Thank you and Goodnight FOX Soccer

The soccer-only channel that mirrored the trajectory of North American soccer always had an ending, thankfully it’s not a sad one
by Mike Firpo   |   Monday, August 19, 2013

Fox Soccer Channel , FSC -- Mike Firpo/Soccer Newsday

You know I thought I would be sadder about the ending of FOX Soccer Channel. But after watching the last FOX Soccer News to air on its sole niche channel, I just couldn’t get too worked up.

I mean I should have, this was the end to a 16-year run by FOX embracing and pushing the world game and it mirrored the growth of the post-NASL/MLS North American soccer rebirth. And for me personally and many of the much sought after demographic changing and re-energizing the game’s future – this channel was a main source of televised games, news and soccer content that filled our lives.

But alas, and this is a positive, soccer in the USA and Canada have outgrown FOX Soccer Channel and the smaller audience it catered to and likely would remain.

And the reason it isn’t so tragic is because it is not the death of the NASL and the blackhole of a generation of soccer upcoming after FSC closes its lights. It’s not the lack of MLS in Florida and the ill-will and longing that brings in its wake.

Rather – FSC leaves soccer in this part of the world, in a time when its growth is upward, steady and with no end in sight.

So it’s hard for us to feel too upset because it is not the demise of our brand of soccer. It’s not the death of a local league, or one of our clubs. It’s not even a sign of sickness, but really of strength that we lose FSC and possibly the 1st of both (GolTV will be hard pressed to survive in a post-beIN Sport USA soccer scene) of our 24-hour soccer-only channels.

Yes, we lose the channel and all the personalities we have grown to tolerate, loathe (not many) and love. But we keep many of the current stars of the station as they move on to shows, like FOX Soccer Daily, on the bigger multi-sport FOX Sports 1.

The loss of FSC and our 24 hour channel is not a death. It’s not even one of the many black eyes from failures of our sport (FL contraction, WUSA/WPS collapse, TV rating stagnation, perceived World Cup failures) has to endure in this development phase. 

It’s taking off the training wheels and realizing you can ride that bike, and ride it well. Soccer in North America doesn’t need to be niche anymore, well because, it isn’t niche anymore. We are at the table with the other sports now. We don’t sit at the head, yet, and maybe we get a small seat, last helpings and few talk to us … but hey we’re at the table, let’s not complain too much.

Imagine back in 1997 when soccer shared the FOX Sports World stage with cricket, rugby, darts (I will miss the brash announcers saying: Phil “THE POWER” Taylor) and all manner of colonial sporting vestiges.

Now think of where you watch soccer:

FOX Sports 1 covers the Champions League & World Cup.
MLS & EPL now adorns NBC Sports and they are packaging it nicely.
The US National Team is on ESPN (OK mostly ESPN2 but they promise they care).
BeIN Sport has La Liga and other properties.
And there are several Spanish language channels that cover Mexican and Latin American games.

Because there’s so much soccer on a variety of stations, there’s no need to be truly dismayed by the loss of FSC. But we’ll miss the channel and all its characters and quirks:

The pre-ESPN Max Bretos and his goofy yet cool demeanor.

The always-affable Allen Hopkins.

The horrible and repetitive infomercials (someone bought those pills) if you had insomnia.

Hearing co-hosts Jeremy St. Louis and Terri Leigh got married. Hearing they are leaving.

All the rebranding of the channel and shows – just to realize – it’s basically the same thing as before but with a new paintjob and slightly less annoying tune.

Christian Miles and Mark Rogondino as the original omnipresent USA soccer broadcasters before Brian Dunseth assumed that mantle from them.

Wondering if Brendan Taylor actually liked soccer.

Concluding your friends really will never watch this channel, this is your thing or you need new friends.

Thinking for a split second, maybe Harchester United did play in the EPL to get that shot.

Trying to figure out why Christopher Sullivan had a Latin accent.

The tacky green screen backgrounds of the shows that wreaked public access on a budget.

Did I mention the darts? Who knew they had professional dart players? Those crazy Brits!

The reality that soccer’s main TV news show was produced in … Winnipeg.

Comparing FSC with GolTV and then wishing Ray Hudson and Phil Schoen would just move to FSC so you didn’t have to buy The Spanish Tier.

Realizing how small the soccer community was when you heard someone you knew on FOX Football Fone-in.

Wondering what TFC could do to make Michelle Lissel leave so fast. We figured that out.

Pretending that the game was being broadcasted where the out-of-focus or still-frame stadium was showing, not in a broom closet in Southern California.

Thinking yet again … Winnipeg? Really?

Feeling like a nerd for not watching ESPN like all the cool kids. Then thinking: screw them!

Seeing the development of ex-players like Eric Wynalda from Tweet-nut to reliable pundit.

Convincing yourself you’re watching Temryss Lane & Heather Mitts for platonic reasons.

I think high likelihood unless you have a Maori cousin-in-law, you learned the “haka” from watching FOX Sports World.

Never fully understanding what FOX Soccer Plus was and why anyone bought it.

Wondering how long before Kyle Martino makes it to the big time. Wondering who Rob Stone pissed off to leave the big time.

Hoping Fresno never got a soccer club so they didn’t rebrand yet again.

The smooth Brendan Dunlop, his gravity defying locks and realizing that you might soon have to change the dropdown in the demographic question next time you’re asked.

Wondering why Danny Dichio is still in Toronto and why Thomas Rongen wears bow ties.

And no one will ever forget the genius and his encyclopedic memory for world football and expert analysis – Bobby McMahon.

So many memories, so much time, so much soccer.

It will be missed, but again thankfully some of the best evolved elements of the channel will move to FOX Sports 1. Soccer is growing up in the USA and we are getting what we wanted – that seat at the table. So look back fondly at the training wheels of a 24-hour niche soccer channel, save the memories in a special place, but now we move on to an even brighter future as an accepted part of the North American sporting landscape.

And with that take a bow FOX Soccer and all of the many people who contributed to it and gave it to the fans for over 15 years. And now, it’s that same audience who should give you a sincere and long standing ovation – on a job well done.

Mike FIRPO

Nationality:
USA
College:
Binghamton Univ.
Club Domestic:
NY Cosmos, RSL
Club Foreign:
Palermo, Napoli, FCB
Creator of Soccer Newsday. President of World Football Travel. Founder of NY Cosmos Campaign. Manager of North American Soccer Industry group on LinkedIn. Helped a few fans see the global game. Proposed on-field at MLS Cup 04. Longtime devotee of Soccer.
MIKE'S SPONSORS