Soccer Kicks Off

Another marathon season commenced on Saturday with the return of European football across that continent. The typically crazed love affair with the sport has fans in an uproar over everything from coaching changes to off-season player transfers to players still rumored to be transferred before the window closes.  Vast sums are at stake, and each move is scrutinized by every denizen of every pub in Europe and beyond.  It makes college football here in the States seem tame by comparison.

The English Premiership is perhaps the best known to U.S. consumers, and with its new TV deal with NBC, we’re promised even heavier doses of UK pitches.  NBC rolled out its wall-to-wall coverage on Saturday morning and with it some came a couple of surprising results.  For starters the Gunners of Arsenal – who’ll be competing in the ultimate Europe-wide tournament – decided that Saturday wasn’t really good for them as they got crushed 3-1 by visiting Aston Villa.  Meanwhile, Manchester United and Chelsea showed that the cream will always rise to the top no matter what time of year it is. Chelsea seemed to be in total control of their match against a highly outmanned Hull team that’s returning to the Premiership from relegation.  Man U’s decided to totally destroy the Welsh team in their home opener to the tune of 4-1, which in soccer terms is a smackdown. The usual stars showed up for the Reds as RVP and Welbeck calmly exerted their will by garnering all the points for the Premiership champs.

Yes, Soccer is back in a big way and for this fan it’s great to see the return of all the top stars in the Premiership and other leagues around the world. However, I must say to the good folks at NBC who’ve decided to purchase the TV rights ($250m for 3 years) that while I understand your need to recover your investment through advertising that depends on expanding American viewership, the typically over-the-top American commentary hits me in the forehead with a sledge hammer like I’m in third grader.  That’s not why the vast majority of us who are coming over from Fox Soccer Channel watch the game, and you’re doing us a disservice by your effort to educate and defer to advertising needs.  I am finding myself watching other European leagues on Fox and BEin where the commentary is less…uhm…condescending.  Kudos, thought, for offering us the 3-game lineup that we’re used to from dawn to noon on Saturdays and Sundays.

The English Premiership isn’t even the best league in the world. It’s by far and away the deepest league in the world, but if you look at the entirety of European Football, anyone who knows anything about the sport has to understand that the EPL is simply the most popular and most viewer-friendly. NBC could’ve gone and gotten the Bündesliga and La Liga and gone for star power and top heavy markets with far more exciting football, but the American market would’ve never accepted that. It’s nice to see international soccer becoming a little bit more mainstream, but when it comes to being the dominant fixtures in Europe not even the American audience will be able to switch the power from the leagues of Germany, Spain and Italy.