American coverage of soccer has come a long way since I started following Arsenal in the early 1990's. Back then, if I wanted to watch a game, I had to go somewhere - usually a pub, sometimes a random restaurant, but I couldn't watch at my house until Fox Sports World came on the scene in the latter part of the 1990's. Even at pubs, unless it was a Cup final or the World Cup, it wasn't a big event; there were generally a few of us huddled around a TV in the corner as the rest of the pub did their thing. If I wanted media coverage, I had to wait until Monday or Tuesday and go to the newsstand and get an English newspaper from the weekend.
Gradually, of course, this got easier; my first exposure to the Internet was in about 1998 or 1999 (one of the first Guardian minute-by-minutes I remember following was the 1999 Champions League final, where Manchester United scored twice late to win it), and once I discovered the Guardian and the BBC, it became a whole lot easier to follow my team. But even still, soccer was a niche sport in the US; there were dozens, not thousands, of people that watched European soccer, and it was still regarded as a huge curiosity by most Americans, even the most ardent of sports fans. There was a tremendous online following, particularly for Arsenal, but it was still something that not that many people knew or cared about. If you did, though, you cared passionately and you hoovered up any scrap of coverage you could get your hands on.
Then, of course, things started to blow up - in the last five years, I've had access to more soccer than I can possibly consume, from almost every country with a professional league, either via internet or on TV. I don't really take advantage of any of it - I'm an Arsenal fan, and I don't really care about most other domestic leagues except when Arsenal play them in the Champions League - but I love the fact that we live in a day and age where soccer is so completely accessible and not scoffed at by the mainstream.
With that in mind, I was pretty happy to see NBC's plans for covering the Premier League next season - they are televising every single game. EVERY GAME. In a matter of just under 15 years, I've gone from having to read three-day-old newspapers for my Premier League news to being able to see more games televised live than even English people can - which really kinda blows my mind.
I can't honestly say I will watch every Premier League game, or even that I'll watch most of them - I'll definitely watch 38 Arsenal games, and if I catch some other random game, that'll be cool (again, Arsenal fan first, everything else second/third/whenever). I'm mostly just excited that we now live in an age where this sort of thing is possible, and feasible, and economically viable; I hate to pull the old-guy card out, but y'all don't know how lucky you are right now. This is an amazingly awesome move by NBC - they're putting all their weight behind the Premier League, and that's a really cool thing.
It's cool not least because it might even help MLS, which NBC also has the rights to and to which the Premier League will serve as an awesome lead-in. No matter how you slice it, NBC has decided to bet big on the English game, and I'm really excited to see what they can do with it. Their broadcasters are pretty solid - Arlo White's done good work for the Sounders and MLS, and Robbie Earle is a great broadcaster for the Timbers right now, and they have Lee Dixon so there can't be anything bad about that.
So, here's to next year, and not having to deal with Fox Soccer any more; I hope NBC does the league the justice it claims to want to do.