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FOX’s coverage has improved but is still below NBC and ESPN

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FOX’s coverage of the Women’s World Cup has been a mixture of positives and negatives. On the positive, the match commentators have generally been good, especially the standout team of Justin Kutcher and Aly Wagner. Jenn Hildreth, who is a familiar face to college sports fans in the south as well as to those who watch the Atlanta Braves, has been outstanding in play-by-play duties. John Strong has emerged as arguably the single best American-born soccer commentator in recent years and has had a solid tournament as expected.

But the match commentators aside, FOX’s overall coverage of the World Cup has been subpar.

Let’s start in the studio with the hosting duties of Rob Stone. Many of us who have watched soccer in this country for the last two decades love Rob Stone – I love Rob Stone. But being the primary host for a major international competition isn’t his thing. I could see him very easily slotting into the more relaxed late night highlight slot that Kate Abdo has or doing some offbeat commentary.

FOX’s studio analysis has been weak and forced with the exception of the contributions from the outstanding Kelly Smith. Heather Mitts adds very little in the way of analysis and Alexi Lalas shines when he has someone to be argumentative with. However, this hasn’t happened during the Women’s World Cup. Though Lalas’ points are generally well-founded, his value is negated without a sidekick to banter with. Stone’s strength isn’t pushing buttons either, so Lalas is hardly ever being pressed into saying the types of zany and colorful things he was associated with at ESPN.

SEE MORE: Meet David Neal, the man behind FOX’s slick Women’s World Cup coverage

FOX’s late night studio show is a mess. The analysis is generally so poor on the program that I get my end-of-the-day Women’s World Cup analysis fix from rival ESPN who does not have tournament rights. Julie Foudy continues to be a fixture on ESPN’s soccer coverage and the ESPN FC shows during the Women’s World Cup hosted by Dan Thomas with Foudy and one or two male analysts have been better than anything FOX produces.

Unfortunately FOX also has been cutting out of coverage of soccer immediately after the end of late games, going to coverage of other sports and studio programs for other sports. Without a channel like ESPNews to handle postgame analysis, any post-match talk has to wait until the late-night FOX program hosted by Kate Abdo. At that point, it is just as easy to watch the ESPN FC program, which is usually on around the same time, if not earlier, and which features as noted above better analysis.

While many were fearful of how poorly FOX might cover this tournament, the prognostications of doom have been off the mark. However, FOX’s coverage is still far from ideal, and below the standard for coverage of this sport that both ESPN and NBC have established. Remedies for future tournaments should include bringing in an experienced and seasoned studio host of some stature, perhaps a Bob Ley or Curt Menefee, as well finding an intelligent sidekick that can banter with Alexi Lalas. Scheduling post-match programs on some FOX owned network after the conclusion of the final games of the night is also a must.

FOX has done better than expected in some respects. But that is what happens when expectations from many were so low, merely not having a major on-air catastrophe would suffice as satisfactory. But let us hope before FOX covers the 2018 Men’s World Cup and the 2019 Women’s World Cup that substantial upgrades are made.

 

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30 Comments

30 Comments

  1. Smokey Bacon

    June 29, 2015 at 8:22 pm

    By any measure, the presentation is much better than expected largely because they have basically copied the ESPN/NBC blueprint. They have also gone with soccer people rather than drafting in clueless idiots like Buck or Menefee. Or maybe they were too busy ruining the golf. For better or worse, Stone, Lalas and Wynalda are their guys and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. It’s easy to pick on Fox but I think they may have turned a corner with their coverage of this tournament.

  2. David

    June 29, 2015 at 5:16 pm

    Watching Fox’s coverage of the World Cup in Canada, they definitely have made big improvements. I actually enjoy watching the evening World Cup show. I know NBC and ESPN have set the bar pretty high, but I have a small glimmer of hope things will only get better in time for the 2018 World Cup. ESPN wasn’t perfect with their World Cup coverage. Announcers made quite a few errors such as complaining why the Spanish national team isn’t signing their anthem when there are no lyrics. My biggest complaint is some of the announcers have been quite bad during the not so marque matches in the group stage. Overall I would give a B- for their coverage so far.

  3. Mahluf

    June 29, 2015 at 3:37 pm

    Why would you EVER suggest Curt Menefee as the host of ANY soccer broadcast? That’s completely idiotic.

  4. San Fransiscan

    June 29, 2015 at 3:00 pm

    As long as they have Wynalda, they will always be below par.

  5. rkujay

    June 29, 2015 at 2:36 pm

    First, Rob Stone(d) wants a ‘big network gig’. He wants to move down the hall with the throwball guys so bad he can taste it. It is quite obvious to all.
    Second, Curt Menefee?? Sure he is a real footy expert. I am reminded of him hosting a Champions League show. He made some hokey analogy of the goings on in the match and the ’82 Giants. This guy is a stroke who has no interest in footy. Isn’t he related to gus?

    • Andrew

      June 29, 2015 at 4:58 pm

      I’m confused. So who’s a footy expert and who has no interest in footy?

      I think for WC 2018 Fox needs to have Curt Menafee anchor its coverage. No disrespect to Rob Stone, but I think he’s more suited for a ‘World Cup TOnight’ hosting gig or something more relaxed. Curt Menafee is a soccer fan who’s anchored Super Bowls, so he is the only person at fox with a resume big enough for the world cup IMO.

      • Mike

        June 30, 2015 at 6:40 pm

        Menefee? Are you kidding? Did u see his work at the U.S. Open? Since Fox owns Sky Sports just import talent as needed. If this were a baseball World Cup. And Sky needed talent, they would import Joe Buck, Kenny Albert, etc., if available and as needed.

    • Mike

      June 30, 2015 at 10:18 pm

      Couldn’t have said it better about Stone. He jumps at college football every chance he gets. With Rebecca Lowe, you know soccer is her thing. Stone’s faux hyperkinetic energy and rah-rah USA wore on me a long time ago. Kutcher is cut from the same cloth. Only Strong shows any long term potential.

      • Christopher Harris

        June 30, 2015 at 10:37 pm

        True story. I was in Miami for the International Champions Cup, where I was interviewing Tim Howard. Someone behind me interrupted the interview. It was Rob Stone, who went over to Tim Howard and gave him a hug. The first question out of Rob Stone’s mouth to Tim Howard was about college football. After a minute or two of them talking, Tim Howard returned to the interview.

        • mike

          July 2, 2015 at 5:08 pm

          Great story Gaffer. Sounds exactly like Stone. Like Kutcher and Hildreth, played college soccer but you can tell it’s not his first love (nor theirs). Did anybody notice Hildreth and her partner botched the own goal last night? They seem oblivious that goal line technology is instant. They were waiting around for a prolonged debate and ruling like the NFL.

      • jtm371

        June 30, 2015 at 10:58 pm

        You mean rob pebble. 🙂

  6. annoyingracoon01

    June 29, 2015 at 1:05 pm

    In my opinion…
    The highs:
    *The set (imo better than ESPN’s last year)
    *Kate Abdo (I still don’t get why she isn’t used for the pregame shows)
    *John Strong (He has the potential to be an amazing commentator)
    *Kelly Smith
    *Monica Gonzales (Where has she been lately?)
    * Using big FOX
    The lows:
    *Alexi Lalas (Always hated him and his “soccer gods” comments)
    *Eric Wynalda (No further explanation needed)
    *Justin Kutcher (I just don’t like how whenever a team scores he just screams “AND A GOAL”)
    *Tony DiCicco (I like Tony, but I hate how he always has to disagree with Cat)
    *Women’s world cup tonight
    *Dr.Joe (It’s not the NFL with a bunch of weird rules!! It’s soccer and it’s made to be simple)

    Time for my rant. Where is Kate Abdo during pre/post match coverage? I watched world cup tonight once because of her, but when I saw Eric Wynalda I immediately changed the channel and switched to ESPN FC. I gave wc tonight a second chance last night and the analysis was so poor. I hated how they asked the analysts “whose better Angerer or Solo?” all of the former USWNT players said “It’s not because I played with her, but I have to choose Hope because when I played with her she had great communication with the defense.” and Ariane Hingst chose Angerer and said “It’s not because I played with her.” Aside from Kelly Smith the analysis has been horrendous because the analysts are always asked dull questions like “How did it feel to play in a World Cup?”. John Strong has been amazing imo. But hey at least this isn’t the Gus Johnson FOX from the past.

    • Lawrence Dockery

      June 29, 2015 at 1:39 pm

      Dr Joe is a disgrace. He knows absolutely nothing about the Laws of the Game. Its people like him that lead people to believe that all referees are idiots and that’s why we have Clint Dempsey ripping up a referee’s notebook or we have parents assaulting referee’s at their car (seen it happen) or have players in youth leagues strike and kill referees (in Michigan)

    • Tim

      June 29, 2015 at 2:17 pm

      I love Wynalda and Lalas.

      • Mike

        June 30, 2015 at 10:22 pm

        You love Wynalda? Right. Probably because of his deep analysis and guesswork.

  7. jtm371

    June 29, 2015 at 11:40 am

    The announcers for the England/Canada match were a disgrace. So biased towards Canada it was embarrassing. The lalas angle has been played out so yesterday. So bottom line fox SUCKS!

  8. Cody

    June 29, 2015 at 11:19 am

    I really don’t understand the purpose of having a heel analyst or commentator (Lalas), I mean come on, this isn’t wrestling. At times he is so desperate to be contrarian, its obvious that he doesn’t even believe what he is saying.

    Also, Tony Dicicco’s continuous contrarianism with Cat Whitehill is becoming embarrassing. He disagrees with and undermines almost everything she has said.

    • Brad

      June 29, 2015 at 11:46 am

      Dicicco’s been good for me, former coach and isn’t afraid to make negative comments about the US or its coach.

      • Cody

        June 29, 2015 at 11:53 am

        He starts every single contrarian viewpoint with “Well I coached/have worked with her, and….”

        That bothers me that he has to qualify all his statements.
        I am all about someone that isn’t afraid to criticize the team or coach, but it seems like he chimes in with a dissenting opinion after every single Cat Whitehill comment. Not sure I’ve heard him agree with her once.

        Is this soccer coverage or a fox news roundtable?

        • Ken

          June 29, 2015 at 1:08 pm

          Actually, Whitehill is very annoying in my opinion. SHe constantly cried foul when there clearly is not one. She is way too much of a homer. Besides, having three commentators in the booth is far too much. This is not American football where we need to be hearing a lot of chatter. Two is enough in the booth.

          • annoyingracoon01

            June 29, 2015 at 1:15 pm

            FOX is sort of trying to Americanize the game with 3 commentators and bringing in a rules expert in the middle of the broadcast.

            • Lawrence Dockery

              June 29, 2015 at 1:36 pm

              And by the way that “rules expert” Dr. Joe is a complete and total moron who doesn’t know a damn thing about the Laws of the Game. It looks like his express purpose is to sit there and rip the referee for everything.

      • annoyingracoon01

        June 29, 2015 at 1:07 pm

        I like Tony, but it’s just that he’s always negative and he always has to disagree with Cat.

        • Brad

          June 29, 2015 at 1:16 pm

          Cat is always trying to be superpositive.

          • annoyingracoon01

            June 29, 2015 at 1:19 pm

            I think that Cat is just trying to be a cheerleader along with all the former USWNT players, but with the 3 person booth I hate how Cat and Tony have different views because I don’t want to hear an argument during a game.

            • ribman

              June 29, 2015 at 6:12 pm

              This is where womens sports is losing credibility whether basketball, soccer or anything else it’s insipidly cheerleading, true equality means calling what you see, and there still is an overall sense among women analysts to unconditionally prop up the athletes and coaches- the players even will say this. Jill Olson is a pretty bad coach and outside some print media she gets a free ride

    • Cody

      June 29, 2015 at 11:55 am

      Additionally, I should have pointed out that if Fox Sports is trying to gain credibility & become a respected soccer outlet, it doesn’t help their goal if the color commentary is continuously debunked as false or poor opinion.

  9. Ross

    June 29, 2015 at 11:11 am

    Monica Gonzalez seems to have fallen off the map since the group stage, haven’t seen her on any of the shows. Christopher was spot on in his praise of Gonzo as “crystal clear & straight to the point.” She is missed.

    • Kartik Krishnaiyer

      June 29, 2015 at 11:36 am

      Her disappearance is another case of FOX just not getting it. She’s always been good. Thought it was a savvy hire by them, but they have not used her well.

    • David

      June 29, 2015 at 2:33 pm

      Monica Gonzalez is still there. Every time I watch the evening World Cup show, she is on there.

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