Any television viewers in America waiting for their first glimpse of their national team under new coach Jurgen Klinsmann must have been somewhat surprised to find that ESPN were giving priority to a regional semi-final of Little League baseball instead of the game against Mexico..
Similarly viewers in Canada have been perplexed to find that they have, on occasion, missed the beginning of a Whitecaps game due to a Toronto Blue Jays game going into extra innings, and any Toronto FC fan hoping to watch the entirety of their upcoming Champions League game will have to avoid any news of the result as it is only being shown on tape delay due “ongoing baseball commitments”.
It sometimes seems that soccer coverage in North America is the media equivalent of the Europa League. Everybody strives desperately to achieve it, trumpets their delight when they get it, and then spend all their time ensuring that the least resources go into it when the event finally rolls around.
Maybe now that the MLS has announced a deal with NBC then things will change but currently the game is being a done a huge disservice by the people entrusted with broadcasting its product.
There are those who will argue that MLS teams should just be grateful that their games are broadcast at all given the low ratings numbers that they achieve, but this begets a “chicken and egg” argument about whether the casual soccer fan who is used to the high quality coverage that European Leagues enjoy is able to stomach poorly timed cutaway shots and missed kick-offs that are the current staple of much of the coverage for any length of time.
In other words; if the shop window looks a mess then few people will want the wares inside no matter how good they are.
In the opening weekend of the EPL words such as “Sunderland” “De Gea” and “Suarez” were trending on Twitter in both the USA and Canada. The interest in soccer is there (that debate is surely over now) and some of us will watch whatever the networks put out as long as they manage to train the camera on the ball for the majority of the time, but the game deserves and needs, better from its domestic broadcasters.
The time may be fast approaching when they need soccer more than soccer needs them, so now would be a good time to lay down a solid foundation of goodwill amongst the viewers by treating the game with far more respect and professionalism than the vast majority are currently demonstrating.
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