After NBC won the rights to broadcast the Premier League in America, I decided this would be a good chance to start following the world's most popular sport a little more in-depth. The extent of my soccer knowledge is this: MLS isn't exactly on the level of the major European leagues, Lionel Messi is a god, and there are something like 80 tournaments a year.
But I have several friends that are huge Premier League fans, and seeing them talk about the matches every weekend intrigued me. I read up on the Premier League and was enthralled by the table, with its system of qualifications and relegations. Even with MLB starting up its stretch drive and football getting ready to begin, I was determined to add some soccer viewing to my schedule.
So this weekend, I tuned in for the first Premier League games on NBC and NBCSN. Quite frankly, I couldn't have been more impressed.
NBC presented the Premier League more like it presents the Olympics as opposed to how they present the NHL: like a major event. The commentators and studio crew used a technique that more American commentators could learn from: silence letting the crowd tell the story. The very first Premier League match on NBCSN pitted Liverpool against Stoke City. Although they were using a syndicated feed, NBC let the crowd at Anfield take over with their rendition of "You'll Never Walk Alone" instead of talking over it. From then, I was almost immediately hooked.
The studio crew, led by Rebecca Lowe, managed to make things simple enough for even a novice like me to understand what was going on, yet didn't break out a talking soccer ball or any other visual aids that would be better suited in an elementary school classroom. When there was controversy in the Arsenal-Aston Villa match, the commentary team broke down why the Arsenal players were so fired up about yellow cards on what looked like an innocuous tackle. NBC's main commentary team of Arlo White and Lee Dixon called the Swansea-Manchester United match, and were largely very good, aside from technical difficulties that were out of their control.
Those technical difficulties were the lone blemish on NBC's opening day of Premier League coverage. Their coverage was approachable for a new fan like me, and yet it wasn't so basic that it drove away the diehards. I still have no club to support, and I'm still learning as I go, but I was extremely impressed with my first foray into the Premier League on NBC and NBCSN.