FOX Soccer’s adventures in providing its own commentary for the most high profile European soccer matches of 2013 took another embarrassing turn Sunday afternoon. This time it was for the FA Cup quarter-final between Manchester United and Chelsea, commentated by Gus Johnson and Ian Wright.
Surprisingly, it was Wright who made several glaring and controversial mistakes that had viewers shaking their heads wondering when this experiment will end.
In his role as a co-commentator, Wright chastised Chelsea supporters on numerous occasions in the game, repeatedly calling their actions embarrassing and seemingly painting all Chelsea fans with the same brush. The former Arsenal footballer was way out of line in his criticism of Chelsea supporters and immediately destroyed his impartiality when he began his tirade in the second half.
After Eden Hazard scored Chelsea’s first goal, here’s what Wright said:
“Chelsea fans ain’t singing about Rafa now. I almost want Chelsea to win the game so they can embarrass [the fans] again. [They are] such an embarrassment.”
Then after Ramires scored the equalizer for the Blues, Wright again attacked Chelsea supporters:
“I’ve got to say Chelsea fans, look at them now. So embarrassing!”
“He’s made two substitutions that they didn’t like. They gave him stick and now they’re back in the game. What are [the Chelsea fans] going to do? Embarrassing.”
It’s one thing for Wright to say those things as an analyst on radio or in newspapers, but it’s a different thing entirely when you’re supposed to be an impartial color commentator who needs to be providing insights to enhance our viewing experience. Wright was completely out of order by saying those things in a game where he instantly demonized half the audience.
To be fair to both Johnson and Wright, I thought they formed a very strong commentary partnership in the first half. The more conversational Wright seemed to fit better with Johnson’s commentary style. The calls by Johnson for each of the two Manchester United goals in the first half were excellent, perfectly capturing the energy and excitement of the goals as well as succinctly describing what happened before Wright cut in to add his insight.
On the first goal, Wright focused in on the importance of Michael Carrick’s inch-perfect cross to Javier Hernandez, describing it as something that critics would have been fawning over if someone like Andrea Pirlo had struck it.
The second goal was also spectacularly called by Wright who gave valuable insight before the Wayne Rooney free kick was taken, instructing the viewer where the ball should be hit. And Rooney did exactly that, crossing the ball near the far post as it sailed untouched into the back of the net.
But other than those two key moments for Wright and his conversational tone with Johnson, the remainder of Wright’s co-commentary was sub-par. I lost count the number of times he said Gus. He spoke over the top of Johnson far too frequently. And his analysis became very repetitive particularly in describing how Chelsea’s Demba Ba needed to do a better job at holding up the ball to provide service to Lampard and Oscar.