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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.

***

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.



About the Author

The Likely Lad





52 Comments


  1. Norfolk Ned

    I think the problem is they cover too much. I’m football mad yet can’t keep track of all the players and leagues around the World. Sky Sports covers Europe only and focuses on England. The FSR jumps around the place in a mad frenzy of highlights, if I can’t tell my Argie players from my Colombian ones, I’m sure its hard for someone else, who in all likelyhood doesn’t watch those games enough to know the players.

    I’d rather they were good at a couple of things, than crap at 10.

    They should focus on the big leagues only and let Gol or ESPN Spanish channels track all the South American Leagues. The popular football that FSC shows is the EPL, Serie A, La Liga and maybe Germany–outside of that the daily FSR round-up from ouyside the big leagues should be minimal or non-existent. That way their focus is on getting the important stuff correct.

    Middlesbrah! Not Burrow for one.


  2. Ryan

    Ned, I think one of the main reasons they show so much South American footy is that Fox Sports World and Fox Sports Espanol hold much of the rights to those leagues.


  3. Norfolk Ned

    They should maybe have it on FSE then, or a different show where someone else can specialize. One thing is clear, its not acceptable to pronounce the name of a Premier League football club incorrectly on a soccer show!


  4. Jape

    I agree with you Ned and I do think that would help the show. However, the broadcasts must be scripted and therefor the pronunciations should be factored in ahead of time. There must be an intern somewhere in Canada who can track down the proper phonetics and put them on the teleprompters, no?


  5. Norfolk Ned

    Or a footy mad producer–Not just that though, the Stoke 3-1 defeat to Arsenal was presented as a 2-1 win with only 3 goals shown!

    Its a few things–Yet Likely Lad is right, its the only daily show for footy news! Wrong results should never slip in.


  6. Keith

    the pronunciations are on the producers and writing staff, since they’re the ones pulling the shot sheets together. As all names on the prompters/shot sheets are written phonetically, the errors are on the back half of the camera. This likely wouldn’t be a problem if FSC hadn’t spent all of their production budgets on the Match Day, Super Sunday, and FFF sets.


  7. The Likely Lad

    No, as someone who does just this for a living, it is not solely on any one individual. The producer and writer (they are their own writers at FSR) have a duty to aid the anchor in pronunciation. But at the end, if the anchor has any pride in what they’re doing, they don’t make the same mistakes twice. Or three, four, 15 times. It’s a simple process: you write the script, go over it with producers and editors and then, if you’re not comfortable with pronunciation, you do some homework and figure it out. The anchors here contend with an even wider range of names, from around the world, and even the less-seasoned talking heads are mortified– and scolded– if they make a mistake.


  8. Norfolk Ned

    @Keith. I would expect a Premier League highlights reporter for a channel that shows the highlights to know who Richard Dunne is and not need it phonetically typed. Lad and I both work in TV also. Both of us have in the past written newsbriefs for anchors.


  9. Jape

    Am I am going to show up at the World Cup Party and find out that The Likely Lad is really Arnold Diaz?!?


  10. 30f

    The poor pronunciation does get me at times. One of the females on FSR said Man United was playing at ‘Old tra-FORD’ earlier in this season. It is usually not players names since I tend to give them a mental pass. Hell, Sky Sports screw that up as well. On Sky have just figured out that Jozy is not eye-talian. They had been saying ‘Al-ti-doh-RAY.’

    Far worse than that, at least to me is when they botch important details – like which Cup ties might be two legged or lead to a replay if they end in a draw. I shut off FSR once when they totally mis-stated the basics of the ‘away goals rule’ during CL highlights.


  11. Keith

    Lad, Ned: The point is though that the production values seem so poor on FSR, especially when compared to the other newsdesk-style programming on the same channel (the video quality at times makes it seem like it’s being shot on a satellite phone; in contrast, you never saw a grainy Steven Cohen when he was hosting Triple-F, and that was way before FSC had even entertained the notion of HD). In addition to hiring presenters with very little prior experience, it seems that whomever directs and produces the show is inexperienced, and that this:

    It’s a simple process: you write the script, go over it with producers and editors and then, if you’re not comfortable with pronunciation, you do some homework and figure it out

    is not happening.


  12. L dub

    your 1 complaint is that they are mispronouncing names???

    get a life


  13. Keith

    no, L Dub, it’s that they’re mispronouncing names, getting results wrong, getting rules wrong and they often don’t seem synced up with the video (i.e. calling a goal 10 seconds before it happens in the highlight).

    Besides, when pronouncing names is 75 % of your job as it is in a highlight show, that’s a big deal


  14. The Stretford End

    I remember from the Terri Leigh interview with UF, she said they write everything themselves and that the production crew is off-site (hundreds of miles away), so they might be on their own for pronunciations.

    As someone whose name is often mispronounced (too many people say STRATford End), this annoys me. I have come to expect it on ESPN, but FSR only covers soccer. And lately, Sportscenter anchors actually seem to have the phonetic pronunciations. When Stu “Boo-yah” Scott did the U.S.-Holland highlight on the L.A. version of SC, he very obviously pronounced the names off a guide. But he got them all right. And that’s amazing for a moron like him.


  15. A one-eyed moron at that.


  16. The Likely Lad

    @StraaaatfordEnd, L dub,

    the espn thing makes my point– the guy didn’t know, but he was a pro about it (tho espn doesn’t have a 100% record either) and got it right, even if it was a bit strained.

    the biggest point is something they teach you day one of journalism school: if you mess up the easy stuff– like how to say someone’s name– then how can people take you seriously with the more complex things? It’s a lack of care, a lack of professionalism and respect for the game and job. Everyone’s allowed an error, but they do it EVERY NIGHT. I didn’t write this on a whim, and I had the ammo to be much more biting.

    and note: yes, the graphics are weak and they’re up against with the way the show is produced. But the one thing they do control is the words they speak. If you’ve written your script and you’re not 100000% sure on how to say it, check online, phone a friend, etc. But don’t walk on the set guessing.


  17. Keith

    Lad: I’m in agreement with you that the journalists have to take the responsibility to get things right, but that the pronunciation errors are endemic of the show’s overall rudderlessness. It’s a show without anyone pushing anyone to get better internally.


  18. Norfolk Ned

    @L dub

    It shows a lack of professionalism that leeks into the other production values, like getting the scores wrong!


  19. Goat

    you write a blog about soccer????

    get a life

    This is something that’s bothered me for a while and I’m glad I’m not the only one that’s noticed (and am not the only one who’s watching). What’s made it particularly perplexing is that in her UF interview, Baldaserra (by the way, I just looked up how to spell that and I’m just some schmuck posting a comment on a blog) seemed to know her s**t. Maybe it’s just an extension of the funky Canadian pronunciation of seemingly simple things like “pasta” and “about.”


  20. The Likely Lad

    goat, if that were the case, if it were possibly the case, we’d have left well enough alone. as stated ad nauseam, we like them! but often, when they err in the first half-hour, the mistake is magically fixed by the bottom of the hour. they can’t cop Canadian on this!


  21. Goat

    That’s one reason I didn’t ever want to bring it up. I don’t want them to fail. By the way, does everyone else get annoyed overhearing people in a bar talk endlessly about WHY-gan and Totten-HAM? TLL, you actually watch both halves of FSR?


  22. The Likely Lad

    hahah

    1)i didnt even bring up TottenHam and The Spurs. Like I wrote: no lists here.

    2)only for the purposes of the blog. i was especially curious if they’d correct that dunne thing…


  23. ben

    When I was younger and watching footy on TV in Argentina, it was always fun to hear the announcers make a half-hearted attempt to pronounce the foreign player names, then give up about 15 minutes into the match and start calling their numbers only. This was particularly common with Balkan, Asian and Middle Eastern teams. Sometimes they would even joke on air about how unpronounceable the names were. I think they’ve gotten more professional in recent years though.


  24. corky

    I vaguely remember from one of your interviews (I think with Terri Leigh) that they have someone on staff in Winnipeg who gives them a pronunciation guide.

    TLL — I appreciate your tone in this. You could have really chopped them up over this, but they are trying hard and that does deserve some credit. Considering the show’s budget (I am guessing fairly small) and the location (I have heard Winnipeg is not a top place to live), they do OK. As long as they keep on improving, good.

    My own personal nitpick — Lara (she’s pretty! and that Canadian accent!) seems to be yelling sometimes to put extra emphasis. Anyone else notice that?


  25. Norfolk Ned

    @Corky

    You mean like this rant from poor departed Bigus, exactly a year ago?

    http://unprofessionalfoul.com/2009/03/24/they-just-dont-give-a-sht/


  26. @TSE: I don’t know which Stu Scott highlights of the US-NED match you were watching, but it was god-awful. Mispronounciations everywhere, but the worst part was that he clearly had no idea what was going on in the highlights. I sent an email that night to my fellow UFers saying it was awful.

    My precise words:
    “Wow. Stuart Scott’s highlights of the us v ned match were atrocious.”


  27. hadley

    I don’t watch this show unless I absolutely cannot find the goals elsewhere. The accents, the mistakes, and the awful production values absolutely kill me. And that’s even with two very attractive women onscreen! Bad news. I hereby volunteer myself as phonetic pronunciation guy.


  28. Jape

    Nice cheat sheet – I wonder how Tomas Rosicky actually pronounces his own last name, because I have heard it said at least 3 different ways over the years by the play by play crews.


  29. Goat

    I was watching during the mispronunciation of “Dunne,” as well. But it reminded me of this (about the 1:20 mark) so I let it slide:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0zwZjRkKDdo


  30. The Stretford End

    @TFA: I got home late, so I was watching about 1 a.m. PST. Maybe they went back through and had him fix it all since I was in the rerun cycle.

    If he effed it all up the first time, I retract my earlier statement. He is no longer as cool as the other side of the pillow.

    All we can hope is that they allow Brian Kenny and Josh Elliott to do all soccer highlights.


  31. I’ll watch FSR for a bit, but about 15 minutes is all I can take. I really wish they didn’t try and cram everything into a half-hour show and then just run through it a second time. You have an hour, use the damn thing! And, for f**k’s-sake could they show all the highlights from a league matchday, not just a few? Stick to a few important leagues. No one cares about the SPL, it’s either Rangers or Celtic, and they’re both rubbish.


  32. Hadley – I’ll take you up on that if you want to be MY phonetic pronunication guide.

    But the first time I get a complaint from another viewers about a pronouncer you gave me (will likely take about five seconds) – you’re fired.

    Pronouncers – like opinions – are like a-holes….everybody seems to have one.


  33. Goat

    @Jeremy: My wife would also like subtitles for Bobby McMahon. Any chance you could do something about that?


  34. Goat

    @Jeremy: I also suspect that you’re feeding the lovely Ms. Baldaserra misinformation in order to sabotage her. Or maybe I’ve just seen Anchorman one too many times.


  35. Norfolk Ned

    @Jeremy St Louis.

    This entire thread should be seen as constructive criticism and not as a bashing session–as everyone commenting appear to be your audience.


  36. I think if we are complaining about pronounciations we have very little to complain about. Those that know will be annoyed and those that don’t won’t really care.


  37. The Stretford End

    In some ways, I can handle mispronunciation more than over-pronunciation (I’m lookin’ at you, former FSC hack Max Brrrrrrrrrretos)

    And in fairness, I love watching the Sky Sports News people make a mess of names all over the globe, too.


  38. corky

    At least FSR treats soccer with respect. Until someone at ESPN told them to stop it, idiots like Neil Everett would just make stupid jokes about Kaka and not even try.

    I really wish ESPN had added Josh Elliott to the WC team in SA. That guy loves soccer.


  39. Norfolk Ned

    The other good thing about FSR is that the folks are likeable, unlike that clueless nupty Nick Webster–What he knows about footy can be written on the back of a postage stamp. Even Wynalda looks bemused half the time as he has to sit and listen to some of the most ridiculous crap ever to leave a TV presenters mouth in the history of the tube!


  40. ArsenalToughGuy

    I dont hink its that bigga deal boys, get on with it, really?who cares if they call spaniards incorrectly? i want to see highlites and beautiful women (Lara Baldesarra and Terri Leigh), thats all…my lifewill be fine with minor name f**k ups from time to time…


  41. Wayne

    HAhahahahaha, ATG, you said it buddy,right on


  42. The Likely Lad

    now’s when ATG and Wayne touch tips…


  43. Wayne

    ya, with your mother!!


  44. Wayne

    hahahah, just kidding bro, ive been waiting to do a momma joke all day


  45. Unsurprisingly, those are from the same IP.


  46. JP Getty

    There is a site that is pretty good for pronouncers – it’s called FORVO. Perhaps some of you supposed ‘experts’ can go there and add your ‘correct’ pronunciations.

    I know the FSR guys try to use it but the database is limited. Perhaps if there was a movement by footie folks to try and get as many names properly pronounced into the database, it would help not only FSR but ESPN, Gol, etc.

    Just an idea…..


  47. Ray Gopaul

    I had to add my two cents in agreeing with you about lines being crossed re: mis-pronounce names of soccer players and even of European cities by Teri Leigh, Lara Baldesara & Nabil Karim. I really don’t mind Ms. Leigh’s errors as much because she doesn’t make such a fake show of trying to appear as though she can pronounce Spanish or Italian names (as Ms. Baldesara so clearly does). What I cannot believe is that with a name like Baldesara, she has no idea how Italian words are pronounced. And about the switching from Spanish to Dutch to English etc. I don’t see how that excuses saying straightforward Anglo names in pseudo-Latin pronunciations.
    Then there is Nabil Karim. Where to begin? Ok, I can understand why ladies like Teri and Lara were hired but Karim baffles me. At least the other (shall we say ‘mediocre-looking’) gentlemen on the show know the game of soccer. Nabil Karim has the footballing knowledge of someone who not only doesn’t watch the game, but doesn’t even own a television. And, re: his mis-pronunciations (as bad or worse than both ladies) have not been corrected, as Derek Taylor and Jeremy St Louis’ were after a few weeks’ study and effort. Absolutely ridiculous! And where is Carlos Machado? I love that guy. What’s wrong with a bit of humour o. The show? I think it’s sorely lacking since hos departure, and I do hope he lands on hos feet wherever he ends up working next.


  48. Nico

    Baldesarra drives me nuts. My guess is that she has never been to Europe. She just pronounced Michel Platini as “Mickel”. What is she doing?


  49. Jacquot

    It’s an annoyance, but I can’t believe some people are broken in half by it.


  50. [...] Soccer Report (FSR) and its anchors have been strong and divided from the beginning, with a notable negative peak in 2009-2010. By contrast, the only anchor universally praised in the pages is Bobby McMahon [...]


  51. Speaking of being biased. In the Women’s soccer league final the reporters were VERY biased to the Western New York team. When Portland’s Sinclair scored the 2-0 goal with 2 minutes stoppage time left the male reporter commented that just MIGHT be the championship decision, MIGHT BE, give me a break, , Western New York would have to score two to force overtime and three to win outright, in TWO minutes?? Both reporters talked WAY TOO MUCH and everything Western New York dis was “great” and most of the things this team from the “Wild West” in Portland Oregon were critisized. What a shame.



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