Champions League Moving to FOX

March 31, 2009

fscAfter this season is completed, the Champions League will be moving to the FOX Soccer Channel for the foreseeable future.

It’s not that ESPN has done a bad job. In fact I’ve been happy that ESPN has started covering more than one Champions League match per week (one on Tuesday and one on Wednesday) and always shows the final. For five years now I’ve watched as many of the matches as are available here in the States. And I even really enjoy the back-and-forth with Derek Rae and Tommy Smythe from the ESPN studios where the remotely call the games. That will be missed. And ESPN has in a way pioneered soccer on tv here in the States having held the rights to the Champions League (and its earlier equivalent) since the 1994-95 season.

But I’m happy any time ESPN loses out on even a tiny piece of the monopoly they’re trying to build across all sports. With Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer, NBA, Monday Night Football and damn near every major conference’s college sporting events, not to mention the World Cup, early round Masters and myriad other events, ESPN has more than enough to get by. The FOX Soccer Channel does an excellent job of covering many different international leagues, including the English Premier League. Their matches are well-covered, the analysis is nice and unlike ESPN, available. FOX has pre-game, half-time and post-game shows where fans, especially casual ones, can learn a lot about the teams playing and the league in which the play. ESPN does none of that in this country.

One downside to this move is the availability of FSC is nowhere near that of ESPN or ESPN2. FSC appearing in around 35 million homes while ESPN reaches about 100 million (again, just in the US). But pure numbers of households does not automatically translate to viewership. In the 27 Champions League matches during last season, ESPN averaged about 255,000 households (I’m assuming that includes bars). The final in Moscow between Chelsea and Manchester United drew in about 800,000 households (and just over a million individual viewers). Of course any final between two English teams is going to be more highly viewed in this country. I’d love to see the numbers for the 2004 final between Porto and Monaco.

If FOX can get even 1% of its total households in the US to view Champions League matches each week, it will average almost 100,000 more viewers than ESPN ever had. The truth is that millions of people get ESPN but almost none care about soccer. That is evident in the numbers. 0.0026% of ESPN receivers actually tune in for the average Champions League match (which almost always includes at least one English club). People who get FSC are much more likely to watch it because there is no chance of seeing anything other than soccer on the network. In other words, you can’t be flipping through the channels and stumble on the FOX Soccer Channel and expect anything less.

I’ll be interested to see how the new coverage comes out. I’m happy that ESPN has carried the torch thus far. Let’s all hope that FOX can do an even better job of bringing us the world’s game.

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Simmons v. Klosterman

March 13, 2009

Is it just me or does it seem like every time Bill Simmons talks to Chuck Klosterman he just gets destroyed?

Bill Simmons usually comes off as pretty smart, or at least witty, interesting and full of ideas. He seems to think more about things than anyone outside of Seinfeld and usually has opinions or suggestions for changes. That’s what makes him a lot different than other pundits out there, he almost always has solutions. They may not ever take place, or necessarily make sense, but he never really enters an argument without a change that he’d make if he were in charge.

But all of that falls apart when he talks to Chuck Klosterman. Chuck is an unusually bright guy if a little too intense about his thoughts about culture. He often thinks his way into and out of different scenarios and is an excellent contrarian and devil’s advocate. He’s great at reminding you that while you may think you know why you’re doing something or liking something, you’re probably forgetting something bigger (or smaller) that’s really going on. So when he talks to Bill Simmons, he just kills him.

The conversations that they’ve had publicly (ie, on Simmons’ podcast) are few but very telling. It’s like what happens in college when a blowhard tries to make a point in class and someone far more articulate who doesn’t talk much just mops the floor with the moron who is usually talking just to hear the sound of his own voice. Simmons asserts all of these opinions that his other guests either let slide or aren’t quick witted enough to respond to. Not Klosterman. Chuck challenges him on almost every point, and while he very often concedes a good point made by Simmons, he’ll slam the rest at junk.

Really, it’s a fantastic back-and-forth if you like seeing the inadequacies in someone being pointed out for all to see (or hear, in this case). I think Klosterman is brilliant (though way more into music than I prefer) but I would never ever want him on the podcast for this blog. Not that there’s any chance of that happening. But he’d kill me. All the points I’d want to make he’d question for psychological, ideological or other reasons like pure ineptitude and bullshit. That’s what he seems to have, a bullshit-radar that calls out people who are faking it. I wouldn’t say I’m faking it but sometimes people act like they know more than they really do. When Simmons does that, Klosterman jumps all over it.

I would link to their conversations on the BS Report but I try to avoid linking to ESPN at all costs. So go on there and find them if you’re interested in hearing them. Or better yet, read Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs, Klosterman’s excellent book on pop culture. For those of us under 30, there’s some stuff that goes over your head because of the age difference and the things he took in as a kid as compared to our generation. But still, check it out.


Thank God for Ombudsmen

January 14, 2009

espnThis is a fantastic read if you’re anything like me, which is to say, so tired of ESPN making itself the story in the world of sports. While ESPN Ombudsman Le Anne Schreiber is definitely not overly hard on the network, and actually basically says that in the three examples she gives that it happened accidentally, she certainly quotes plenty of readers/viewers who express strong opinions on their negative feelings toward the ubiquitousness of ESPN.

I find her fourth example to be the most glaring example of ESPN making itself the story instead of the sports they claim to promote. The announcer swap was as obvious a case of the network thinking that people care more about who’s announcing a game than the game itself and it’s constant advertising for it was really over the top.

Anyway, take a read. It doesn’t quite express most of our annoyances but at least it for once addresses them from within the umbrella of the ‘family of networks.’


Is There Anything In Between?

September 26, 2008

What ever happened to the nerdy, sports-obsessed sports writers and commentators? It is becoming increasingly annoying to listen to talking-heads spew out information on their personal lives and drop names like they’re a hot potato. There is also the other side of the coin, to use another stupid cliche, which is the older members of the media making totally outdated references that very few folks even understand. Can’t we just have guys talk about sports on tv anymore without all the extra stuff?

Some examples:

Bill SimmonsJimmy Kimmel, Las Vegas, Adam Carolla, etc. Simmons has never-ending stories about gambling, writing for Kimmel’s show and meeting people like Mike Tyson or Isiah Thomas (as mediated by Gus Johnson). This is increasingly taking away from his schtick as an everyman.
JA Adande & Mike WilbonPhotos of them with porn stars, constant stories about meeting up with players at ‘the club’ and unabashed name-dropping (Charles Barkley, anyone from Northwestern, Shaq, etc.).

Tony Kornheiser – On Wednesday’s PTI, Kornheiser made the following references: Jackie Gleason, Dick Van Dyke, 78 RPM and the immortal Spahn and Sain and Pray for Rain. These are all legitimate references as long as you’re at least 50 years old. For those of us half that age or younger, he’s going way over our heads.
Chris Berman – Refuses to make musical references that are less than forty years old. Also, his nicknames are getting a bit old as well. Curtis ‘My Favorite’ Martin and Mark ‘Ray’ Bulger are just two examples of the ancient material he’s working with.


Please Please Keep ESPN Off the Olympics

August 20, 2008

I don’t care if every event is on tape-delay for the rest of my life, I really can’t stand the thought of ESPN airing the Olympics starting as early as 2014 (wherever that might be). Just think of it, instead of Bob Costas and Brian Williams of NBC News, we’ll get Chris Berman, Stuart Scott and all your other favorite arsehole talking heads polluting what is already the muddy waters of the Olympics. NBC has done a great job of being mostly understate, of having restrained commentators and for not overly promoting other things on their channels during actual coverage. I can see it now, all-around gymnastics finals, in between the final two competitors, a brief plug saying: “Don’t forget to tune in Sunday evening for the the New York Liberty taking on the LA Sparks. The WNBA on ESPN.”


I don’t know, I don’t know

August 6, 2008

That’s the refrain coming from ESPN’s star NFL reporters John Clayton and Chris Mortensen. Over and over these guys are being put on Sports Center, Mike and Mike, etc. and giving absolutely nothing interesting or insightful about the Brett Favre story that just keeps on going and going.

It must be killing ESPN that Jay Glazer of Fox Sports and Peter King of Sports Illustrated seem to be the driving forces behind any actual news in this story. Both guys have spent time with Favre, while the ESPN guys have not, and Glazer and King are embedded with what appear to be the strongest and deepest sources available. It’s gotten so bad that Mike and Mike actually had both guys on the show today to give what they know. Clayton and Mortensen can’t be happy with that.

Often ESPN does end up out in front on stories because they have the resources available to throw several reporters on a given story whereas other media outlets sometimes can only get one. But it seems like Fox and SI have a better one than the entire ESPN team which has been trying to nail this thing down.


Stache Idea Stolen!

August 5, 2008

Sklar BrothersSunday’s Sports Center included a Sklar Brothers bracket of the best mustache after news that Jason Giambi shaved his famed stache. Two problems with this idea. First, they didn’t bother to include any more than one athlete (Rollie Fingers) in their list of eight despite it being on Sports Center. Second, this is an idea that is at least six years old.

In 2002 a stache debate broke out on the hallowed AD Hall. Included were Tom Selleck, Burt Reynolds, Saddam Hussein and Joseph Stalin. The Sklar Brothers ripped off this idea, inserted their own, lesser staches (though David Crosby’s was pretty hane) and got it on ESPN all the while.

An investigation needs to look into some sort of idea infringement.