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ESPN Coverage Hits New Low With West Ham vs MLS All-Stars


ESPN’s broadcast of Euro 2008 was the best production ever of a soccer tournament for TV viewers in the United States. While it wasn’t perfect, it was clearly evident that ESPN had listened to the past criticism and corrected the annoying habits that had previously distanced diehard soccer fans from its network.

After ESPN vastly improved my impression of them this summer, I was then dismayed to discover that ESPN’s dirty habits had returned during the West Ham United against MLS All-Star Team game on Thursday night.

The four most annoying rules that were broken last night were:

  1. On two separate occasions, while the match was still being played and the ball was on the pitch, ESPN broke away to “SportsCenter Right Now,” a brief news update on the day’s top baseball stories. Imagine how baseball fans would feel if the same thing happened to them during the middle of an inning and ESPN broke away to soccer news.
  2. A few minutes before half-time, with the match still ongoing, ESPN cut away to presenter Rob Stone who discussed what food was available for sale at the concession stands. This completely distracted commentators JP Dellacamera and John Harkes so that they too ended up talking about the food and how they were hungry. Harkes mentioned he wanted to see Stone gobble the food. ESPN then cut away again a minute later to show Stone eating corn on the cob and a burger.
  3. In the second half, we were “treated” to Rob Stone standing on top of the stadium roof introducing us to the bird, yes bird, who keeps the gulls from infesting the ground.
  4. ESPN sideline reporter Allen Hopkins interviewed NBA player Steve Nash and striker Kenny Cooper at pitchside. Why not conduct these interviews before or after the match instead of wasting our time during the game?

By breaking away from the game, ESPN continues to commit the cardinal sin of soccer TV coverage. The message it communicates to the viewer is that the game isn’t exciting. I realize what ESPN is trying to do by putting their own spin on live coverage, but all four of the above rules broken didn’t add anything to the broadcast other than infuriating the viewer.

Yes, ESPN should be commended for providing HD coverage as well as great broadcasting of the game itself, but the network looks amateurish and hokey when it tries to liven up the broadcast with these idiotic cutaways.

It’s time for ESPN to treat its soccer coverage seriously rather than making it into a joke.

What do you think? Share your opinion by clicking the comments link below.

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  1. Footballer

    March 13, 2009 at 6:40 am

    Listen to you guys. Whining and complaining like a bunch of little girls. You don’t deserve to be a part of football culture.

    Rule #1 for being a football fan: Acknowledge which sport (this one) is the true one and only Football.

    Then, and only then, can you proceed with a life in football. But you can’t skip rule #1.

    But you people are stubborn about respecting Football. So I hope it gets taken away from you permanently

  2. Mookie

    July 27, 2008 at 9:16 pm

    Hate to break it to ya Gaffer, but ESPN does most of this for MLS games, much less an exhibition.

    I watched the game on ESPN, then watched it again on CBC.

    Nigel Reed and Jason DeVos were in the booth, with Mitch Peacock from FSC on the touchline for some useful tidbits. Never cut to his face, while he was talking, they stuck to game footage.

    CBC, after the pre-game, were in no way enamored with Beckham like JP and Harkes were. Beckham could’ve been 10 yards away from the goal and not done a thing and they would say “Beckham is happy”…….not so with the CBC.

    Sadly, they also did in-booth interviews with Nash and Don Garber, but they never cut away from the game to show a stupid hawk at the top of the stadium. That doesn’t annoy me as much as cutting away from the game.

    On a side note, if you want some sneaks at the CBC coverage of games, please go to azorean10, a Youtube user who has a string of Toronto FC game videos.

    If you guys expect anything competent from ESPN then you’re delusional. Euro 2008 was good, but notice, and I hate to bring it up, they made it as British of a telecast as possible to the point where it could rank with the BBC (minus Julie Foudy). Other than that and the Champions League, American “soccer” telecasts are dreadful, and yes, I am an American.

  3. Ryan

    July 26, 2008 at 8:16 am

    Yeah I mean if you have watched other American sports, that stuff seems pretty par for the course, all star games are usually just opportunities for all the stars to hang out and have some fun. As for Rob Stone, the bitchy the hawk thing was hilarious, and he has been one of the leading crusaders for soccer on ESPN and conversely in America, every chance he gets he rips on Jim Rome and other soccer haters, listen to his podcast with Bill Simmons if you don’t believe me.

  4. Jon

    July 26, 2008 at 1:26 am

    Wasn’t it an exhibition all-star game? These things don’t bother me as much in an exhibition game… it’s all for fun so throw in some stupid stuff with Rob Stone (that was pretty funnny).

  5. mele419

    July 25, 2008 at 10:34 pm

    sorry but no one really gives two shits about the MLS allstar team playing west ham. that’s about it.
    Oh, and most of america doesnt give two shits about football to begin with, so that didnt help.

  6. Andrew

    July 25, 2008 at 10:13 pm

    It was an awesome all-star game, but the coverage did annoy me. I DONT CARE ABOUT THE STUPID CONCESSION STAND!!! I tuned in for some SOCCER!!! NOT CORN ON THE COB!!!!!

  7. spark

    July 25, 2008 at 11:38 am


  8. Lonnie

    July 25, 2008 at 9:07 am

    I thought the CBC did a nice job of covering the game. They featured a one-on-one interview with Beckham during the pre-game build up. Nigel Reed handled the call of the game with Jason De Vos doing color.

    I did not notice any of the issues that the ESPN broadcast apparently had.

    One thing that was not evident from the broadcast was the flag/anthem mixup (unless I missed a mention of it). From the Canadian Press:

    “In a case of bad planning, organizers of the Major League Soccer all-star game led many fans to believe that the Canadian anthem was not going to be played on Tuesday at BMO Field.

    Instead of bringing the Canadian flag onto the field along with the American flag and the English flag (for the visitors from West Ham United), organizers waited until several minutes after the other two anthems were played to showcase the Maple Leaf, leading to an ugly scene as fans belted out O Canada and booed while the Star Spangled Banner was being played.

    When the Canadian anthem finally was performed, the crowd responded with loud cheers and joined in for a loud rendition of O Canada. “

  9. Darin

    July 25, 2008 at 8:59 am

    To Jeff’s point, ESPN shouldn’t have a blanket policy on what sports the update interrupts. In a soccer match it could obscure the focal point of the game, unlike most American sports.

    It’s funny…ESPN gets these good ratings from the standardized soccer broadcasts, which they can’t “ESPN-ize”, yet they continue over and over to screw it up for soccer they produce. It’s not like they have nothing to use as a reference.

    I will say this for ESPN: At least they got rid of the score graphic that went all the way across the screen and compressed it into the upper left like everyone else does. They got that part right.

  10. Jeff Hash

    July 25, 2008 at 8:30 am

    Johnathan already caught point 1. ESPN does those updates across all sports, including in the middle of a baseball inning. Usually however, there’s enough time to squeeze it in if kept to the 30 seconds or less it usually is.

    A lot of people talked about the brilliance of their Euro 2008 coverage, but part of that was UEFA’s requirement of a standard look in broadcasting across all nations. ESPN couldn’t do much to change things on-screen, and didn’t have a massive on-site presence to come up with things off-screen.

    Ultimately, Jon’s right. It’s ESPN, you should know what you are getting by now. And ESPN’s shown it works: they are the most profitable arm of the entire Disney corporation. Why ruin a money-making game plan?

  11. Daniel Hughes

    July 25, 2008 at 7:28 am

    Those four rules point out were broke and it’s spot on. The coverage was shoddy in the camera dept too in certain coverage areas. ESPN needs to grow up and do its homework and watch coverage from BBC or ITV and other networks around the world that cover world-class football/soccer.

  12. Johnathan Staring

    July 25, 2008 at 7:04 am

    Point 1: The SportsCenter update is an across the ESPN spectrum so regardless of the sport the update happens.

    Point 2: Yes I cannot argue with you at all. That was absolutely disgusting and did indeed make me sick. It was almost like the whole sequences was being done if only as a rib for someone at ESPN’s benefit.

    Points 3 and 4: Don’t bother me at all.

    Everyone by now should know what they are going to get with ESPN. Regardless if you keep screaming from the rafters, they will only look at you and go ‘oh and exactly how much money do you make in a year’?

  13. Kartik

    July 25, 2008 at 5:05 am

    Y’all should have switched to Telfutura if you get it. They had outstanding match coverage. I was watching ESPN until the first “SC update” when I switched in disgust and only turned back briefly the rest of the match.

  14. DublinerInKentucky

    July 25, 2008 at 5:04 am

    Sad to see ESPN not learn from their superior EURO Coverage. God help us if they do eventually get the Premier league rights.
    Does nobody at ESPN ever get the chance to watch SKY or Setanta sports coverage of games?
    Analysis of football games does NOT have to involve speaking as fast and as loud as you possibly can!! Take a look at RTE (Ireland) coverage at half time to learn how to talk about a football game that we all have watched…I think ESPN commentators feel like they are explaining the game to the casual channel flicker who has happened to land on one of their channels and they have 10 seconds to cram everything into them…Bollox lads…football fans don’t surf during a game because we don’t have 50 other games being covered at the same time to flick to!!…its either on FSC or Setanata or ESPN

    I was also not too impressed with the camera coverage during the game…yet again letting the game continue while they focus the cameras on an individual player not involved in the game, annoying!!

  15. Matt

    July 25, 2008 at 1:52 am

    Dead right Gaffer. I hate the sidelines interviews etc.

  16. DrinkingtheInk

    July 25, 2008 at 1:25 am


  17. Peter C

    July 25, 2008 at 1:25 am

    I was dismayed when J.P. mentioned the TFC/Montreal CONCACAF match and threw out the line, (paraphrasing here) ‘Toronto lost and will not continue in another tournament’.
    Another tournament???? Only the CONCACAF Champions League!!

  18. brant parsons

    July 25, 2008 at 1:13 am

    Just because most American sports are boring and they need stupid breaks doesn’t mean that the beautiful game does too.

    This is just another example of ESPN ruining their coverage of something.

    Did anyone else catch the fans chanting for “Brennan” and one of the announcers saying – “I think they’re chanting for Landon Donovan”

    Unreal folks.

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