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Tommy Smyth says farewell to ESPN after 24 years

Whether you like or dislike Tommy Smyth’s soccer analysis, there’s no doubt that he’s been an important part of the history of soccer on US television. Sadly, today was his last day at ESPN.

Smyth, who is most famous for his catchphrase “Bulge in the old onion bag,” bid farewell to ESPN today after a career than spanned 24 years at the self-proclaimed Worldwide Leader of Sports. Smyth will continue his radio work at Sirius XM FC (The Grumpy Pundits show with Rodney Marsh) as well as co-commentary for the Philadelphia Union TV broadcasts.

For many soccer fans in the United States, his time alongside Derek Rae on the UEFA Champions League broadcasts in the early 2000s was a memorable highlight. His chemistry with Rae as well as Smyth’s excitement and passion for the sport seeped through the television set in very formative years for soccer on US television. Two games, in particular, that stand out are his co-commentary work for the Champions League Finals involving Liverpool-AC Milan in 2005 and Manchester United-Bayern Munich in 1999.

“Tommy Smyth with a Y” as he liked to be called joined ESPN in 1993. In addition to the UEFA Champions League broadcasts on ESPN, Smyth was a familiar face and voice on ESPN’s Soccernet Press Pass as well as ESPN FC. His career included World Cup TV and radio broadcasts

At ESPN, Smyth has called more than 3,000 international matches from leagues all over the world. His credits include providing game analysis for ESPN’s telecast of European championship qualifiers, the Copa Libertadores, the South American Super Cup, Brazilian national championships, the Dutch league and the Italian Super Cups.

Smyth served as a game analyst for ESPN and ESPN2’s coverage of the 1998 FIFA Men’s World Cup in France. He also provided studio analysis for ESPN2’s World Cup 2Night, and ESPN & ESPN2’s pre-game and halftime coverage. Smyth served as a co-host of Latin Futbol Weekly, a weekly South American soccer report that aired weekly on ESPN2, and was seen in more than 200 other countries via ESPN International (1993-99). He called World Cup ’94 action for the One-on-One Radio Network.

Smyth has also provided game analysis for Major League Soccer’s NY/NJ Metrostars on a New York regional network as well as select national MLS telecasts on ESPN and ESPN2. In the summer of 1999, he served as co-host of the first soccer call-in show on New York’s WFAN Radio – The Metro Soccer Show.

Smyth estimates that he has commentated over 8,000 games in his lifetime.

He will certainly be missed.

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  1. Azer

    September 10, 2019 at 11:19 pm

    I came to the USA on the last day in August 1998 I remember Tommy Smyth doing UEFA Champions League commentary on ESPN alongside Darek Rae. He also hosted a show with Rob Stone on ESPN called World Wide Soccer where they’d show highlights of various European leagues and provide analyses. Those are some great memories.

  2. David Marchant

    September 10, 2019 at 9:37 am

    Tommy Smyth once described a shot that – literally – went along the ground (think ‘daisy-cutter’) as a “chip” and falsely claimed during his commentary of a cup match in South America that a sent-off player would be allowed to come back on for what he described as a “mini-game” that would follow if the scores were still level after 90 minutes. He was, of course, referring to extra time. His inane comments and lack of basic knowledge of a sport he was supposed to be an expert led to an unusually sad – and extremely annoying – spectacle. He simply blurts out the first thing that’s in his head and it ain’t pretty!

  3. Geno

    October 28, 2018 at 12:57 pm

    Still have to listen to him mispronounce Reeeal Madrid and say “should have went….” when watching BeinSports. So annoying …his main job is to speak on air and he doesn’t have a good grasp of his own language…

  4. haile

    May 18, 2018 at 6:52 am

    we in Africa missed ESPN in general and Tommy in particular today i was just being lazy and happen to visit ESPN and decided to see what Tommy was doing sadly i found out he has left

    Tommy is such a great man he funny responses jokes etc. will be missed by ESPN funs
    wish you all the best

  5. cm asia

    March 30, 2018 at 4:09 am

    Tommy Smyth was nothing more than a caricature of what networks wanted American audiences to think of when they thought about European “soccer”.

    Any television game he called was better watched with the mute button employed.

    There’s a great line in the movie Chinatown.

    “Politicians, ugly buildings, and whores all get respectable if they last long enough.”

    Add Tommy Smyth to that list.

  6. rkujay

    March 29, 2018 at 3:14 am

    Give him a loving kick in the old onion bag.

  7. Gordon S

    March 28, 2018 at 2:22 pm

    Sorry Tommy,

    Never, in a life of playing and watching football, did I ever hear anyone who talked less sense. From all my friends in Scotland, Australia, Canada, Azerbaijan and Thailand, where I currently live, I am delighted you are gone. How you managed to make a living on ESPN Sport for 24 years shows how little US producers know/knew about football.
    Enjoy your retirement but for most football fans, it came 23 years and 11 months too late!

  8. Michael

    April 26, 2017 at 10:47 pm

    Those of us who have been around a long time following soccer on TV recognize Tommy Smyth as someone who has been a major player in the sport in the US. Thank you Tommy for your contribution. You will be missed.

  9. Oliver Tse

    April 26, 2017 at 3:16 am

    Thank you very much, Tommy, for everything you have done in the past 24 years.

    For the record, you were the creator of Press Pass on ESPN Australia, ESPN New Zealand, ESPN Israel, and ESPN Africa. That show has evolved over the years into ESPN FC. I wrote about the show for the New York Times when it first became available in the U.S. 6 days a week in 2012.

    (Hey Men in Blazers, give Tommy a golden jacket at Blazer Con. He earned it.)

    There were not enough of us during the early adopter era after World Cup 1994, before direct broadcast satellite (DBS) TV took off. I had no access to Spanish-language television via cable TV at the time. ESPN2 was less than 2 years old and was only carrying a handful of UEFA Champions League games that were available on ESPN Latin America and ESPN Asia. You were co-commentating with John Paul (J.P.) Dellacamera at the time. You would be J.P.’s sidekick for 6 years before J.P. jumped to Turner to do play-by-play for the Women’s United Soccer Association.

    I still remember picking up the phone as I walked into my Ithaca, New York apartment on a cold Sunday night in 1995 after working all day at my research lab at Cornell, with you on the other side of the line thanking me for something I wrote for an email list comparing you to former NFL Oakland Raiders head coach turned broadcaster John Madden, which got your attention as what I wrote was circulated around ESPN.

    I still remember my only visit to Bristol, Connecticut in March 1996. I interviewed with executives Tom Hagopian and Eric Schoenfeld early that morning before they handed me over to spokesman (and fellow Cal Berkeley alum) Dean Diltz, who gave me what Bob Ley referred to as the “10 cent tour” of the ESPN Production complex before he escorted me to Building 6 to meet with ESPN International Coordinating Producer Ed Staskelunas. Ed invited me to observe the production of a UEFA Champions League quarterfinal match between Juventus and Real Madrid. The producer/director that day, Maria Soares, was at the top of her game. She was sharp and she was super organized.

    Two other memories from that visit: Ed told me that he wants his co-commentators to show passion, enthusiasm, and energy (something the #2 co-commentator at the time, Joe LaRosa, did NOT have. Not surprisingly, Ed replaced LaRosa with Eddie Mighten a few weeks later), and J.P. asked me for the correct pronunciation of Juventus forward Michele (mee-KAY-lah) Padovano about 60 minutes before kickoff as we relaxed and chatted inside the sound booth. I assured J.P. that I had the correct pronunciation because I followed Formula 1 and I remembered the correct pronunciation of Formula 1 driver Michele Alboretto.

    17 years have passed since our last face-to-face meeting inside the departure lounge of Terminal A at San Jose International Airport as you and Derek Rae waited for an American Airlines red eye flight after calling the San Jose Earthquakes vs New York/New Jersey MetroStars MLS game for MSG Network in New York City.

    As the bandwagon of big time international soccer consumers in the U.S. continues to grow, TV production continue to evolve. The stakes have never been higher now that the likes of Turner is getting involved.

    Perhaps we will cross paths again. Enjoy your retirement.

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