26 August 2013

Week in Review Vol. 2: Stop Comparing Everything to the U.S., NBC

This year's Premier League has plenty of history.
(Photo courtesy Toby Jagmohan)
In general, these first few weeks of NBC's English Premier League coverage have gone over well.

The match production and commentating are superb. The talking heads throughout the network seem generally excited about discussing the EPL, and the ability to watch matches at home without breaking the law is, obviously, an improvement.

Inevitably, the move isn't without its hiccups. For the most part, I've enjoyed the programming. The hosts are informative and engaging, but there's one crutch the writers and others rely on far too much -- Please stop comparing everything to American sports.

There are, of course, many similarities between the Premier League and American leagues. The desire to point out these commonalities makes sense, but they shouldn't be the only retort of these men and women hired to talk about the game.

During the Premier League Club Guide NBC rolled out to help fans learn about the 20 clubs that make up the EPL, I saw this issue coming immediately.

Michelle Beadle, whose purpose I've never discovered on any of the shows she's hosted, featured solely in a role to discuss why she loved a certain team, changing her mind throughout the show, by design. This immediately suggested the network would avoid truly informing people about clubs in favor of quick, mindless comparisons. Essentially, NBC is, in this instance, relying on a lazy trope of sports media to attract eyeballs.

The same happens on other programs. The Crossover, a 30-minute show in the vein of ESPN's First Take, except with hosts and panelists that aren't wholly insufferable, discussed which American sports should adopt a similar promotion/relegation system to those in Europe. The answers ignored the fact that most lower-level teams in American sports are affiliated with major league clubs. The conversation led to a goofy moment or two, but the five minutes spent discussing the EPL could have been used, instead, to debate a relevant topic.

Simply showing the games and marketing the league as NBC has is enough to drum up good ratings. Grasping at storylines that don't really exist and discussing similarities that are tenuous at best will only frustrate seasoned fans -- the people waking up early on Saturdays before it was easy to do so.

Helping Americans find a team to support is good, but it's needs to happen organically -- like it did for all of us.

It's funny, for an Arsenal fan, because I've seen greater interest in Spurs than any other team among people solely consuming the league through NBC. I understand the appeal of Spurs entirely for new fans -- historically relevant team with a far more successful rival that it may very well be able to overcome finally.

Presenting them a perennial underdog undone by difficult circumstances, however, is inaccurate. The club's own incompetence is the reason for their relative mediocrity. Basically, if I'm going to play this game, Spurs are the New York Jets, but I keep hearing comparisons to lovable American franchises like the Chicago Cubs or the pre-2004 Boston Red Sox solely because they've haven't won the league since 1961.

As long -- and wonderful -- as that drought is, it doesn't compare with the Sox or the Cubs in the least. Meanwhile, the Jets won Super Bowl III in 1969 and haven't returned since. Their fans never shut up, though, and every player they have seems obsessed with their more successful rival -- the Patriots; that just stinks of Spurs.

Anything NBC can do to generate interest is positive, I suppose, but the network doesn't need to focus solely on generating storylines to do it. The 20 clubs participating in this season's Premier League all have their own wonderful history. Each offers reasons to support it and to hate it. They have managers and players past and present that changed the game, entertained fans and brought glory to their organization.

The New York Jets and the Boston Red Sox had nothing to do with any of it.

Aston Villa: I don't think there's much chance of it, but Brad Guzan is certainly making me reconsider the whole Tim Howard has the U.S. No. 1 job locked up for Brazil. Guzan was great again against Liverpool on Saturday.

Cardiff City: Frazier Campbell was a hero to millions on Saturday with his pair of late goals in Cardiff's win over Manchester City.

Chelsea: Wayne Rooney started for Manchester United against Chelsea on Monday. Rooney was quite good, but Jose Mourinho is planning another bid for the striker now.

Crystal Palace: Marouane Chamakh scored his first for Palace on Saturday in a 2-1 loss to Stoke City. To bolster its squad depth, Palace is planning a bid for Nicklas Bendtner, which is just wonderful.

Everton: Not much as gone well for Everton in its league campaign thus far, and now a promising youngster breaks his leg on loan at Brentford. Go back to Wigan, Roberto.

Fulham: There are many reasons Fulham lost on Saturday. The fact that Dimitar Berbatov had fewer touches than any other starter is among them.

Hull City: Hull City picked up its first Premier League win of the season despite playing with 10 men for most of the match on Saturday. After the game, Steve Bruce basically called Yannick Sabogo a dummy.

Liverpool: Brendan Rodgers has made some great moves in his time at Liverpool. Looks like he's about to line up another with a loan for Victor Moses.

Manchester City: LOL.

Manchester United: David Moyes only earned a draw in his first match on home on Monday. This Arsenal fan makes a good point.

Newcastle United: Yohan Cabaye missed another match for Newcastle this weekend. Basically, he's not going to play until Arsenal buys him.

Norwich City: Chris Hughton's side played a man up for more than an hour on Saturday, and still lost because they're bad.

Stoke City: Charlie Adam and Ryan Shawcross scored goals for Stoke on Saturday. The Potters overcame a 1-0 deficit to earn full points. Adam and Shawcross scoring has to be the most Stoke goal-scoring duo ever.

Southampton: Jose Fontes should be everyone's new hero for getting a late equalizer for Southampton against Sunderland. Anything that pisses Paolo di Canio off makes me awfully happy.

Sunderland: There was a "brawl" of sorts at Sunderland's hotel. Club says none of its players were involved. No word on the shitheel that manages the club.

Swansea City: Apparently Roberto Martinez is actively targeting Swansea City's Ki Sung-Yeung for a loan.

Tottenham Hotspur: Roberto Soldado says he looks forward to playing Arsenal and to scoring more goals for Tottenham. Idiot doesn't seem to understand he can't do both of those in the same week.

West Brom: West Brom allowed Nicolas Anelka to leave the club on "compassionate grounds." I can only assume having to play for West Brom was chiefly responsible.

West Ham: West Ham's Lamine Sane says he'd rather stay with Bordeaux than play for West Ham, which tells you everything you need to know about how attractive an option West Ham is.

1 comment:

  1. Furthermore to your commentary on Manchester City, ROFL. (Also, there but for the grace of god, and all that.)