Let's See How Far We've Come
By Alex Fairchild
Saturday is a historic day in the world of football.
Not only will it mark an FA Cup in the midst of its organizer's sesquicentennial, but also because of what will happen in the United States. Much to the chagrin of British football viewers, the final was moved back to the 12:15 US eastern time slot, supposedly to cater to American viewers. While there is moral mire for the FA in this situation, putting traveling supporters up against train schedules late in the day, the network broadcast of football's eldest competition is for the US to savor.
Just look at how far football on US TV has come. Remember all those years ago, when you would subscribe to obscure networks like Fox Sports World to get that funky bunch of pixels on your screen? Or when Setanta Sports would put on the early morning kick-off? Football supporters in the US were lucky to get even a scrap of coverage, especially those who did not have the $15 to handover to the cable companies. However, in 2005 Fox Sports World turned to Fox Soccer and from there it all seemed to change.
While ESPN was broadcasting the Champions League, the EPL was what the people wanted. For whatever reason American football fans, being the sickos they are enjoy waking up at 7:30 in the morning on a Saturday to catch a match, while others on the west coast go even further. Imagine the dedication involved to get out of bed for a 4:30 am game?
Though the demand was there, the supply was not universally available. Then one by one FSC was picked up and put on an accessible plan. Verizon FIOS used the channel in its cable package without charging viewers an additional subscription fee. The games started to fly on in and year after year the community wanted more. Christopher Harris of EPLTalk.com has been on this story throughout the years and was, and still is, the voice for all things involving football and television. That site spurred activity to get cable companies to launch these channels on standard plans.
, the people got greedy. They wanted more. Supporters were tired of the pixelated screens on their new HDTVs, so they requested high definition football. For years that fight took place. It was a battle to get FSC to bring that quality stream to the States. They finally did, after ESPN had done so, picking up their game of the week type coverage on the eve of the season opener back in 2009. The footballing community here were spoiled, though it pressed on like two strikers at the start of a cup final. When Fox Soccer released its high definition channel, images were posted online and controversy was raised over which cable company would carry it and when. But HD was not enough either, because the people wanted more games. They wanted Fox Soccer Plus, though without that channel in HD as well, it would surely be useless.
While some basked in the glory of HD football, others scoured the web looking for answers, only to one day see that their cable network had finally put the channel on-air. The blurry pixels were gone and replaced with the smooth passing and high pace the Premier League provided. While all this was occurring, Fox put the Champions League final between Inter Milan and Bayern Munich on free-to-air television. That was the tipping point for many, though it would only get better when in 2011, the big Fox broadcasted a fixture between Manchester United and Chelsea, which saw Fernando Torres' famous miss air across the nation, only to make matters worse for the struggling Spaniard.
This weekend, though, is different. It is another step and perhaps one of Fox's last hurrahs. Losing out to NBC on EPL TV rights, the child of News Corporation has only the Champions League and World Cup on its docket. While those are the world's two most prestigious competitions, they are not enough for a full channel, which is why FXX will be taking the place of Fox Soccer come August. But having the FA Cup on free-to-air TV is quite the ordeal. This is the stuff of the old FA Cup when it was the
only game on the tele in England and everyone plopped in front of the set to take in the match with those famous towers in the background. Come 12:15 Saturday, all will tune to FOX to see Manchester City take on Wigan, though it is the occasion that is greater that the sides, or at least it is in the United States. It is the first time the FA Cup final will be exposed to a vast audience of Americans. For some it will be the first soccer game they ever see. It may even draw them to support Manchester City or Wigan for the rest of their lives.
For soccer fans, Saturday is similar to the day the Democratic Party got 'Obamacare' signed into law. On that day vice-president Joe Biden said of the bill, "This is a big f***ing deal."
Saturday is no different.