History & Blood Editorial: Late and Lacking--A Broadcasting Story
This last weekend, a group of Saint Louis supporters traveled down to Louisville to watch the game at Slugger Field, but most fans were like me and had to watch the game from home. Like so many of you, I cleared my schedule by kickoff time and settled in front of the TV, warmed up the Playstation, and logged onto YouTube. Then suddenly, nothing.
While the game went on as planned, those of us watching from elsewhere were left refreshing, reloading, and restarting to no avail. There was no stream. Nothing. We’ve all suffered through dodgy streams, but this was no stream at all. We did our best to follow along with the action on Twitter, but our frustration just grew as the game crept into the 15th minute with the stream still down.Thankfully they did finally get it up and running, and it seemed we didn’t miss anything too major in the game to that point. However, we had missed the first quarter hour while someone tried to fix the flux capacitor.
Now once the broadcast was up and running, the smart choice was to instantly mute the sound. This is the second time this season that I’ve watched a Louisville game, and since we don’t play there again, it will thankfully be the last. I don’t expect world-class broadcasters covering a USL game. After all, if they were world class they wouldn’t be covering USL. But, I do expect them to have a decent understanding of the game, and to not spend three solid minutes talking about baseball and golf while completely ignoring the action on the field in front of them.
The piece de resistance was surely soon to come. Louisville was spelled incorrectly in the score transition screen.
To be fair, this isn’t just a dig at Louisville. It just so happens that these issues all arose during our last match against them. But certainly other teams have had similar issues. The real concern is the overall professionalism with the league.
USL is currently the 3 tier in American soccer behind MSL and NASL, but with aims on taking that 2nd division spot from NASL, the USL has tried to up its status in the American soccer landscape. Expansion, a new logo, and a broadcast deal with ESPN have been boosts to that image.
But, with great exposure comes great responsibility.
As the league grows and new fans tune into games, or even stumble across them on ESPN3, it is incumbent on the league to ensure that those people see a quality product. Or, of course, that they can at least see something.
Sometimes technical issues will just happen. Equipment unexpectedly craps out, or gremlins get in the system. These things happen and we understand that, but it’s important that the league does all that it can to mitigate these sorts of emergencies--also that the team hires skilled professionals who can fix these problems as quickly as possible. This is an issue the league is working on, and I know that teams are fined when their stream goes down, but USL, as a league, is still far from where it needs to be.
The issue of quality announcers may be even more difficult to address. Certainly teams don’t have it within their budgets to spend big money on top broadcasters, but there are surely some people out there who could do a solid job if the teams would just cast their nets a bit wider. There’s no need to rely so much on local TV and radio guys and local former soccer players. Being willing to take a shot on someone else from time to time could really pay off for some of these teams.
The biggest problem to the professional image of the league is also the hardest problem to fix. This problem is the empty stands. When fans tune into games in Sacramento, Cincinnati, Louisville, or Saint Louis they typically see full stands and a boisterous crowd. But watching a Los Dos game from the Stub Hub looks like a practice game in some post-apocalyptic world where the few remaining survivors have gathered to watch a soccer game.
Of course, it’s largely the MLS 2 teams that have the biggest problem with attendance (I’m looking at you Charlotte), an hopefully teams like Rio Grande Valley will provide a model to help address this issue going forward, but that is an issue for another article.
For Saint Louis FC it is key that we lead the league in the professional image that we put forward. We are certainly on the forefront of that realm but we should strive to be the leaders out in front of the rest of the league.
As for the fans, we can help our team promote its professional image by continuing to show up en masse and make noise and provide one of the best in-game atmospheres that rivals any other in the United States.