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It came with no hype and no build-up because the deal was done at the last second, but the English Premier League arrived on ESPN2 this morning — in high definition. Of course, it’s absolutely beautiful, even to my bleary eyes at 6.45am Chicago time.
The question I have for my American friends is: will this move prove to be a tipping point for soccer in America? Now, I know we hear way too much tipping points for the sport here, and we probably spend too much time asking the damn question instead of just following the sport, so feel free to skip to the links on other stuff below.
But there is something different about tuning into the Premier League on the (secondary) mainstream sports channel on a Saturday morning. Sure, it’s been on ESPN before, but never before in HD and never before with this buzz (EPL Talk’s website crashed under the strain of their exclusive announcement last night). The interest level is simply unprecedented.
- Bryan Gunn was fired from Norwich after just one league game of the season (few commentators mentioned Norwich did win a midweek Carling Cup 4-0), that infamous 7-1 defeat last Saturday. As Two Hundred Percent mentions, the timing itself was very curious — the defeat had presumably been ‘unacceptable’ ever since Saturday, so why did it take the Norwich board until Friday to make their decision, leaving little preparation for the game today?
- Kevin Eason has a piece in The Times on season ticket sales in England, reporting that “It might be in £3 billion of debt and spending like a drunken banker hoping for a big bonus but football still pulls in the big money.” The Independent also weighs in to point out most Premier League clubs are living well beyond their income, thanks to wealthy backers — not exactly a surprise, but a reminder that the League remains a largely unprofitable venture.
- And there’s an equally bleak forecast for the Scottish Premier League.
- Stuart James has a good piece on Premier League new boys Burnley, where 73,000 inhabitants will see them return to the big time after 33 years. James emphasises the challenge ahead by pointing out that “At less than £20m, the club’s annual wage bill is the smallest in the division and would struggle to cover Manchester United’s salaries for two months.”
- Worst headline of the year? “Beckham biggest name in MLS” announces the Seattle Times.
- All U.S. Soccer players who traveled with swine flu victim Landon Donovan to Mexico received a medical advisory.
- For those in the U.S. enjoying the HD on ESPN2 today, you’ll also be pleased to learn that EPL Talk is reporting Fox Soccer Channel will be going HD in 2010, including for MLS games. As for me, apologies for the brief post, but I’m going to enjoy the rest of the first match of the Premier League season. . .And don’t miss our piece on the Women’s Premier League, also kicking off this weekend in England, the same day the WPS playoffs get underway in the U.S. There’s more to life than the Premier League, even in HD.
The Sweeper appears daily. For more rambling and links throughout the day every day, follow your editor @pitchinvasion on Twitter.