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Alexi Lalas

FOX Soccer coverage needs vast improvement

alexi-lalas

After signing Alexi Lalas to a lucrative contract as the newest addition to FOX Sports, you would have hoped that the addition of the Hall of Famer would have boosted FOX’s overall quality of its first soccer broadcast of 2015. Unfortunately, despite Lalas’ positive debut, the remainder of the broadcast was classic FOX Sports with little to no insight, plenty of lame inside jokes and lots of missed opportunities to make the broadcast worth watching.

It’s still early days, but the initial observation is that it’s more of the same from FOX Sports with mediocre analysis that encourages the viewer to skip the talking heads and tune in only for the match itself. It’s a shame because today was a golden opportunity to start the year with a clean slate.

Watching today’s FA Cup coverage by FOX Sports, there was nothing informative or enlightening to glean from the broadcast. Lalas, at least, tried to make a positive contribution by sharing the story of contacting the Gateshead FC media rep. Plus, the former ESPN soccer analyst was vocal and spirited when sharing his opinion about the Frank Lampard controversy. But Warren Barton and Eric Wynalda were typically ineffective, while Rob Stone’s inability to ask any thought-provoking questions meant that he wasn’t able to get the best out of Lalas.

Opinions aside, FOX Sports’ pre-match coverage of the Tranmere against Swansea game was below average. There was the on-screen flub (see screengrab below) where FOX Sports confused Saido Berahino with Wilfried Bony. And to make matters worse, the Tranmere-Swansea preview featured zero minutes of analysis or discussion on Swansea City. Presumably the discussions on Steven Gerrard and Lampard meant that the Swansea segment had to be dropped, but perhaps they could have squeezed in some analysis of the Swans if they had dropped the frivolous discussions that wasted precious minutes. Better yet, perhaps FOX should consider having a 45-minute preview show like NBCSN instead of trying to do everything in 30 minutes.

fox-sports-soccer-flub

During the match coverage itself, FOX Sports featured a new on-screen graphic under the scoreline in the top left corner that updated viewers with the scores in the other FA Cup games. The two problems with that were (1) the graphic said “Scoring Update,” which sounds like a term created by someone inside FOX Sports that doesn’t watch soccer. “Goal update” or “Score Update” would have made more sense, but “scoring update”?? And (2), the “scoring update” only seemed to update for the West Brom-Gateshead game instead of all of the other FA Cup games being played simultaneously.

It’s all of these small, sloppy mistakes and lack of attention to detail that underscores FOX’s poor reputation for covering soccer. With the addition of Lalas on Saturday, I had hoped that it would help raise the bar within FOX Sports to improve its overall coverage, but there was nothing evident.

Likewise, the snippets of interviews that FOX Sports featured with Premier League stars such as Roberto Martinez, Brad Guzan, Brad Friedel and others was disappointing. For the past two weeks, FOX Sports reporter Keith Costigan has been traveling throughout the UK conducting full-length interviews with an array of stars, but that hard work was diminished by the brevity of the segment. Hopefully there’ll be an opportunity in the future to watch the full-length videos online or in a special segment.

On a positive note, the archival footage that FOX Sports featured of previous FA Cup upsets was a pleasure to watch.

Back to the analysis, Wynalda was quieter than usual and overshadowed by the more enthusiastic Lalas. It’ll be interesting to see how the chemistry between these two men develops over time and whether they can get into some thought-provoking debates the way that Lalas did in the past with Michael Ballack and Taylor Twellman.

The year 2015 is a huge one for FOX Sports with the return of MLS and Bundesliga rights, as well as the addition of the Women’s World Cup to an already growing arsenal of TV rights in the US. It’s more imperative than ever than someone behind the scenes at FOX Sports is reviewing the talent’s work in order to make sure there’s improvement because right now it still feels like FOX Soccer is a rudderless ship without any leadership.

In a recent interview with Sports Illustrated, FOX Sports 1 General Manager David Nathanson said, “I don’t think anyone will question Fox’s commitment to making this the new home field for soccer in the U.S.” Based on what we saw on Saturday, we’re still waiting to see that commitment come to fruition across our TV sets.

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33 Comments

33 Comments

  1. Gringo

    January 6, 2015 at 11:38 am

    Funny how for some on here criticism of the FOX studio yappers (including Barton) equates to “eurosnobbery”.

    We’re not snobs, we just demand quality analysis.

  2. Tim

    January 5, 2015 at 8:56 am

    Not sure why all the hate. Fox is fine with me but then again I am not some soccer snob, wack that can’t watch games becuase I dont like the pre and post game shows. Grow up people and be happy its even on TV with its lackluster ratings compared to almost every other US sport.

  3. jerry

    January 4, 2015 at 9:25 pm

    Also….I really like Lalas and plenty of people do. He is an American soccer legend and offers great insight but I am guessing most of you don’t like him because he doesn’t have and accent.

    • Flyvanescence

      January 5, 2015 at 12:01 am

      The depth of his insight is “set pieces” and “playing with gusto”. American legend yes, but atrocious pundit.

      Please, it is not his accent. Martino on NBC is American and actually brings something to the table.

    • scrumper

      January 5, 2015 at 9:16 am

      Nothing to do with his accent. He comes across as smug and full of himself without anything to back it up.

    • Gringo

      January 6, 2015 at 11:35 am

      Wrong. Rob Martino is excellent, and he’s as American as apple pie. He’s concise, precise, smart and not an egoist, like the FOX muppets.

  4. Saints Fan

    January 4, 2015 at 4:12 pm

    You do all realize that we (America) had more live FA Cup TV games this weekend than they had in England? Yet a lot of you wanna complain about the pre/post game coverage? Be thankful. The coverage was great.

    Seriously – who *really* cares about pre/post game analysis and player interviews? It’s all generic crap (they need to give 110% etc). It’s the live games that count (this goes for all sports – not just soccer).

    • jerry

      January 4, 2015 at 9:23 pm

      I agree….If you cant watch a game because of a pre and post game show then you have bigger issues. Seems more eurosnobbery than anything against American pundits. Get over it, Fox is fine and at the end of the day if it bothers you that much move to England.

  5. scrumper

    January 4, 2015 at 1:06 pm

    Poor production, cheap sets (the astro turf pitch is hilarious).The unprofessional shower in the studio are a joke – none of them can read the game and make any insightful comments. Today before the Dover Palace game it was so obvious Lalas was reading from notes about the Dover team. They just want to be jokey and laddish with no substance which underlines Fox’s attitude towards the game. Stone wants to be someone, which unfortunately for him he’ll never be and will probably end up commentating on curling at 2 in the morning. Wynalda simply acts disturbed and out of it, Barton constantly becomes unhinged and starts shouting mangling the English language and Lalas is full of his own self importance.

    Which simply adds up to – NBC you have nothing to worry about, but please somehow get the FA Cup and Champions League away from this lot of no hopers.

  6. Gringo

    January 4, 2015 at 12:33 pm

    FOX soccer coverage is an absolute train wreck on every level, always has been, clearly always will be. Time to buy that Rosetta Stone Spanish course.

  7. Lawrence Dockery

    January 4, 2015 at 12:08 pm

    The worst hing about this is that everybody at Fox is delusional and thinks that they are doing a good job.

  8. Lily Nelson Gooldy

    January 4, 2015 at 10:39 am

    I love your insight. Fox Sports IS NOT committed to soccer, plain and simple. How else can you explain the fact that they have zero post game re-cap and cut right to NASCAR minutes after an important match. Also, they NEVER miss an opportunity to throw in a commercial, the quote from coverage I am currently watching, “What is Yoevil-Town’s mascott? We’ve got about 2 and a half minutes until game time, so we’ll tell you right after this!” When they came back, Rob Stone was still talking when YT kicked off. Oh, and Eric Wynalda is a loud-mouthed dork. On the subject of Frank Lampard’s MLS / NYCFC situation, “NONE OF THIS WOULD BE AN ISSUE IF MLS CHANGED THEIR SCHEDULE!!!” Then, if that wasn’t enough, “THAT’S IT! THAT’S ALL I’M GOING TO SAY!” But it wasn’t all you had to say, was it Eric? No, he went on to tell someone in MLS to “Grow Up!”. Now we’re on to one of those famous commercial breaks. I was actually kind of interested in what Lalas thought of the Lampard issue. I can’t imagine Alexi putting up with Wynalda’s buffoonery for long – contract or no.

    • CTBlues

      January 4, 2015 at 1:38 pm

      Lily have you ever heard of this phenomenon when the temperature in the atmosphere and near the ground are at or below 32 degrees fahrenheit white fluffy precipitation called snow falls from the sky happens quite often in Canada, Northern, and Central United States between the months of November and March. Temperatures fluxuate for lows in negatives to low 50’s (degrees fahrenheit). Look at when the Scandinavian countries play.

      • Chris L

        January 5, 2015 at 10:54 am

        You’ve directed your comment at Lily when it should be directed at Wynalda.

  9. Tayo

    January 4, 2015 at 12:08 am

    Oh Alexi Lalas & FOX, what a great combination?! The perfect marriage if you ask me. He fits in well along the losers. Thanks for letting him go ESPN, he is not an asset if you ask me.

  10. CTBlues

    January 3, 2015 at 10:19 pm

    How is Fox showing the Dover vs Crystal Palace match over Chelsea vs Watford?

    • IU Gonzo

      January 4, 2015 at 12:47 am

      Dover v Crystal Palace is at 8:00am EST. It is not going up against Chelsea v Watford which starts at 10:00am EST. However Yeovil Town v Manchester United is at 10:30am and it will be on FS1, while Chelsea will be on FS2.

      • CTBlues

        January 4, 2015 at 1:06 am

        You are right they are not on early, they are on at 11am EST which is being over lapped by ManCity, ManU, and Arsenal. They should have it on FS+.

        • CTBlues

          January 4, 2015 at 1:13 am

          They are not even showing a reair of the match on FS+ like they are for the ManCity, ManU, and Arsenal matches.

  11. John Mansor

    January 3, 2015 at 9:22 pm

    I will forgive Fox for these transgressions if they could just get FS2 in HD on more cable providers.

    • Awful Awful Knight

      January 4, 2015 at 2:33 am

      Amen, brother.

    • Lily Nelson Gooldy

      January 4, 2015 at 10:41 am

      Remember when they had Fox Soccer Channel? What was wrong with that? Instead they put more and more games on FS2, which you can only get if you have CABLE, not Direct, Dish, etc. Rupert Murdoch is spiteful.

      • Saints Fan

        January 4, 2015 at 4:37 pm

        FS2 (Fox Sports 2) is on Directv on channel 618.

  12. Todd

    January 3, 2015 at 9:01 pm

    I’ve never been a fan of lalas. He’s loud and obnoxious and I would say putting thought provoking and lalas in the same sentence doesn’t work. Of course, that’s my opinion of him and others may like him just fine. The thing is adding someone like lalas will only highlight just how lame and small time fox’s coverage of soccer really is. Adding another talking head instead of intelligent analysis is not at all what they need. Very glad I no longer get fox and have other alternatives to follow.

    • Smokey Bacon

      January 3, 2015 at 9:13 pm

      How much did Fox spend to get Lalas? He could not buy a job at NBC. Rebecca would take him to school when he starts with his gibberish.

    • Flyvanescence

      January 3, 2015 at 10:18 pm

      Lalas is atrocious

      • Gringo

        January 4, 2015 at 12:35 pm

        What makes Lalas so awful is that he combines very dodgy analysis with incomparable arrogance and humorlessness. Actually, every FOX soccer talking head fits this description.

  13. jtm371

    January 3, 2015 at 8:54 pm

    I will make it really easy fox soccer coverage SUCKS robb pebble and their loser pundits are very unprofessional. Friends don’t let friends watch fox soccer pre or post match coverage.

  14. Smokey Bacon

    January 3, 2015 at 8:45 pm

    It’s not like there isn’t a good blueprint out there to copy, yet fox gives the impression of always taking the cheaper option with predictable results. Cheap looking set, crappy pundits, sloppy production values ( the Bony/Berahino error was classic). The whole thing lacks authenticity. In contrast, NBC looks like they spend the same amount of time, money an effort on its coverage of the EPL as it does the NFL. Until Fox goes all-in on covering the game better, NBC will continue to kick their a*s.

  15. Paul Scanling

    January 3, 2015 at 7:24 pm

    I’m not a big fan of pre-match shows, or post-match shows for that matter. Lalas has insight, but is more interested in being splashy. Wynalda likes to roll his eyes but rarely adds anything to the conversation. He should have stayed with my Silverbacks. He was better at managing than being a talking head.

    • Eplnfl

      January 4, 2015 at 6:21 am

      Have to agree that pre/post shows are highly over rated. It’s not just Fox but all the networks who seem to give us a lot of space but little substance both pre and post games. Nothing is worse than the 5 hours of Super Bowl build up.

      Fox seems never to get over complaints of having a cheap looking set. Will this crew be better by the World Cup in 2018 is the real question? Afraid to say to only Lalas looks like he will bring quality to that event. There is time to grow however.

      • Lily Nelson Gooldy

        January 4, 2015 at 10:47 am

        Will this crew be better in 2018? Mark my words Commercial Breaks in Soccer. You heard it here first. Fox has the money and the influence to push for commercial breaks. They need to recoup their MASSIVE investment in world Cup 2018. We’ll start seeing more and more of these “Water Breaks” (Remember in Brazil?) at lower and lower temperatures

        • Dan

          January 5, 2015 at 2:20 pm

          Fox have neither the money nor influence to push for commercial breaks over any television broadcaster in Europe, South America or Asia.

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