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ESPN's 'highlights' disrespect MLS
by Paul Kennedy, May 9th, 2011 12:10AM

TAGS:  los angeles galaxy, mls, new york red bulls, television


[TELEVISION WATCH] MLS should question the priorities of its television partner, ESPN, in light of Saturday night's halftime segment, "Greatest highlights of the month," at intermission of ESPN2's broadcast of the Los Angeles-New York game.

What should have highlighted the best of the previous month led with clip after clip of negativity and violence.

The decision to air the segment is all the more shocking, considering it was broadcast only hours after another MLS star was taken out with another horrific foul.

The segment was all too familiar, hammering home the point that soccer is not a sissy sport. Would anyone who bothered to stay up to watch the broadcast really believe that it is?

As ESPN2 came back from a break at halftime, it introduced the "Greatest highlights of the month," which led with two confrontations, two challenges and a player nursing a bloody head in its first six shots.

Only then did ESPN get to the real highlights, including Juan Agudelo's golazo and fellow teen Omar Salgado's first MLS goal for Vancouver.

Does ESPN not value MLS's product to lead with the best it has to offer?

Frankly, the shots it led with were gratuitous images of violence, none of them, as I could recall, telling any major storyline.

If ESPN valued its broadcast of MLS games enough, it would have canned or re-edited the highlight segment in light of the shattered ankle Javier Morales suffered earlier in the day.

I guess someone was asleep at the switch. After all, it was around midnight in Bristol when the Galaxy-Red Bulls game reached halftime.

  1. Tom Symonds
    commented on: May 9, 2011 at 8:13 a.m.
    ESPN hates soccer. Sports Center anchors routinely scoff at matches with phony excitement, mispronounce names as if that was a sport in itself, and generally consider the game as a priority less than televised poker or ten year-old strongest man replays. I can only assume from its complete disregard for promoting soccer and the disrepectful way it treats soccer coverage (apart from the World Cup when literally the 'whole world is watching') that ESPN really wants soccer to fail in the US and is trying its best to make that happen.

  1. Brent Crossland
    commented on: May 9, 2011 at 8:15 a.m.
    Caveat - I did not see the clip. For the most part I watch MLS games if they are on when I'm watching. My DVR is filled with European games. Until MLS cleans up it's act I cannot see how we can say that brutal tackles aren't part of the league's "highlights". However easy, this is not something that can be blamed on the players. It will only be changed when managers AND REFEREES stop supporting this style of play. Blow the whistle for play that clearly disregards the safety of the opponent. Send players off when they put an opponent at serious risk of injury. "Trying to play the ball" is something I hear from youth players but intent if irrelevant. The referee should judge actions and punish those that put players at risk or illegally disadvantage the player. Most players will adjust to consistent enforcement of the LOTG. Those that do not will leave the field, but we'll have a better game for it.

  1. Phil Love
    commented on: May 9, 2011 at 8:30 a.m.
    Excellent comment, Brent. The NHL and NFL have figured out that you have to protect offensive players, or the game degenerates into sluggish drudgery. When will MLS figure this out? The priority in soccer refereeing seems to be "letting the game flow" at the expense of allowing lots of cheap fouls, clutching and grabbing, and injuries. As far as ESPN goes, I'm always grateful when soccer appears on American TV regardless of the inane commentary. Notice that "highlights" of hockey include brutal (often illegal) hits and auto racing "highlights" always include wrecks.

  1. Ernest Irelan
    commented on: May 9, 2011 at 10:14 a.m.
    Phil, I have to agree with the most of what you say...I am so tired of seeing the cheap shots on talented players, it really bothers me to see this..I think it is right an correct to show what low class players do to try to win at any cost including ruining a fellow player's career by taking a cheap shot on him. I do not watch soccer to see this, nothing bothers me more than to see a skilled player being carted off because of an illegal hit on not only has a disastrous affect on the player, but, on his team possibly. When we start editing all the truth out of sports, we are dangerously close to putting a gag on reporters, which none of us really want, per our first amendment rights...we we get the game cleaned up by our referees an coaches, we may get a lot more respect in the world of soccer, even get some referees in high level international games.Soccer is a contact sport by virtue of the way it is played, accidental contact happens enough as it is, we do not need it to happen on purpose.

  1. Gak Foodsource
    commented on: May 10, 2011 at 8:52 a.m.
    I had a friend who worked for ESPN and said their strategy for Sportscenter is only to find plays that people wil remember. So if a squirrel runs onto the pitch and almost gets hit by the ball in a Galaxy match, that is getting 20 of the 25 seconds in the highlight. Especially given the fact that anchors and producers dont watch or understand soccer, the result is a highlight that as posters suggest is something to be compared with that of poker or bowling. I have never understood how you can have ESPN spending millions on EPL and national team games, and then poking fun at the sport at night.

  1. Konlee Dobbins
    commented on: May 10, 2011 at 10:43 a.m.
    I didn't see the halftime highlights, but as a few of you have commented, I have more of a problem with ESPN treating soccer as a joke on Sportscenter. It's an opportunity for people who would never or rarely watch the sport see some quality highlights. I would think the big-wigs paying to endorse soccer on ESPN would pay attention to this and do something about it. About the rough play (or lack of good refereeing) in MLS, I feel like they're putting the US players at a real disadvantage when it comes to international play. It seems like everytime the US National team plays in an international game, they're always surprised when they get multiple fouls called against them... the same fouls that the ref would let it slide in the MLS.

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