Ian Darke was the latest guest on the SI Media podcast and revealed a nugget of information that blew our minds. After riding a wave of momentum that saw him catapulted into the mainstream of American sports media after the 2010 World Cup, Darke says he was approached by ESPN about calling college football for the network.
Now stop and think about that for a second: Sir Ian Darke calling college football?!? It’s almost too good to be true. Could you imagine Darke in Tuscaloosa, Alabama using his expert English prose to call Alabama-Tennessee and trying to describe Nick Saban like he’s Jose Mourinho?
Well believe it or not, it almost happened. Darke was approached by ESPN after his first World Cup at the network to see if he was interested in expanding his broadcast portfolio. Unfortunately for all of our imaginations, Darke shot down the idea according to SI:
“The idea was floated in my general direction but it lasted no further than 15 seconds because I said, ‘Look, I would be found out,'” Darke said. “I’m a soccer announcer. And that’s what I am…I think you have to know your limitations. It is very difficult if it’s not a sport you have lived with and is in your soul for the whole of your life, to pick it up and sound authentic. Because you are broadcasting to a new audience who know so much about it.”
Darke broadcasting college football would have been a fun experiment, but given how the other major sports broadcasting experiment this decade failed – Gus Johnson’s brief tenure calling soccer – Darke’s words were darn near prophetic. It would have been a novelty, but there’s an infinitesimal chance it would have worked. In fact, it probably would have done more harm to Darke’s career on these shores than anything else.
Forget the British-to-American lingo and verbiage calling a new sport, the complicated rules of American football compared to soccer would present a massive challenge to learn. None of us who have watched the sport for decades even know what a catch really is in football, imagine how a foreign announcer new to the sport would feel about it.
You can also imagine how the diehard SEC loyalists would have reacted to a British soccer announcer coming over from across the pond to call their games. (I’m guessing there would have been several references to the Revolutionary War and “no taxation without representation.”) It would have made soccer fans look like they were rolling out the red carpet for Gus Johnson.
So Darke politely said no to ESPN and chose to be content with becoming the lead voice of America’s soccer renaissance after the 2010 World Cup and one of the most popular broadcasters working today. I think he chose wisely.