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 … Continue Reading

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. … Continue Reading

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 Continue Reading

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 … Continue Reading

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:

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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

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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

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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 

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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

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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.


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