they’ve done since FOX Sports World began showing the Premier League in 1998.
Thankfully, FOX’s coverage of the Premier League will end in a few months. They’ve given NBC Sports an opportunity to look like geniuses by hopefully making the right decision to focus on talented soccer commentators for their Premier League coverage beginning in August instead of this FOX Soccer train wreck where they’ve picked a basketball announcer for ratings or branding (or whatever reason FOX is thinking).