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When Carli Lloyd went viral for her punishing criticism of the US Women’s National Team after their drab and dreary 0-0 draw against Portugal, battle stations were immediately engaged. It may be hard to fathom, but the social media response to Lloyd blasting the team for smiling and dancing after a draw drew became polarizing. On one side, Lloyd drew praise for being honest about what was objectively a very disappointing performance. It echoed her own ultra-competitive persona as a player. On the other side, questions emerged about whether she still has an axe to grind either personally or politically against those who remain within the USWNT system.
The reaction to Lloyd’s incredibly blunt and pointed criticism begs the question – what do we really want from our television analysts as sports fans?
Especially when it comes to international competitions, it’s very easy for networks and broadcasters to cover themselves in the stars and stripes and openly cheer and support American athletes. But like any home team announcer or analyst, there’s a clear difference in sharing a perspective that is centered on the team you cover and presenting how they can be successful versus living in a world of alternative facts and selling viewers short with delusions of grandeur and fantasy. Think of the difference between Hawk Harrelson and Gary Cohen.
Had the USWNT destroyed Portugal 5-0 with a free-flowing performance and Lloyd said those same comments there would be an entirely different reaction today because there would clearly be a disconnect between her analysis and reality. It would be obvious she was just a bitter ex-player who had a score to settle. On the flip side, if Lloyd had danced along with the team and said that everything was going according to plan after the 0-0 snoozer, it would be equally as hard to take her words seriously. She would be just another person cheerleading from the analyst desk with no substance and no realness at all just selling viewers on false hope. In that case you might as well turn to Uncle Baby Billy or even Alexi Lalas.
But that’s not what happened at all. Lloyd’s words resonated precisely because they reflected what everyone who stayed up until 5 a.m. ET saw – an over-confident pre-tournament favorite make a lucky escape. Only Lloyd can answer to her inner motivation and whether that has an impact on what she sees on the field. And time will showcase whether she still calls it straight down the middle as she sees it. But for now, isn’t honesty what we should hope for from television sports analysts? Whether we like it or not?