ESPN 30 for 30 to air new series of films for World Cup

As much as I try, I’m still not a big soccer guy. However, I do know the importance of the World Cup and plan to give it my full attention.

Also, if ESPN 30 for 30 does a bunch of films on checkers, I’m watching.

Checkers will have to wait for another day, because the ESPN 30 for 30 crew will be busy with soccer this spring. The network has announced plans for a series of documentaries on the World Cup in advance of its coverage of the big event in June.

The good news for soccer fans is that ESPN is going all out in what will be its last World Cup for a while; Fox takes over in 2018.

The 30 for 30s should be a treat for all, not just soccer fans. Here’s the official rundown from ESPN:


ESPN Films, creators of the critically-acclaimed 30 for 30 film series, will premiere a new series in April surrounding the 2014 FIFA World Cup on ESPN. 30 for 30: Soccer Stories will include a mix of standalone feature-length and 30-minute-long documentary films from an award winning group of filmmakers telling compelling narratives from around the international soccer landscape. In addition, a collection of 10 vignettes about Brazil’s rich culture will be featured throughout ESPN’s FIFA World Cup programming.

“With ESPN being the home of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, we know that sports fans will be looking forward to high quality content focused on what is perhaps the world’s most revered sport,” said Connor Schell, VP of ESPN Films and Original Content. “We feel this is the perfect time to expand upon the success of our 30 for 30 series by focusing this collection on some of the incredible stories of soccer’s legendary past.”

Two feature-length films:

Hillsborough, Directed by Daniel Gordon

25 years ago, on April 15, 1989, the worst disaster in British football history occurred in an overcrowded stadium in Sheffield, England, 150 miles north of London. 3,000 fans flocked through the turnstiles to head to the area reserved for standing, despite a capacity of less than half of that. The result was a “human crush” that killed 96 people and injured 766. Prior to the disaster at Hillsborough, British football was known for the grime of its stadiums, hooligan fans and inadequate facilities, but great change came after the Hillsborough disaster. What emerged is now known as the most rich and powerful soccer league in the world, the English Premier League.

White, Blue and White, Directed by Camilo Antolini; Produced by Juan José Campanella

Although a large number of Argentinian players have found football success around the world, few have made a name for themselves in England’s top league. One notable exception is Ossie Ardiles. Fresh off Argentina’s victory in the 1978 World Cup, Ardiles and his compatriot, Ricky Villa, joined Tottenham Hotspur later that year, when the notion of overseas players was still new to the English league. Helping lead Spurs to victory in the 1981 FA Cup, the Argentinian stars became cult heroes in England. But on April 2, 1982, everything radically changed as Argentinian troops descended on the British-ruled Falkland Islands, asserting rightful sovereignty. A conflicted Ardiles returned to Buenos Aires two days later, his bright future with Spurs suddenly in question.

Six 30-minute films:

Garrincha: Crippled Angel, Directed by Marcos Horacio Azevedo

In Brazil, Pelé is “The King.” But his teammate, Mané Garrincha, is also remembered as the one of the best soccer players of all time. In a country where the sport grants its protagonists such royal deference, Garrincha is the jester– an entertainer who amused crowds and turned soccer into an irresistible spectacle, all while helping Brazil capture two World Cups. This, despite his legs being so bent that early in his career doctors deemed him unfit to play professionally. Match after match, he proved them wrong. But his unpredictable moves were of little assistance after his playing career came to an end. Abandoned by the soccer establishment, Garrincha died a victim of alcoholism in 1983. But his fans did not forget him. His body was brought to a cemetery, in the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. Garrincha’s relatives had to borrow a grave, which turned out to be too small for his coffin. Thousands of people flooded the tiny burial ground, much more than the place could accommodate. After 49 years of a brilliant career and tumultuous life, the man who turned soccer into a “Beautiful Game” was memorably laid to rest. His legend lives on.

Barbosa – The Man Who Made All of Brazil Cry, Directed by Loch Phillipps; Executive Producers: Jonathan Hock & Roger Bennett

In 1949, Goalkeeper Moacir Barbosa and his Brazilian national team are on top of the world, having just won the South American championship by a score of 7-0. Barbosa is one of the heroes, widely considered one of the world’s best goalkeepers. But everything changed during the 1950 World Cup, played for the first time in Brazil. Before the final game against neighbor and rival Uruguay, the Brazilian Football Confederation was so confident of victory it had made 22 gold medals with the names of their players imprinted on them. With 11 minutes left, Uruguay shocked the estimated crowd of 200,000 at Marcana and scored the winning goal – a goal that is still considered to be the greatest sporting tragedy to befall Brazil. The blame was mostly pinned on Barbosa for being out of position on his goal line, tantamount to Bill Buckner letting a baseball roll between his legs. The country went into a deep mourning, fans committed suicide, and Barbosa was nationally blacklisted. Barbosa was considered cursed and he never played in another World Cup. He rotted away, practically penniless and alone. On July 13th, the 2014 World Cup Final will again take place at the Maracana, giving the Brazilian team the chance to write a new ending into Brazilian folklore.

Ceasefire Massacre, Directed by Alex Gibney and Trevor Bunim

New Jersey, June 18, 1994. Giants Stadium is awash with green as Irish soccer fans arrive to watch Ireland’s opening World Cup match against the mighty Italy. The sense of optimism is infectious. The Celtic Tiger is in its infancy, Bill Clinton’s decision to grant a visa to Irish Republican leader Gerry Adams has propelled the peace process forward and Jack Charlton’s team are walking onto the pitch before 75,000 fervent spectators made up of Irish, Italians and Americans of Irish and Italian decent. Amongst the fans is Irish Prime Minister Albert Reynolds who is sitting with members of an American group who’ve been working behind-the-scenes to end the conflict in Northern Ireland. The electrifying mood is shared by the supporters watching the match in the Heights Bar, a tiny pub in the Northern Irish village of Loughin Island, 24 miles south of Belfast. At the half, the Irish are remarkably ahead 1-0. Shortly after the second half begins, two masked gunmen belonging to a Protestant terror group burst into the Heights Bar. Thirty rounds are fired and six innocent men watching a soccer match were killed. Ceasefire Massacre will reveal how the juxtaposition of the jubilation felt inside Giants Stadium against the horrors of what happened in the Heights Bar, encapsulated the mood of the time. After 25-years of conflict, Ireland and her people longed for peace and prosperity but the brutalities of the violence in the North were never far from the surface. The gunning down of innocent men as they watched a soccer match marked both a low-point and a turning-point in the Northern Ireland conflict; one that would ultimately contribute to the paramilitaries on both sides calling ceasefires just weeks later.

The Opposition, Directed by Ezra Edelman

In the wake of the 1973 military coup in Chile, American-backed dictator Augusto Pinochet transformed Santiago’s National Stadium into a concentration camp where political opponents were tortured and assassinated. Only months later, that same stadium was scheduled to host a decisive World Cup qualifier between Chile and the Soviet Union. Despite protests, FIFA’s own investigation, and the Soviet’s eventual boycott, the Chilean team still played the game as planned, qualifying for the 1974 World Cup on a goal scored against no one. 

Mysteries of The Jules Rimet Trophy, Directed by Brett Ratner

Inspired by Nike, the Greek goddess of victory, the Jules Rimet Trophy was awarded to the nation that won FIFA’s World Cup and was among the most coveted prizes in all of sports. It is also the sports prize shrouded in the most intrigue – with the whereabouts of the original trophy unknown to this day. This film focuses on the great prize’s first brush with crime – a Nazi plan to steal the Rimet Trophy from Italy during World War II. The story unfolds like a great caper film, where our hero, Ottorino Barassi, a mild-mannered Italian soccer official, attempts to protect a valued treasure.

Maradona ’86, Directed by Sam Blair; Executive Produced by John Battsek

In the 1986 World Cup, Maradona redefined what is possible for one man to accomplish on the soccer field. Already a figure of notoriety, but with one failed World Cup behind him, Maradona took possession of the international stage in Mexico, the spotlight rarely drifting from him as he wrote an indelible history with his feet and, of course, with a hand from God. Delivered with passion and intelligence, Maradona ‘86 is a fascinating, evocative and operatic portrait of Maradona, revealing his inner complexity and contradictions while basking in the joy and passion of his performance on the pitch as he wrote his name on soccer history forever.

10 Vignettes:

Coraçao, Directed by Jonathan Hock; Executive Produced by Roger Bennett

Brazil’s soccer tradition does not compete with other countries’ teams: it exists on a different level. But aside from soccer success, and despite Brazil’s recent economic boom, most Americans know little about the country, its geographical richness, gripping culture, and complex recent history in which the nation has transformed from a military dictatorship to a thriving, if young, republic. This short vignette series will travel from the beaches and favelas of Rio, to Salvador – the former hub of the slave trade – on a journey of music, dance, and history, to discover the stories that lie behind Brazil’s legend and explore how Brazilian soccer is truly the expression of the soul of its people.

Premier League on NBC: Who should I root for? Fans will need to make connections to grow ratings

NBC’s wall-to-wall coverage of the Premier League, which starts tomorrow, is terrific for soccer fans. However, if the network is going to get a bang for its big investment ($250 million over 3 years), it has to bring in people like me.

Despite several attempts, I never have bought into soccer. I watch the World Cup and perhaps a big game or two, but not much more.

Yet I am intrigued by the Premier League. After covering the British Open all these years, I have become a fan of most things British (notable exception: some of the food). So given all the hype, I might be willing to give the Premier League a try.

However, I started thinking about it. The initial reason why people become fans of a sport is that they develop a certain connection to a team. I grew up in Chicago. Thanks to my father, I became a White Sox first before becoming a baseball fan. A Bears fan before football; Bulls before basketball. The resurgence of the Blackhawks has made me a hockey fan again.

I likely won’t watch the Premier League much if I don’t have a rooting interest. Otherwise, it will seem like random players running around on a pitch.

I went for advice to an old friend, Mike Mulligan. The Mully of The Mully and Hanley Show on WSCR-AM 670 in Chicago is a long-time soccer fan.

I told Mully I want to follow a team. Since I grew up in Chicago, I have an underdog mentality when it comes to my favorite teams. I can’t see myself rooting for Manchester United, aka, the Yankees.

I asked Mully for his recommendations. In an email, he replied:

I am something of a Premier League fan, but much more a Manchester United supporter.

You are out of your mind, i.e. a Cubs fan, if you are looking for a team to support, but dismissing United because of their success. Nothing except my family has brought me consistent joy and pleasure like the Red Devils. I could weep thinking about it.

The League is a three team race between United, City and Chelsea. Arsenal, Liverpool and Spurs are in the next level.  Couldn’t make an argument for anyone but United, the world’s greatest football team.

I don’t know Mike. Following ManU seems too easy. I need other options.

Dan Levy in Bleacher Report did a post: “Five Big Teams a First Time Fan Should Root for in the Premier League.”

He writes:

If a new fan wants to follow a team in the EPL and has no preconceived allegiance to any club, wouldn’t it be prudent to suggest a team that might actually win something?

If you follow that logic, the choices are slim. There are really only four, maybe five, clubs with a chance to win the EPL this—or any—season.

Since the inception of the Premier League, there has been only one league champion from any club other than Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal or Manchester City. When Blackburn won the EPL in 1994-95, it marked the last season one of the current top four clubs didn’t win. That’s nearly 20 years ago!

Really? For as much as the Yankees, Red Sox win a lot of games because of their wealth, the World Series bounty really gets spread around in baseball. It even included my White Sox in 2005. For the most part, the same is true in the other American sports.

Sorry, Dan, I’m not a frontrunner guy. Can you provide another option?

Levy writes:

The club outside of those four with the best chance is Tottenham, surely. Spurs will either benefit from Gareth Bale on the field or the money from Bale in the cupboards to reload with talent to get them into Champions League position. As currently constructed, Spurs may have the talent to compete for the EPL crown this year, lacking only a bit of depth to sustain the rigors of a long campaign.

Tottenham? Don’t they have a new coach from the states? A fellow by the name of Ted Lasso (aka Jason Sudeikis).

Seems like he knows what he is doing.

Plus, I like the sound of Tottenham. Seems so very British.

OK, it’s Tottenham for me. Go Spurs!



Soccer news: ESPN announces hosts and analysts for new daily soccer show

I’m not a soccer guy, so I’m not going to pronounce judgment here. However the reactions on Twitter suggest that this is a quality lineup.

From ESPN:


ESPN has announced the hosts and analysts for ESPN FC on TV, the company’s new global soccer news and information program.  An extension of the popular digital brand, the year-round television show will debut Sunday, August 11, at 10 p.m. ET (7 p.m. PT), on ESPN2.

ESPN FC Press Pass host Dan Thomas, formerly with Real Madrid FC television, and SportsCenter anchor Max Bretos, will split hosting duties while a rotation of 23 veteran soccer pundits and contributors from the U.S., the United Kingdom, Mexico, Spain, Argentina and others, will be regularly featured.


·         Dan Thomas – Joined ESPN in 2010 as a presenter for ESPN FC Press Pass, ESPN International’s English-language program for global football.  Thomas is a former sports broadcasting prodigy who, at 15 years old, parlayed his passion into his first job at BBC Radio Cornwall, United Kingdom, reading local football, rugby and cricket scores.  After graduating from Solent University in Southampton in 2002, Thomas began hosting “Saints Alive,” the weekly show on Southampton FC.  In 2005, he moved to Madrid, Spain, for the launch of Real Madrid TV, where he served as the outlet’s lead presenter until his move to ESPN.

·         Max BretosSportsCenter anchor who joined ESPN in 2010 to host the network’s flagship news and information program.  Bretos came to ESPN from FOX Soccer, where he served as studio host and match commentator for several leagues including Major League Soccer.  Since joining ESPN, he has served as host of MLS Cup coverage on ESPN – hosting the network’s critically acclaimed coverage of David Beckham’s last match in the league (MLS Cup 2012). Bretos’ role on ESPN FC will be in addition to his regular SportsCenter duties.


·         Roger Bennett – columnist and Grantland’s “Men In Blazers” podcast co-host, Bennett covers international and domestic soccer in the United States.

·         Craig Burley – 1998 FIFA World Cup player for Scotland and former Chelsea FC midfielder, he is relocating his family from United Kingdom to the United States to serve primarily as an analyst for ESPN FC on TV.

·         Ian Darke – ESPN’s lead soccer play-by-play commentator.

·         Adrian Healey – ESPN’s play-by-play commentator for MLS.

·         Shaka Hislop – Former Premier League and Trinidad & Tobago National Team goalkeeper, Hislop made history as the starting goalkeeper on Trinidad & Tobago’s only FIFA World Cup team in 2006.

·         Raphael Honigstein – An accomplished German football journalist and author currently based in London, Honigstein’s work has been published widely in both English and German media, and he also appears on several football television programs in Europe. He will contribute insight on German football.

·         Kasey Keller – Former U.S. Men’s National Team goalkeeper and three-time US Soccer Athlete of the year, Keller played 609 professional matches in four countries – Spain, England, Germany and USA. He is studio analyst for MLS and U.S. Men’s National Team matches on ESPN.

·         Alexi Lalas – Former U.S. Men’s National Team player who played in the 1994 and 1998 FIFA World Cups, Lalas is ESPN’s lead soccer studio analyst.  He is the first U.S. player to have played in the Italian Serie A – returning in 1996 to help launch MLS and was a team executive for three teams.

·         Frank Leboeuf – 1998 FIFA World Cup champion and French National Team player, Leboeuf played mostly for Chelsea in a 17-year professional career.

·         Sid Lowe – An international soccer journalist and columnist based Madrid, Spain, who covers Spanish football for top-line English-language media across the world.

·         Gabriele Marcotti – One of global soccer’s leading journalists, Marcotti is an author and expert on Italian, as well as European football.  He joined ESPN in July 2012 for the launch of, the company’s global soccer digital hub.

·         Paul Mariner – Former England National Team player, Mariner played 18 years in English football.  He became a coach in the United States working with two MLS teams – New England Revolution and Toronto FC.

·         Steve McManaman – One of England’s most decorated footballers and former national team player, McManaman spent nine years with Liverpool FC (1990-1999) and five with Real Madrid FC (1999-2003), becoming the first English footballer to win a Champions League title with a foreign club in 2000.

·         Alejandro Moreno – Former Venezuelan National team player and three-time MLS Cup champion, Moreno serves as match analyst for Mexican National Team and Liga Bancomer MX matches on ESPN networks.

·         Steve Nicol – Former Scotland National Team player, Nicol played professional soccer for 22 seasons highlighted by 13 years with Liverpool FC (1981-1994). He later moved into coaching and led the New England Revolution to it most-successful era in Major League Soccer.

·         José Antonio “Tato” Noriega – ESPN Deportes and ESPN International soccer studio analyst, Tato Noriega is a former Mexican National Team player, who spent 20 years with several clubs in Mexico’s Liga Bancomer MX.

·         Fernando Palomo – Play-by-play commentator for Mexican National Team matches on ESPN (El Tri on ESPN).

·         Derek Rae – ESPN International’s soccer play-by-play commentator currently based in the United Kingdom.

·         Stewart Robson – Former Arsenal FC player, Robson played 14 years of top-flight professional football in England.

·         Tommy Smyth – One of ESPN International’s English language match and studio analyst, Smyth’s hard-hitting punditry and ability to insightfully predict outcomes of matches before they are played have made him popular among soccer fans in and outside the United States.

·         Santiago Solari – Argentine retired professional footballer, Solari played for Atletico Madrid (1999-2000), Real Madrid (2000-2005), Inter Milan (2005-2008) and others, in a career that spanned 15 seasons.

·         Taylor Twellman – One of the most prolific goal-scorers in MLS history, Twellman is lead soccer analyst for the league and U.S. Men’s National Team matches on ESPN.  He began his professional career with three years (1999-2002) in the German Bundesliga playing with 1860 Munich.

·         Peter Walton – Former professional referee in English football, Walton is general manager of the Professional Referees Organization (PRO) in North America.

Feast away soccer fans: NBC announces first three months of Premier League games

This is going to be quite a feast. There will be 10 games on NBC, and 57 on NBC SN, plus bonus coverage elsewhere.


Here’s the rundown from NBC:


Following the Premier League’s announcement of the first three months of the 2013-14 schedule on July 11, NBC Sports Group today released its television schedule for that time period featuring live coverage of all 130 matches, beginning Saturday, August 17 at 7:00 AM ET on NBC Sports Network with the Liverpool-Stoke matchup.

A total of 69 Premier League matches – at least five games each week in the season’s first three months – will be presented on NBC Sports Network, NBC and CNBC with all games preceded and followed by Premier League Live pre- and post-match shows from the NBC Sports Group International Broadcast Center in Stamford, Conn.

The 61 remaining Premier League matches will be made available on Premier League Extra Time, a bonus television package available to MVPDs at no extra cost for customers who receive NBC Sports Network.

In addition, 27 matches in the season’s first three months will be telecast in Spanish by Telemundo and mun2.

All Premier League games will be streamed on NBC Sports Live Extra, NBC Sports Group’s live streaming product for desktops, mobile devices and tablets. Games airing on NBC Sports Network will be live streamed via “TV Everywhere,” the media industry’s effort to make quality content available to MVPD customers both in and out of the home and on multiple platforms.

Premier League Matches, First 3 Months, By Outlet

NBC Sports Network 57
NBC 10
Telemundo/mun2 27
NBC Sports Live Extra 130
Premier League Extra Time 61

To date, AT&T U-verse®, Cablevision’s Optimum, Comcast’s Xfinity TV, DIRECTV, DISH, and Suddenlink have opted to carry the additional Premier League matches via the Premier League Extra Time package, and AT&T U-verse, Cablevision’s Optimum, Comcast’s Xfinity TV, Cox, DIRECTV, DISH, Suddenlink and Verizon FiOS will make all Premier League games available through TV Everywhere. Additionally, over 100 NCTC partners have either signed-on to the Premier League Extra Time package or have opted-in via TV Everywhere, including Blue Ridge Communications, Buckeye CableSystem, CenturyLink Prism, and RCN.

Following are schedule highlights for the first three months of the Premier League season:

Saturday, August 17, 7:45 AM ET on NBCSN


NBC Sports Group’s first-ever telecast of Premier League action features the Liverpool-Stoke matchup.

Saturday, August 17, 12:30 PM ET on NBC & mun 2


Manager David Moyes takes the reins of the Premier League’s most decorated team – returning champions Manchester United – from their legendary manager of over 26 years, Sir Alex Ferguson.   The Red Devils’ first test comes against a fiery Swansea side.

Sunday, August 18, 11:00 AM ET on NBCSN & mun2


Chelsea, last season’s third-place finishers, begin their campaign against newly promoted side, Hull City. Jose Mourinho, “the Special One,” is back as the Blues manager to the delight of the Chelsea faithful.  With an all-star international line-up, Chelsea will be looking for strong showing  against the Tigers, whose quest to avoid a trip back to the Championship begins against one of the Premier League’s perennial powers.

Saturday, August 24, 10:00 AM ET on TBD


Stoke, established in 1863, are the oldest club in the Premier League and in their first home match of the campaign, they host newly promoted London-side Crystal Palace.  Stoke were known for playing an aggressive, physical style of soccer but new manager Mark Hughes is looking to change that, and playing against colorful manager Ian Holloway’s Crystal Palace, that now boasts rising Spain star and exciting midfielder Jose Campana, will provide an early measuring stick for both the Stoke team in transition and Palace’s rising star.

Monday, August 26, 3:00 PM ET on NBCSN


In just the second week of the campaign, last season’s first- and third-place finishers meet at the Premier League’s largest stadium, Manchester United’s Old Trafford.  Eight of the last nine Premier League titles have been won by either United or Chelsea and both clubs will be under tremendous scrutiny this season with new managers.

Sunday, September 1, 8:30 AM ET on NBSCN, Telemundo


The two most decorated teams in English soccer history simply do not like each other.  At Liverpool’s historic Anfield, the Reds’ beloved captain and star Steven Gerrard, aka “Stevie G”, will look to help his side earn three points against United in the Premier League for the first time since March 2011.

Sunday, September 1, 11:00 AM ET on NBSCN & mun2


Arsenal host neighbors Tottenham at Emirates Stadium for the first edition of the season’s North London Derby and for a tough, early test at home for Arsenal.  The rivalry between the Gunners and Spurs dates to the early 1900s, and with Arsenal having finished directly above Tottenham in the table the last four seasons, Tottenham will be looking to make an early statement that their place in the standings belongs above Arsenal.

Saturday, September 14, 10:00 AM ET on TBD


Hull and Cardiff, both promoted at the end of last season, meet early on in their Premier League campaigns, and as familiar foes, having faced each other the last three seasons in England’s second tier Championship, the Tigers and the Bluebirds will be eager to prove they belong in the league when the world is watching.

Sunday, September 22, 11:00 AM ET on NBCSN & Telemundo


This season’s first installment of one of the league’s most riveting local rivalries, the Manchester Derby, kicks off at the Etihad on September 22.  The Manchester teams’ stadiums are just four miles apart, but their distaste for one another is huge.  City dramatically won the title on the final day of the season in 2012, leaving the Red Devils in second, while United were crowned champions in 2013 and City were runners-up.  The competitiveness and physical distance between these two sides always makes for an electric game, and this time both clubs will be playing under new managers.

Sunday, October 27, 9:30 AM ET on NBCSN & mun2


Last season’s second- and third-place finishers are sure to provide an exciting match — Chelsea finished just one win behind City last season.  By the end of October, the teams’ new managers and summer signings should be settled in to their roles, so this match should offer more of a glimpse as to these teams’ chances at the coveted trophy.

Sunday, October 27, 12 Noon ET on NBCSN & mun2


Sunderland’s Stadium of Light hosts the season’s first installment of the Tyne-Wear Derby, the name given to any match between Sunderland and Newcastle.  Just 12 miles separate the Magpies and the Black Cats, and last season, Newcastle edged out Sunderland to finish 16th, but both teams sat dangerously close to the relegation zone.  American forward Jozy Altidore, recently signed by Sunderland, will be a player to watch as he works to prove he’s a Premier League force.

Sunday November 3, 11:00 AM ET on NBCSN & mun2


The South Wales Derby between Welsh sides Cardiff City and Swansea City is one of the most widely anticipated matches of the season.  With Cardiff’s promotion at the end of last season, the Bluebirds will be playing top-flight soccer for the first time in 51 years, and two Welsh teams will be playing in England’s top flight for the first time ever.

Saturday, November 9, 10:00 AM ET on TBD


This match features two American owners as Liverpool and owners Fenway Sports Group host Fulham and owner Shahid Khan, who also owns the Jacksonville Jaguars.  While the Red Sox and Jaguars will have nothing to do with this match, the American influence in the Premier League will be on display as Liverpool, who need a successful season more than ever, face the Cottagers.

Sunday, November 10, 11:10 AM ET on NBCSN & Telemundo


Last season’s leading scorer Dutch star Robin van Persie, aka “RVP,” welcomes his former club to Manchester United’s Old Trafford.  RVP managed a goal in both matches last season against the Gunners, and with the 2012-13 Premier League title in his back pocket as well, his news-grabbing move from the Emirates last season has paid off.  Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger will look for some magic from his scoring threats Lukas Podolski, Theo Walcott, Olivier Giroud, and Santi Cazorla.

Saturday, November 23, 7:45 AM ET on NBCSN & mun2


The Merseyside Derby, the longest running top-flight rivalry in England (played at the highest level of English competition since 1962-63), features the Blues of Everton against the Reds of Liverpool.  The two clubs know each other well; their stadiums sit less than a mile apart, and they are playing for the 221st time.  Though Liverpool are the historically better side, Everton finished 6th, one spot ahead of Stevie G’s lads last season.  With both clubs scratching at the door to the top-5 and European play, the Merseyside Derby at Goodison Park holds much meaning for both sides.

Following is the NBCUniversal schedule for the first three months of the Premier League season:

(NOTE: TBD indicates that there will be one match in that time slot on NBCSN, in some cases one match on mun2, and remaining non-NBCSN games on Premier League Extra Time. Final channel assignments for those matches will be made in the coming weeks.)

Date Time (ET) Home Away Network
Sat., Aug. 17 7:45 a.m. Liverpool Stoke NBCSN
10 a.m. Arsenal Aston Villa TBD
10 a.m. Norwich Everton TBD
10 a.m. Sunderland Fulham TBD
10 a.m. West Ham Cardiff TBD
10 a.m. West Brom Southampton TBD
12:30 p.m. Swansea Man United NBC, mun2
Sun., Aug. 18 8:30 a.m. Crystal Palace Tottenham NBCSN
11 a.m. Chelsea Hull NBCSN
Mon., Aug. 19 3 p.m. Man City Newcastle NBCSN
Wed., Aug. 21 2:30 p.m. Chelsea Aston Villa NBCSN
Sat., Aug. 24 7:45 a.m. Fulham Arsenal NBCSN, mun2
10 a.m. Newcastle West Ham TBD
10 a.m. Everton West Brom TBD
10 a.m. Southampton Sunderland TBD
10 a.m. Hull Norwich TBD
10 a.m. Stoke Crystal Palace TBD
12:30 p.m. Aston Villa Liverpool NBC
Sun., Aug. 25 11 a.m. Tottenham Swansea TBD
11 a.m. Cardiff Man City TBD
Mon., Aug 26 3 p.m. Man United Chelsea NBCSN
Sat., Aug. 31 7:45 a.m. Man City Hull NBCSN
10 a.m. Newcastle Fulham TBD
10 a.m. Cardiff Everton TBD
10 a.m. West Ham Stoke TBD
10 a.m. West Brom Swansea TBD
10 a.m. Norwich Southampton TBD
12:30 p.m. Crystal Palace Sunderland NBC
Sun., Sept. 1 8:30 a.m. Liverpool Man United NBCSN, Telemundo
11 a.m. Arsenal Tottenham NBCSN, mun2
Sat., Sept. 14 7:45 a.m. Man United Crystal Palace NBCSN, mun2
10 a.m. Sunderland Arsenal TBD
10 a.m. Stoke Man City TBD
10 a.m. Tottenham Norwich TBD
10 a.m. Aston Villa Newcastle TBD
10 a.m. Fulham West Brom TBD
10 a.m. Hull Cardiff TBD
12:30 p.m. Everton Chelsea NBC, mun2
Sun., Sept. 15 11 a.m. Southampton West Ham NBCSN
Mon., Sept. 16 3 p.m. Swansea Liverpool NBCSN
Sat., Sept. 21 7:45 a.m. Norwich Aston Villa NBCSN
10 a.m. Cardiff Tottenham TBD
10 a.m. Liverpool Southampton TBD
10 a.m. West Ham Everton TBD
10 a.m. West Brom Sunderland TBD
10 a.m. Newcastle Hull TBD
10 a.m. Crystal Palace Swansea TBD
12:30 p.m. Chelsea Fulham NBCSN, mun2
Sun., Sept. 22 8:30 a.m. Arsenal Stoke CNBC, mun2
11 a.m. Man City Man United NBCSN, Telemundo
Sat., Sept. 28 7:45 a.m. Tottenham Chelsea NBCSN, mun2
10 a.m. Aston Villa Man City TBD
10 a.m. Man United West Brom TBD
10 a.m. Fulham Cardiff TBD
10 a.m. Hull West Ham TBD
10 a.m. Southampton Crystal Palace TBD
12:30 p.m. Swansea Arsenal NBC
Sun., Sept. 29 8:30 a.m. Stoke Norwich NBCSN
11 a.m. Sunderland Liverpool NBCSN
Mon., Sept. 30 3 p.m. Everton Newcastle NBCSN
Sat., Oct. 5 7:45 a.m. Man City Everton NBCSN, mun2
10 a.m. Tottenham West Ham TBD
10 a.m. Liverpool Crystal Palace TBD
10 a.m. Cardiff Newcastle TBD
10 a.m. Fulham Stoke TBD
10 a.m. Hull Aston Villa TBD
10 a.m. Southampton Swansea TBD
12:30 p.m. Sunderland Man United NBCSN, mun2
Sun., Oct. 6 8:30 a.m. Norwich Chelsea NBCSN
11 a.m. West Brom Arsenal NBCSN
Sat., Oct. 19 7:45 a.m. Newcastle Liverpool NBCSN
10 a.m. Man United Southampton TBD
10 a.m. Arsenal Norwich TBD
10 a.m. Chelsea Cardiff TBD
10 a.m. Everton Hull TBD
10 a.m. Swansea Sunderland TBD
10 a.m. Stoke West Brom TBD
12:30 p.m. West Ham Man City NBC
Sun., Oct. 20 11 a.m. Aston Villa Tottenham NBCSN, mun2
Mon., Oct. 21 3 p.m. Crystal Palace Fulham NBCSN
Sat., Oct. 26 7:45 a.m. Crystal Palace Arsenal NBCSN
10 a.m. Man United Stoke TBD
10 a.m. Liverpool West Brom TBD
10 a.m. Tottenham Hull TBD
10 a.m. Aston Villa Everton TBD
10 a.m. Swansea West Ham TBD
10 a.m. Norwich Cardiff TBD
12:30 p.m. Southampton Fulham NBCSN
Sun., Oct. 27 9:30 a.m. Chelsea Man City NBCSN, mun2
Noon Sunderland Newcastle NBCSN
Sat., Nov. 2 8:45 Newcastle Chelsea NBCSN
11 a.m. Fulham Man United TBD
11 a.m. Man City Norwich TBD
11 a.m. Hull Sunderland TBD
11 a.m. West Ham Aston Villa TBD
11 a.m. Stoke Southampton TBD
11 a.m. West Brom Crystal Palace TBD
1:30 Arsenal Liverpool NBC, mun2
Sun., Nov. 3 8:30 a.m. Everton Tottenham CNBC
11 a.m. Cardiff Swansea NBCSN
Sat., Nov. 9 10 a.m. Liverpool Fulham TBD
10 a.m. Crystal Palace Everton TBD
10 a.m. Swansea Stoke TBD
10 a.m. Aston Villa Cardiff TBD
10 a.m. Southampton Hull TBD
10 a.m. Chelsea West Brom TBD
12:30 p.m. Norwich West Ham NBC
Sun., Nov. 10 7 a.m. Tottenham Newcastle NBCSN
9:05 a.m. Sunderland Man City NBCSN
11:10 a.m. Man United Arsenal NBCSN, Telemundo
Sat., Nov. 23 7:45 a.m. Everton Liverpool NBCSN, mun2
10 a.m. Arsenal Southampton TBD
10 a.m. Fulham Swansea TBD
10 a.m. Stoke Sunderland TBD
10 a.m. Newcastle Norwich TBD
10 a.m. Hull Crystal Palace TBD
12:30 Man City Tottenham NBC, mun2
Sun., Nov. 24 8:30 a.m. West Ham Chelsea NBCSN
11 a.m. Cardiff Man United NBCSN, mun2
Mon., Nov. 25 3 p.m. West Brom Aston Villa NBCSN
Sat., Nov. 30 7:45 a.m. Tottenham Man United NBCSN, Telemundo
10 a.m. Man City Swansea TBD
10 a.m. Cardiff Arsenal TBD
10 a.m. Everton Stoke TBD
10 a.m. Aston Villa Sunderland TBD
10 a.m. West Ham Fulham TBD
10 a.m. Norwich Crystal Palace TBD
12:30 p.m. Newcastle West Brom NBC
Sun., Dec. 1 8:30 a.m. Hull Liverpool NBCSN
11 a.m. Chelsea Southampton NBCSN

Gus Johnson soccer experiment: ‘I knew I’d get shot before I walked in door’

Gus Johnson soccer bashers can take a breather. He is done for a while.

Johnson called his final European game of the season Saturday for Fox Sports. His critics wish it was his final soccer game, period.

Johnson admits it hasn’t been easy. He discussed his first season with Sam Borden of the New York Times:

Borden writes:

Johnson understands the seeming absurdity of the situation; he was a star basketball and football announcer, known for his spasmodic eruptions during CBS’s coverage of the N.C.A.A. men’s basketball tournament. Then he left for Fox and in his second year was thrust into an international sport with a rabid and passionate fan base that was used to hearing a British accent call the action. “I knew I’d get shot before I walked in the door,” he said. “Maybe justifiably.”

He went on: “But it’s like the Jack Kent Cooke quote, ‘Criticism is like walking in the rain — once you’re wet, what’s another drop?’ Plus, all I can worry about is preparing. …”

I am not a soccer guy. So I am going to leave it to others to weigh in about Gus after Season 1. Much of the reaction has been like Tom Jones in the Tampa Bay Tribune:

What bothers me about Gus Johnson as a football and basketball announcer is the same thing that bothers me about him as Fox’s featured soccer announcer. His speaker-busting volume is so over-the-top ridiculous that I honestly don’t understand what he’s yelling half the time. During one of Johnson’s explosions Saturday during the Champions League soccer final, I think I might have heard the words “London” and “Wembley,” but I’m really not sure. And if he’s screaming a name? Forget it. Whatever the name is, it comes off as, “Ayaaamaaaanreeeaaee.”

Many people out there love Johnson’s passion. They dig all the screaming. I’m just not one of those people.

However, way over on the other end of the Gus meter, Marc Tracy of the New Republic thinks the grand experiment could work in enticing American viewers to soccer:

Enter Gus Johnson. Whether or not the Law of Gus leads to more dramatic moments, he can certainly make the moments—those wonderfully drawn-out, attenuated soccer moments—more dramatic. Or maybe the Law of Gus is valid? Check out his call from a tilt in England’s FA Cup tournament that he announced earlier this month. In the second injury time,2 underdog (and soon-to-be-relegated) Wigan scored the game’s only goal, defeating the reigning Premier League champion, Manchester City. It was an incredibly exciting moment, and Johnson rightly let loose a vintage scream while his color man, the Englishman Ian Wright, could only giggle.3 Johnson is making soccer his own; which is to say, American; which is to say, kind of fun!

Meanwhile, ever the voice of reason, Richard Deitsch of, says more time is needed for the experiment to play out.

Johnson is still slow on name recognition — you saw that on the goal by Bayern striker Mario Mandzukic— but I think that will improve with more reps and more familiarity with world soccer. The one thing I hope Fox Sports executives learned from Johnson’s debut season is he needs a consistent partner. Of all the broadcasters the network floated his way, I thought Barton was the best fit. He complements Johnson stylistically, and allows the game to breath.


Dan Levy not a fan of Gus Johnson on soccer; ‘A disaster’

I’m not a soccer guy, so I will leave it to others to weigh in on Fox Sports’ decision to use Gus Johnson on its game coverage.

Dan Levy of Bleacher Report thinks it is a huge mistake. He came down hard on Johnson’s soccer ability this morning.

A review like this one is a problem for Fox. Even if Johnson gets better on soccer, first impressions are often final impressions.

Levy writes:

Johnson is good at calling a lot of things*. Soccer is not one of them.

Fox either doesn’t agree, or doesn’t care. Either way, the network is wrong and the attempt to grow an American audience by using Johnson as its lead voice has so fabulously backfired, it’s actually driving viewers away.


The experiment for Fox has been a disaster, Johnson has been exposed as an overmatched, amateurish soccer announcer with very little indication he will get better and, still, Fox continues to put him in the booth for big matches. What’s worse, Fox is doing Johnson no favors with his booth partner, recently pairing him with Ian Wright, who somehow manages to make Johnson sound like the most seasoned announcer on the call.

At least when Fox paired Johnson with a top analyst there was some ability to salvage that part of the telecast. When Johnson is paired with a broken record who can only talk about a team’s width for 90 minutes, the product is an unmitigated disaster.

And the final hammer:

Wrong. Fox won the rights to the World Cup in 2018 and 2022 and, per reports, this Johnson experiment was the beginning of Fox’s plan to have him be the voice of those World Cups.

Granted, five years is a long time, and Johnson could develop into a more seasoned soccer announcer in those years, but Fox has already ruined him for soccer fans in America by putting him on high-profile matches for which he was so blatantly unprepared. 

Had Fox built Johnson’s work slowly over the next five years, the experiment may have worked. Now, Johnson is proving to be the network’s next big sports failure—the glowing puck, Digger the Gopher and Cleatus the Robot of the soccer world.

Is Gus Johnson on World Cup same as Chris Berman on U.S. Open?

Really, I can’t think of a better comparison. Like Chris Berman at the U.S. Open, Gus Johnson would appear to be totally out of his element calling a sport to scores of passionate and discerning fans.

However, the big difference is that I don’t know of one golf fan who likes Berman on the U.S. Open. He is an assault on our golf senses. Yet ESPN keeps thrusting him on us every year. Why, ESPN, why?

As for Johnson (favorite clip above because I was at the game), there appears to be a segment of fans who are open to the idea of him becoming the American voice for soccer. Even Rob Stone, who is far more identified with calling soccer for Fox, took the high road. He had the following tweet:

@RobStoneONFOX Huge @FOXSoccer welcome to @gusjohnson . Another massive addition for our sport.

However, there are plenty of soccer fans who are aghast at the idea of the highly excitable Johnson intruding into the biggest games of soccer. Clearly, this move will be very polarizing as evidenced by the response from fans on Twitter.

Here’s a sample:

jlmears: Sorry soccer, even Gus Johnson won’t make you exciting. #hater

jocoolwu I love Gus Johnson doing NFL/NCAA. This is dumbest idea ever – Gus Johnson groomed as voice of World Cup by Fox

jakesundstrom America is doing its best to ruin the World Cup by making Gus Johnson call games

SmothersFC Gus Johnson is going to be great for the 2018 World Cup

jmh0628 Not a Gus Johnson guy but I give him a lot of respect for not only calling soccer games but playing to better learn it, as well.

DanielSquizzato Picturing Gus Johnson calling a World Cup game… “RONALDO DOWN THE SIDELINE CAN THEY CATCH HIM WOWWWW”

KoreAmBear Gus Johnson note to self: “don’t say point guard, don’t say point guard, don’t say point guard.”

stmorway If one thing could get into into watching soccer, this might be it.

brennanrees guess I’ll be returning to days of watching World Cup en Espanol.

THowwwwse Don’t get me wrong, Gus Johnson is a fine commentator but he does not belong in the booth for soccer

mBowen31 Gus Johnson commentating the 2018 world cup is nothing short of a disgrace to the game

Erik_Sweet not to be outdone, ESPN has put together the broadcast team of Colicky Baby and Spoon Caught In The Sink Disposal…

epltalk Really disappointed with FOX Soccer’s decision to make Gus Johnson the voice of its coverage. Feels like they jumped the shark

pourmecoffee You’re about to wet your pants over a 0-0 tie.

lmechegaray I am a Brit who has lived in NYC for 10 years now. And I support you 100%!! Can’t wait to hear you say…messi!!! Cold-blooded!


And your views? Let me know.



Gus Johnson Fox’s main voice on World Cup? What’s next? Seth MacFarlane hosting the Oscars?

I don’t know about global warming, but I’m fairly sure our dear old planet just flew off the tracks into a different orbit.

The soccer world is in a tizzy over the news broke by’s Richard Deitsch that Johnson is being groomed to be Fox’s lead man for its coverage of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. Fox announced that Johnson will get his first big spin when he does play-by-play for the Real Madrid-Manchester United game on Feb. 13.

It’s part of the training process that will gear up Johnson for 2018, although he hasn’t committed to doing the World Cup just yet.

“I don’t know,” said Johnson to “That’s too big right now for me, too big to think about and  digest. I am interested in getting a little better every day. I want to learn  this game. I am humbled by this game and their fans, and I am a little  intimidated by the travel. I’ll be in multiple countries and I don’t speak a  second language so I am going to have to become comfortable being an  international traveler. But I am excited about it.”

According to the release sent out by Fox, this is the depth of Johnson’s soccer background:

He called over a dozen MLS games on radio, mostly those of the San Jose Earthquakes; he has played pick-up soccer games in a park near his Manhattan home; spent several weeks in Europe last season attending games and conversing at length with Sky Sports executives and world-class football play-by-play announcer Martin Tyler.

Wait a minute, playing pick-up soccer counts as a credential? The fact that I’ve coached Little League probably doesn’t make me qualified to call the World Series, if you know what I mean.

With such a slim soccer resume, it isn’t a surprise that the move is highly polarizing. I’m hardly an expert on soccer, so I’ll let others weigh in with their analysis.

Ty Duffy, The Big Lead:

There are a couple areas for concern, though. Pacing could be a problem. Soccer is unlike most American sports. It is fluid and subtle. It does not have the same intricate rules or stoppages. The announcer should be a more delicate presence. Gus can be great. He’s our first choice for the last minute of an NCAA tournament game. He’s anything but delicate. Gus’ critics argue he’s loud, brash and too heavy-handed for American football. Can he tone it down enough to let a soccer game breathe? This is a sport where Martin Tyler, a man who can reach catatonia during a live broadcast, is considered the gold standard.

Brian Phillips, Grantland:

Gus Johnson is a good commentator. He’s got five years (!) to learn his stuff, and a huge incentive to get it right (i.e., calling the world’s biggest sporting event to an audience split between total neophytes and fiercely critical diehards). He’s better than just about anyone at zooming in on pivotal moments in big games and giving fans the crazed vividness they deserve. And since we’re talking about Fox, and probably came closer than we even want to know to a Buck-Aikman tag team on Denmark–Ivory Coast, I’d say it’s fantastic that we’re getting an announcer who actually makes games more fun. I mean, how many commentators on earth are legitimately fun to listen to? Maybe 10? It’s not a list that scrolls, put it that way. One of the guys who’s on it is calling a World Cup. This is good news! Euphoric screaminess is coming our way! Be happy!

Matt Yoder, Awful Announcing:

But will he be ready February 13th for Man Utd vs Real Madrid? Will he be ready for this year’s Champions League Final on Fox network television? Will Johnson and Fox be willing to endure the criticism that comes with the growing pains both will face from a fan base who has shown little patience for similar moves in the past?  These are huge tests and Johnson better hit the ground running from the outset, or else Gus at World Cup 2018 could be nothing more than a brief fantasy.





It’s official: Premier League to NBC Sports Group

A little late breaking news on a Sunday night. From NBC.

NBCUniversal, via the NBC Sports Group, has acquired the exclusive U.S. media rights to the Premier League through a multi-year agreement that begins with the 2013-14 season, both parties announced today. Per the agreement, NBCUniversal becomes the exclusive English- and Spanish-language media rights holder to all 380 Premier League matches across all platforms and devices in the United States.

“The Barclays Premier League is the preeminent soccer league in the world, and is on the cusp of exponential popularity growth here in the U.S.,” said Mark Lazarus, Chairman, NBC Sports Group. “NBCU will provide the broadest programming and promotional commitment that the league has ever experienced here in the United States. The Premier League provides NBCU with best-in-class content for 10 months of the year across our far-reaching broadcast, cable and digital platforms. This is a perfect match.”

“The NBC Sports Group has an excellent track record in sports broadcasting and will showcase the Barclays Premier League to fans across the USA through its extensive network of channels and high quality production,” said Premier League Chief Executive, Richard Scudamore. “We are extremely pleased that NBC has chosen to invest in the Premier League and look forward to working with them for many years to come.”

Each of the 20 Premier League teams plays 38 matches over a 41-week period from August to May. Although specific programming details will be announced at a later date, NBC, NBC Sports Network, and will all be utilized to present live Premier League coverage, as well as Telemundo and mun2 for Spanish-language coverage. Additional NBCUniversal platforms and networks will occasionally be scheduled to air Premier League matches, while NBC Sports Live Extra will provide the live streaming platform across web, tablet and mobile devices.

The NBC Sports Group will also produce comprehensive shoulder programming around its live-event coverage of the Premier League, including pre- and post-match shows, as well as highlight and weekly wrap-up programs. It is also developing a package to make sure the most avid fans have access to every Premier League match.

Acquiring EPL rights will be huge victory for NBC Sports Network

It isn’t baseball, but it isn’t curling either. From Richard Sandomir of the New York Times:

Fox and ESPN jointly bid for the three-year contract starting in 2013 to show E.P.L. games, but they appear to have been outbid by the NBC Sports Group, which has been eager to find must-see sports shows for its recently rebranded NBC Sports Network.

Fox has broadcast the E.P.L. in the United States for nearly two decades, growing along with the world’s most popular league. ESPN broadcast about 80 of Fox’s E.P.L. games each year under license.

But NBC has bid about $85 million a year for the new E.P.L. rights, just under four times more than Fox currently pays for the rights, according to a person with knowledge of the negotiations. Greg Hughes, a spokesman for NBC Sports Group, declined to comment.

If NBCSN wins the E.P.L. rights, which will be announced in the coming days, it would boost their struggling lineup. NBCSN wildly exceeded all its past records during the London Summer Olympics, but it is without any N.H.L. games because of the ongoing lockout. Its other programming includes Major League Soccer, cycling, boxing, college sports, bull-riding, hunting and fishing, as well as a variety of studio shows.