24 January ~ Sunday was billed as an historic day for football in the United States when terrestrial television broadcast live its first ever domestic English match, Arsenal versus Manchester United. And how did Fox TV – the channel whose political hacks spend their lives shrieking that Bolshevism is the planet's greatest threat – choose to mark this momentous day? They wheeled out Piers Morgan as a pundit, possibly leaving American viewers wondering why they bothered with the Revolutionary War at all.

Morgan purports to be an Arsenal supporter, and his "26 years as a season ticket holder" were duly touted to prove his hardcore fan credentials. He sat on a panel alongside presenter Rob Stone and former US international Eric Wynalda, overshadowing their attempts to preview the game with his pompous bluster and what may have been an attempt to pass as banter by making a dig at Tottenham's late defeat at Manchester City. After that, things went steadily downhill.

Morgan pointed out that Arsenal's four first-choice full-backs were all injured, and so Manchester United would be attacking the flanks with Nani and Antonio Valencia. That was a pertinent if hardly profound point, except that it was delivered in the bleating tone of an eight-year-old schoolboy getting his excuses in first, with the implication that it would be only fair if United played Dimitar Berbatov and Jonny Evans on the wings instead. Arsenal were duly mauled in the wide defensive positions, but almost held out until half time. Ryan Giggs's cross for Valencia's goal just before the break, though, had the undesired effect of making Morgan almost look like he knew what he was talking about.

It also caused him to break loose at the interval and blame everything on Arsène Wenger. He whined that the 1-0 deficit was all Wenger's fault because he had failed to sign any more full-backs during the transfer window. As they say on the message boards and the phone-in shows, it was time for The Fan to get something off his chest and Have His Say. Never mind the difficulties of browsing the transfer market in a restricted time frame and finding two available world-class full-backs that might have contained United's marauding wide players. Blame Wenger!

This was nothing compared with Morgan's histrionics at the final whistle. Wenger's substitution of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, he declared, was the worst substitution he had ever seen. Get that! The teenager had just set up a goal and then off he went for Andrei Arshavin, who failed to track back when Valencia went on a run that set up United's winner. Again, Morgan table-thumpingly declared it was all Wenger's fault, then loudly proclaimed: "I've had enough of this!"

Stone and Wynalda looked at him, slightly worried. Would Morgan stab himself in the chest as a gesture of protest? No such luck. Rip up his season ticket live on US television? That might have been difficult, given that season tickets at the Emirates are small plastic cards, and a cynic might doubt whether Morgan actually owns one anyway. Make a run for the board? Wealthy, overbearing, clueless about football and with the requisite plummy accent, he'd be the perfect fit, but no announcement was made. Stop supporting Arsenal and change his allegiance to the New York Giants? That might have been in the Fox script, but at that point the football coverage came to a close. We are yet to find out what action Piers is preparing to take now that he's had it up to HERE with Arsène Wenger.

Of course no one is fooling themselves that this was anything besides theatre, and that Morgan was briefed beforehand to step up and look like the passionate homer. Gloat if you win, get mad if you lose and don't forget to find a hero or a scapegoat depending on the scenario. It is only a shame (though hardly a surprise) that the opportunity was missed to present football to a wider US public in an intelligent and more balanced fashion.

Still, it's no coincidence that the soulless new Arsenal stadium so closely resembles the giant concrete structures built to house American football teams. The Premier League's long-term corporate model has always been the money-bloated National Football League, and this step onto US territory as a warm-up for Sunday afternoon's NFL championship game between San Francisco and the New York Giants was the logical way forward for both to be seen as partner products rather than rivals fighting over the same turf. In that sense, an arm-waving moron was the perfect front for a sporting nation unceasingly fed on shameless hyperbole and vacuous drivel. Ian Plenderleith

Comments (17)
Comment by t.j.vickerman 2012-01-24 12:02:57

Well, Piers Morgan doesn't reflect the more measured view of all true Arsenal fans...oh.

Comment by Toby Gymshorts 2012-01-24 13:25:19

He's the English Glenn Beck. Only more irritating.

Comment by Coral 2012-01-24 14:04:32

Well, Piers Morgan doesn't reflect fans...oh.

Comment by MoeTheBarman 2012-01-24 14:05:43

Piers Morgan is a total cock.

Comment by Reed John 2012-01-24 14:13:55

I heard about this. What a strange and terrible decision by Fox. If they felt the need for a "Englishman Americans have heard of," which was totally superfluous anyway, they'd have been better off with Simon Cowell. Or Hugh Grant. Anyone, really.

Comment by Incandenza 2012-01-24 14:54:22

I was surprised that Fox would have on a CNN "personality." I was hoping for Bill O'Reilly to preview the game. Take the Premier League into the No Spin Zone, Bill!

Comment by Peter_Bateman 2012-01-24 15:06:51

There are aspects of the US sporting model that the Premier League does not aim to emulate which some might think desirable like a wage cap and the bottom teams having first pick of the best college graduates for next season to even things up on the field. I would draw the line at Piers Morgan though. They are welcome to him.

Comment by Renart 2012-01-24 15:30:10

Piers Morgan is intolerable. And let's not forget that FOX marketed this match as part of "Epic Sunday." #epicfail

Comment by jasoƱ voorhees 2012-01-24 15:48:26

I would love to see Congressman Joe Scarborough on a broadcast, as he apparently watches Liverpool live then tapes the University of Alabama college football game for later. But even for a far-right-winger, the sin of being on MSNBC is probably too much to bear.

It's still great to see live Premiership on Fux, especially if it carries over through the winter. The bottom line is commentating sucks in America no matter who you put on or no matter what network it is, so this article could've been "Fux's shit does not stick to wall, either."


Comment by alyxandr 2012-01-24 16:57:48

That wasn't even the worst of it -- KICU36, a Fox affiliate in the SF Bay Area, screwed up the feed something fierce; it looked about 8fps, and kept flickering briefly into full- from wide-screen. Almost unwatchable.

Comment by Lincoln 2012-01-24 17:35:26

"There are aspects of the US sporting model that the Premier League does not aim to emulate which some might think desirable like a wage cap and the bottom teams having first pick of the best college graduates for next season to even things up on the field"

I am not sure about either point. The first would make the EPL less desirable compared to other leagues and the second would be entirely unfair on any aspiring Championship side. Unless of course you mean close the Prem off and give the best Championship players for free to the worst Prem teams? At least that would help England as Prem clubs could finally buy English players without having to pay the premium. And as with the idea of Prem B sides, we all know that all fans really care about is England doing well every 2 years.

Comment by hifirandy 2012-01-25 04:32:50

I actually didn't think Piers was that bad. I don't know what he'd bring to a non-Arsenal match, though. And I'm not completely burned out on him as I'm guessing most English fans would be.

I'd also say that my country has set the bar so amazingly low when it comes to soccer broadcasts that if they don't cut to commercials during the match or have an NFL player detail the differences between "football" and "futbol" beforehand, then I consider it to be a success.

Plus, FOX at least deserves credit for making Rob Stone the face of their soccer coverage. Stone played in college and is a soccer lifer. In this country, such qualified, soccer-specific tele-journalists can be pretty tough to come by. As much as one can pull for members of the media, I'm happy that he scored what should be a dream job for him. By all accounts, he's a stand-up guy.

Comment by tempestinaflathat 2012-01-25 13:35:01

"There are aspects of the US sporting model that the Premier League does not aim to emulate which some might think desirable like a wage cap and the bottom teams having first pick of the best college graduates for next season to even things up on the field."

Out of interest, how would the latter work, given that no Premier League teams take on youth players directly from higher education?

Comment by peakevilla 2012-01-26 06:06:22

"Shameless hyperbole and vacuous drivel" You're beginning to sound like Piers, Ian.

Comment by davidgarrett 2012-01-27 18:30:55

I thought it was rather bizarre that they used their FOX NFL music to intro the game every chance. This music isn't used with hockey or golf or tennis or anything other then the NFL. I kept waiting for them to say it was all a joke and they were going to talk about the Giants for two hours!

Comment by ipswichfan 2012-01-27 23:32:54

They actually used that music the night before on their UFC coverage on FX. So maybe they're trying to extend the brand, to use a goofy US marketing term.

If Piers would have brought up the point "You mean to tell me there isn't a 20-year-old you could bring up from the reserves to give a chance?" at fullback, that would have been OK.

One of these days, the TV folks will learn being British & famous doesn't mean you know anything about soccer.

Comment by Knowlesy 2012-01-28 08:33:54

I had to laugh at Piers' tweet the evening before the game:

"Got to laugh at all the furore over my @FoxSoccer analyst appearance tomorrow. I know more about football than most 'experts', trust me."

The man has no shame whatsoever it seems.

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