Is Tim Howard's long-term future in soccer broadcasting?
NBC’s Premier League coverage does not need saving but it will likely have an expert on the subject this season:
Before his World Cup heroics, the U.S. national team goalkeeper worked seven games for the NBC Sports Network as an English Premier League analyst, a coup for NBCSN since Howard is also the starting keeper for the Everton Football club. Given that NBC Sports executives liked what they heard from Howard -- as well as the fact that his Q-rating has soared exponentially after his Secretary of Defense performance in Brazil -- the network is keen to have him return to its Premier League production (which kicks off again in August).
“Ultimately, it depends on Tim,” said Pierre Moossa, the coordinating producer for NBCSN’s Premier League production. “We would love to continue to work with him. As an active Premier League player, he adds such unique aspects to our broadcasts but we appreciate and understand that his commitment to his club and country is top priority. When I last spoke to him prior to the World Cup, he seemed very open to working with us during the upcoming season and we will continue to look for various opportunities to include Tim in our broadcasts.”
Moossa said the goal last year for NBC Sports and Howard was to find broadcast opportunities that did not impact his normal preparation for Everton. He commentated on days only after Everton games, traditionally a day off for players in the league.
“We would reach out a couple weeks in advance and see if he was available and interested,” Moossa said. “We never wanted to be a distraction for him. We would speak the Wednesday the week of the show to review his prior telecast, to discuss his upcoming broadcast, and to finalize his travel logistics. We would then leave him alone till after his match.”
Moossa said the day before Howard’s debut telecast last Oct. 27 -- he called Chelsea-Manchester City at Stamford Bridge with regular play by play announcer Arlo White -- NBC Sports executives were nervous that Howard's broadcast work could potentially be a distraction for him. But Howard saved a penalty and recorded a clean sheet that day against Aston Villa in a 2-0 win. The win became a pattern: Moossa said Howard’s teams had a 6-1 record for matches the day before Howard working as an analyst. Howard called six games in the booth including Liverpool-Manchester City last April, and was in the studio for Arsenal-Chelsea last Dec. 23.
"There were nerves in the beginning, which was completely understandable, but also a desire to know everything about his new environment," said White, who worked with Howard along with fellow commentator Steve Bower. "Pierre and I both spent time with Tim in the week leading up to the first broadcast and he took a lot of information on board about the requirements of working on an NBC Sports broadcast. It was more than he was expecting I think, but he took it all in without a single complaint.
"The evolution of his broadcasting over the course of his first season was stark. He went from a softly spoken, rather shy presence, to a confident and sharp analyst in very little time. I remember early in that first game together, I stayed quiet during the first replay. We'd previously discussed that that was his time to speak and to break down what had just happened. There was silence. I didn't want to force the issue as I wanted him to remain calm and collected. We had a chat about it at halftime, and the flow improved markedly in the second half. Later in the season, at a huge Liverpool game during the title run, he was confident, eloquent, punchy and made some very insightful observations."
There are certain positions in sports that tend to make good broadcast analysts. Sports television producers like keepers for soccer broadcasts since they see the entire field unlike a midfielder or forward. They are also generally excellent communicators (Howard is one of the best interviews on the national team), and by the nature of their job, they must study opponents tactics and tendencies.
White said that Everton manager Roberto Martinez (who is currently working for ESPN as a World Cup analyst) told him in an interview last season that Howard would achieve whatever he wanted to after the conclusion of his soccer career because "he'll listen and he'll work hard." How does Moossa evaluate Howard’s long-term potential as a broadcaster?
“Should Tim choose to make television his career after he retires, he will have a bright future,” Moossa said. “He seemed to have the same approach for our broadcasts as he would for a match. He would watch back and critique his prior NBC telecast. We would then review it together on a conference call. He was always looking for feedback. His tremendous work ethic, his eagerness to learn and his desire to improve will ensure his success in the broadcast booth. You could tell by working with him, that regardless of this being a side project, he would not settle for anything less than his absolute best.”
THE NOISE REPORT
SI.com examines some of the more notable sports media stories of the past week:
1. ESPN and Univision announced their commentators for the World Cup semifinals:
Tuesday: Brazil vs. Germany:
ESPN: Ian Darke and Steve McManaman.
Univision: Jorge Pérez-Navarro, Félix Fernández, and Mauro Camoranesi.
Wednesday: Argentina vs. Netherlands:
ESPN: Jon Champion and Stewart Robson.
Univision: José Luis López Salido, Ramón Ramírez, and Diego Balado.
2. My Monday column offered some thoughts for Fox Sports on its upcoming 2015 Women's World Cup and 2018 World Cup coverage.
2a. Here's Awful Announcing predicting what Fox will do in 2018.
3. MLB Network has two upcoming specials with nice potential. First, the network will air an hour-long special on the career of Brewers broadcaster Bob Uecker. The show, which airs July 17 at 7 p.m. ET, is narrated by actor Tom Berenger (Major League) and includes interviews with Hank Aaron, Bud Selig and clips of Uecker's famous beer commercials and many appearances on “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson." An hour later, it will air a tribute to Field Of Dreams, 25 years after the release of the film. MLB Network’s Bob Costas interviews actor and star Kevin Costner about his role in the film, an interview that was filmed last month on the Field of Dreams in Dyersville, Iowa.
4. Sports Business Daily editor Austin Karp reported that ESPN drew a 1.9 overnight rating for Novak Djokovic’s five-set win over Roger Federer on Sunday, down from a 2.0 rating for Andy Murray’s straight-sets win over Djokovic last year and way down from Federer’s four-set win over Murray in ’12, which earned 3.1 overnight. ESPN PR told Karp on Twitter the rating was for the six-hour block the match ran and not the match itself. Petra Kvitova's quick win over Eugenie Bouchard in the women's final was down 36 percent from last year's women's final (Marion Bartoli over Sabine Lisicki).
4a. Michelle Beadle, Jalen Rose and Bill Simmons will work the red-carpet for the ESPYs pre-show on July 16, where Hannah Storm and Cari Champion will join them.
5. If you are under 35, I'll think you'll relate to this piece on death and Facebook.