Here at World Soccer Talk, we have taken the lead in identifying the next generation of television broadcasters who will be “driving the bandwagon” by connecting with new viewers in their own unique ways to continue to grow the American soccer community.
We first identified John Strong in March 2013 as the best homegrown play-by-play commentator who has dedicated himself to professional soccer at all levels as his first priority. Strong’s ability to incorporate elements from three different styles of commentary (British, American, and Latin American) into his own, plus his hard work and his dedication to improving his craft with each broadcast, has earned him respect among the viewers. FOX Sports executives Eric Shanks and John Entz made the correct decision to hire Strong in January 2015 as their primary soccer play-by-play announcer.
We recently identified CNN International World Sport anchor and correspondent Kate Riley as the odds-on favorite to win the studio host position for Turner Sports’ U.S. English-language coverage of the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Super Cup starting August 2018, likely to air on truTV. Fun, friendly, and informative, Riley has shown with her work for World Sport during the past year that she is mastering many of the skills and techniques that the most gifted broadcasters possess. In many ways, Riley reminds me of one of the best American sports television reporters of all time regardless of gender, legendary NFL Network and HBO Sports correspondent Andrea Kremer, when Kremer first started working at ESPN 28 years ago.
With the recent departure from ESPN of studio pundit and co-commentator Tommy Smyth, we have begun the process to identify the next great American soccer TV studio pundit. We are looking for someone who is fearless, outspoken, and controversial. We did not have to wait very long to identify him.
In a recent podcast at ESPNFC.com, ESPN personalities Max Bretos and Herculez Gomez interviewed U.S. Men’s National Team and Los Angeles Galaxy defender Jermaine Jones. The son of an American father and a German mother, this former Bundesliga “Bad Boy” was dubbed the “filthiest player in Germany” by German news television network n-tv before he moved stateside to make his living in Major League Soccer (MLS).
Because Jones has become the “Alexi Lalas” of the current generation of USMNT players in more ways then one, Jones will be the perfect studio pundit for any U.S. TV network if and when he decides to hang up his boots.
The following excerpts from Jones’ interview with Max Bretos and Herculez Gomez (beginning at the 18:05 mark) have definitely riled up the American soccer community, from the hardcore fanatics to the casual observers:
The criticism is always on me. Everybody tries it, if we lose the game, they always try to find the next guy who can play for Jermaine. It is never somebody else, it is always me. I’ll be honest: That p***es me off, where I say, ‘Wait a minute — when we play the big tournaments, I’m almost or always the best player on the field for this country.’ But then at the end of the day, they try to kick me out when we lose games. That’s not fair.
People hate and try to find mistakes when you lose games. To me, the point is what I’ve said always: Bring me the guy who is better at that position and show that week to week in the league, against me, against other teams. I respect it and I say, ‘If he’s better, I step away.’ I’m 35 — I can step away and say I had a good career. But right now, if you be honest, ask my teammates, ask the people inside. There’s nobody who can take my spot.
If I go to the national team right now, name me a player who has more Champions League games, who played in the highest levels — name me one. I am not a legend. My name is always [highlighted] when we lose, but all other guys are legends.
I want that the people respect me for what I did. They respect Timmy (Howard), they respect Clint (Dempsey), they respect all of the people. I have no problem when you want to criticize me when I play a bad game. But if you want to go against me and say I’m a poor player and all kind of stuff, I’m sorry man, but there’s nobody in that national team who have the same games and have the same success where I’ve been.
I’ve played over 15 years in Europe at a high level. Not 10, not five years, not one year. But sometimes it’s tough to look at numbers. I’m a German-American and maybe not a full American that you can sell like a product.
As one would expect, the most fearless former USMNT member-turned soccer TV studio pundit of his generation, Alexi Lalas, went into full “campaign mode” for Jermaine Jones during the pre-match show of the FOX Network broadcast of Orlando City vs Los Angeles Galaxy on April 15:
“I love Jermaine. I want Jermaine Jones on my team. He is big, bold. He is beautifully arrogant at times, but that’s what you want in a villain. Is he a pain in the neck sometimes? Yeah. But you know what, I like these big, bold personalities. Jermaine Jones is a gamer. When it comes down to it, Jermaine Jones delivers.”
Was Lalas talking about Jermaine Jones the soccer player?
Or was Lalas really lobbying his bosses at FOX Sports to bring Jones into the studio as his debate opponent sometime in the near future?
We know the following:
We know that FOX Sports produces most of its soccer studio shows from its Pico Blvd. facility in the Century City section of Los Angeles.
We know that Jones has chosen Los Angeles as his new permanent home, as he and his wife, former Miss Germany Sarah Gerth, have purchased a mansion for themselves and their five children.
We also know that the general manager of FS1, Jamie Horowitz, loves to launch shows with outspoken and controversial personalities engaging in fiery and passionate sports debates.
Can you imagine the fireworks that could go off if Lalas and Jones were paired in the same studio?
Could we be watching ‘Lalas and Jones No Holds Barred’ on FS1 sometime in the future?
Only time will tell.