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March 5, 2010
 

The Problem with Fox Soccer Report

Who you calling Shabby?

Bias is a dirty word in the news business. Most reporters are either trying to to conceal their own, convince us it doesn’t exist, or exploit yours for ratings. That, or they just don’t care.  Pick your poison.  But UF– a lowly blog!—isn’t in the news business. And it’s lovely, because we don’t have to lie about our feelings. We love soccer. We want it to succeed in North America.

We want more opportunities to watch the game, and when the game ends, we want better journalistic analysis and more highlights. There are so many matches being played in so many leagues, in so many countries and continents, that’s it darn near impossible to follow it all without a bit of help.

We’re hardly missionaries. If you’re reading this, you need no convincing. I don’t think anyone here has any interest in converting or exterminating the brutes. We just want the most visible and influential folks in the business to do their jobs in a way that gives us pride—to put a good face on it all.

For now, there is only one North American based program dedicated to English-language coverage of the day in international football. It’s called the Fox Soccer Report, and as you may or may not be aware, this blog has an excellent relationship with their presenters, having interviewed at least three or four in the past two years. We openly, with apparent bias, root for them to put on a good show. We want their ratings to grow and for the corporate money to flow their way (for all the reasons stated above.)

But over the past year, we have observed a particularly disturbing trend that, for this writer at least, has become too much to ignore. It’s quite simple really, and comes down to this: the anchors, Ms. Leigh and Ms. Baldesarra in particular– seem unable to consistently narrate a highlight without mispronouncing the names of the players.

I could present to you a list of the mistakes. Some are more egregious than others, but they are legion. There has even been a web site dedicated to tracking the newest host’s errors.

We have no illusions about the difficulty of the job. FSR presenters must switch from Dutch to African to English and back to South American highlights in the space of 22 minutes (the show is an hour before commercials, but normally repeats the first half from the 30-minute mark.) As Ms. Baldesarra remarked to us during an interview a few weeks back, it can be difficult to switch from Serie A to Chivas Guadalajara and back in the course of one segment. But that is no excuse for her rash of ugly mistakes—see: Richard Dunne as Richard DOON. In that case, a producer quite obviously corrected her for the second half-hour, when the pronunciation was spot-on.

Ms. Baldesarra’s colleague, Terri Leigh, has also been kind enough to speak with us about her work on The Report. She was quite candid during our chat about her lack of experience in front of a camera. All told, I’d say she’s more than held her own. But Ms. Leigh, too, has a nasty habit of failing to properly speak the players’ names.

For two individuals who are paid to do just that, it is simply unacceptable, if not unprofessional. It’s lazy and drives away fans who might otherwise consider the program a must-see.

For me, FSR remains high up on the Tivo queue, but even then there are times when it’s just a bit too galling and I change the channel. I can wait for Sky Sports later in the night. And our concern here—fueled by our bias for football and FSR—is that too many others are reacting the same way.

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Note: The FSR anchor you’ve seen the least of lately, Nabil Karim, has had his share of problems, too.  But the producer(s) seem content to use him only as a sub. Also, credit to Leigh and Baldaserra for taking on their self-appointed demons on Wednesday night, when they did voiceovers for the USMNT-Holland and England-Egypt friendlies, respectively.  Leigh told us she was most troubled by pronouncing Dutch names, yet pretty much nailed her “Clockwork Oranje” bon mot.  Baldesarra, who said she had trouble with the the Arab names, gamed her way through Egypt’s early surge, then slashed through the second half highlights on a diet of Peter Crouch and pronouns.

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The Likely Lad