This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
As ESPN began its coverage of Euro 2012 on Thursday, its cameras captured a moment of incredible soccer drama.
Tied 1-1 in the 69th minute, Polish goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny fouled Greek forward Dimitris Salpigidis in the penalty area and was red-carded. Backup keeper Przemyslaw Tyton came off the bench and saved the penalty kick by Giorgos Karagounis, preserving the tie and gaining the Poles a point in group play.
If you're not a soccer fan, you don't get any of that. You don't understand how huge (and rare) it is to save a PK. How making that save was astonishing when you've just come off the bench. And how massively important it was for Poland to salvage a tie.
The point is that ESPN does get it. The network's coverage is, ahem, pitch-perfect. ESPN staff is in Poland and the Ukraine to bring us all 31 matches of Euro 2012 live.
Just having Ian Darke in the booth calling games makes ESPN's coverage a cut above most of the soccer coverage we see in the United States. Although he and analyst Steve McManaman engaged in an orgy of "we" and "us" when talking about the English team Monday.
And there's a lot more to the ESPN than just Darke.
Great production. Great direction. Great camera work. Great graphics. Good, sometimes great, play-by-play and commentary.
Decent studio shows, although those could be better.
Alexi Lalas can be so smug it's off-putting. Bob Ley sometimes seems out of his league. And he let Giuseppi Rossi off the hook far too easily about why he plays for Italy and not America, where he was born and raised.
Frankly, Rossi was a bore as a guest analyst. Why ask him to second-guess the Italian coach? He's hoping to recover from his injury and get back on the team.
But, honestly, the game coverage is good, leaving me to nitpick at the studio shows.
That ESPN is doing such a good job should come as no surprise. Coverage of both the men's World Cup in 2010 and the women's World Cup in 2011 was outstanding.
Soccer fans in this country have it so good that we are, perhaps taking it for granted.
We shouldn't. ESPN will bring us the 2014 men's World Cup (phew!), but Fox bought the rights to 2018.
That event itself is still six years away. But it's never too early to worry. When you look at Fox's coverage of Super Bowls and World Series, it's not hard to imagine obnoxious sound effects, endless self-promotion and screaming announcers, is it?
And you need look no further than the Fox Soccer Channel to question Fox's commitment to the sport. It's a great place to watch English Premiere League games because FSC just picks up the British telecasts. But the studio shows are bad and it's a pretty low-budget operation.
It's also astonishing that FSC the American network devoted to soccer has no presence of the American professional soccer league. Major League Soccer did the smart thing by switching to NBC Sports Network, which is available in more than twice as many homes. But the question is why Fox hasn't used its considerable power to get FSC on more than 40 million (out of 115 million) U.S. TV homes.
Is soccer not a priority?
At least Fox has plenty of time to ramp up for the 2018 World Cup. As long as it doesn't ramp up the sound effects and the promos.
Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.