When FPL Fun Crosses the Line

Our latest podcast episode has been recorded, and I’m already losing sleep over something I said. That’s what happens when you lose the balance between the power of the microphone and the responsibility that comes with that power.

VAR debuted in the Premier League this past weekend, so of course, we talked about it. I feel very strongly about VAR being a good and necessary thing, and I have been expressing that opinion at every opportunity.

I also feel very strongly about in-game announcing. You see, there was a time when my dream was to be a sports broadcaster. I dabbled a little in college, covering some baseball and softball games for my alma mater. I later explored the possibility of an unpaid internship with the local minor league baseball team. When my wife and I learned we were pregnant with our first child, however, an unpaid internship wasn’t going to work. I was going to have to chase my dream another way.

In part, that is what this podcast has provided me - an audio forum through which to express my love for sports, specifically soccer. The podcast allows me — requires me, really — to watch a lot of soccer so that I know what I’m talking about. And in watching soccer, I listen to a lot of announcing.

Which brings me back to our most recent podcast episode.

In watching the first round of Premier League matches, one thing seemed pretty clear to me. VAR is ready for prime time. It was polished and ready and used to good effect. And yet, something still seemed a little off.

But it wasn’t VAR. It was TV.

The TV broadcast is not yet equipped to fully incorporate VAR into its product. The same old announcers that have been calling matches for years struggled to know how to discuss it at times. They struggled to make predictions and provide insights as to what the VAR official was reviewing.

In other words, VAR was ready for the league. TV, however, was not ready for VAR.

This is what my rant on our podcast was about. VAR has definitely changed the league. That much was immediately obvious to everybody. Since change is hard, some people are opposed to it — or at the very least, predisposed to look at the change in a negative light.

But I didn’t care. In a moment, with the microphone in front of me, I went off. I blasted away at how TV needed to do more to make VAR less like the crazy uncle that has been invited into your home for the holidays and more like a loved and welcomed (and permanent) member of the family. I took it even further and named names, Lee Dixon and Graeme Le Saux.

Dixon and Le Saux have been a part of the NBC Sports crew since the network began airing Premier League matches in the United States. I love what NBC has done for the Premier League. Its coverage is always so good. Arlo White is, in my opinion, the best soccer announcer in the world. For the last couple of years, however, I have felt like Dixon and Le Saux have held him back.

Dixon and Le Saux tend to discuss their opinions more than anything else, including tactics and the application of the laws of the game to the action on the pitch. It’s frustrating for me, someone who would love to have their job and thinks that he, with some practice, could actually do it.

Plus, Le Saux was pretty critical of VAR over the weekend. And so, in a flash, all of that came together in a rant that was semi-coherent and entirely critical of what I consider to be old, out-of-touch announcers, naming Dixon and Le Saux in particular.

It was over the line. I feel so strongly that it was over the line that I lost sleep last night, asked Dave to edit some of it out so you never hear it, and typed out this post as a way to clear my conscience. Additionally, because one of the greatest commands in life is to “love your neighbor as yourself,” I asked — and ask now — for forgiveness.

Here’s the reality: Dixon and Le Saux are big boys with amazing jobs that give them a platform in front of millions. I am a co-host of a fledgling podcast with a fraction of that audience. They can handle my criticism.

Regardless, I want to be responsible with the platform I have. You want helpful FPL takes in an entertaining format. I want to provide that. Along the way, we have the ability to express strong opinions on relevant topics, but there is a line that we should not cross. I don’t want to be that kind of guy, that kind of podcast host, who does that.

So this is me, learning from my mistakes. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to try to get some sleep. But it will be hard. I’m already excited for Gameweek 2.