[TELEVISION WATCH] One of the biggest stories of the first weekend of the MLS season is the launch of NBC's coverage with Sunday's game between host FC Dallas
and the New York Red Bulls at 3 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network (the old VERSUS). Modeling its MLS coverage after its NHL coverage, NBC will employ Kyle Martino
as the color commentator “Between the Benches.” Innovation or gimmick? We shall quickly see ...
Martino will work former BBC and Seattle Sounders commentator Arlo White, who will handle the play-by-play from the booth above the field, but Martino, the former MLS player, will be on the sidelines.
Sam Flood, the executive producer of NBC Sports and NBC Sports Network, says the positioning of an “Inside the Glass” analyst next to the two hockey benches has worked flawlessly.
"The combination is great," he said. "Rather than being five stories above the playing surface, one person supplying the information is right there in real time hearing things. And that's the key: You're hearing what's being said on the bench, inside the field of play, and there's a huge advantage to that. When we launched this in hockey, the Canadians made fun of us and said what a dumb idea. Guess what? It's the template that everyone uses now in hockey. Hockey Night in Canada has a person inside the glass. TSN has a person inside the glass. So what was first thought of as a whacky idea from Americans turned out to be the gold standard for covering hockey.”
Will it work in soccer? Soccer sidelines don't have the bevy of activity that takes place on hockey benches, where players are constantly coming on and off the ice and in and out of penalty boxes, and a soccer field is much longer and wider than a hockey rink, giving preference to the traditional wide-angle view from high above the field.
“I've called games off a monitor before," said Martino, "but the advantage will be now, with my field-level vantage point, I can bring that sort of tactical analysis of breaking the game down. I’ll be able to give that [analysis] along with hearing Bruce Arena yelling at Landon Donovan to stay a little wider. Hearing Landon Donovan yell into David Beckham, saying, ‘Try to hit that first touch to me.’ Being able to see these one-on-one individual battles, and grabbing more information than I was able to grab when I was up in the booth … actually enhances my commentary.”