Thursday, January 15, 2009

ESPN is back, back, back, back, back in the running for Premier League broadcast rights

This one might be tough for any overseas Match Pricks readers to get the full gist of: ESPN wants in on Premier League broadcast rights.

I've always felt watching sports on ESPN is simultaneously enjoyable and infuriating. The entire brand – as chronicled superbly on a daily basis for two years-plus and running by Deadspin – just slowly numbs you closer to indifference and hate. It's tough to describe because if you're an American sports fan, you know exactly what I'm talking about. If you're overseas and hearing some U.S. broadcasting giant wants in on all that hot English soccer action, then you don't know ESPN's style. It's a mix of everything: the on-air personalities, graphics, reporting tone – everything. After two hours of soaking it in while just merely trying to watch your favorite team win a damn game, your brain kind of just hates itself. But ESPN is so omnipresent, if you're not paying attention to their coverage, well, you're going to end up getting the latest about your favorite team or league much later than if you did watch the network and read their Web site.

Now, the conflict for me as an American Premier League fan: ESPN gaining broadcast rights would most likely make watching the matches a whole lot easier for me on a weekly basis. There's nothing that takes the years off your life quicker than checking the schedules and seeing I have to drag my sorry, and sometimes hungover, butt out of bed at 5:30 a.m. on a Saturday in the middle of winter, crawl outside, scrape ice off the car and roll on down to the bar to catch Liverpool away to Bolton. I mean, I'm going to do it every single time. Of course I will. But sometimes I'd like to be able to shorten that list of tasks to get out of bed, crawl 20 feet to the couch, lay down and turn on the TV. Is that so wrong?

And even if I wanted to go to the bar, ESPN having the matches would guarantee me the thing is going to be shown with a professional presentation, no matter how aggravating. is great, but only as a last resort. As it stands, every Liverpool match this season has been shown on either FSC or Setanta here in the States, so I'm probably overestimating this convenience. Still, I don't know what to make of this one.

In the end, it just seems like ESPN could really screw up the Premier League experience for fans over here. I can only imagine how it'd be received in England.

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