Let me preface this post by saying that we’re not judging FOX Sports South off of one broadcast. This is simply a review of the first one and what we liked and didn’t like. This is not meant as criticism in any way.
Atlanta United’s 2-2 draw with Toronto FC was significant for more than just tying the Eastern conference representative in last year’s MLS Cup final. It was also the first ever match broadcast by the club’s local/regional television partner, FOX Sports South. Not only were we treated to a live game broadcast, but there was also a pre and post-game show on either side of it.
The night began with the first ever Atlanta United Live! a 30-minute pre-game show that opened with Brittany Arnold (Host/Sideline Reporter), Kevin Egan (Play-by-play), and Dan Gargan (Color Commentator) near the BMO Field playing surface. Already this is a unique experience from similar shows that precede Atlanta Braves games that usually have half of their talent stored in a studio while the team is away from home. There were a few hiccups along the way in the first pre-game show with some miscues in the script and some language mishaps like Barcelona being labelled a national team, but nothing worth getting upset about. Aside from those little things, the overall quality began to shine through as each of the three panelists settled into the flow of the show.
They interviewed both Darren Eales and Carlos Bocanegra before the match started, which was really cool and unique. They also aired a pre-recorded chat with Tata Martino. Overall, the pre-game show was the most shaky of the programming on the night but was still enjoyable to watch instead of just cutting into the programming with a random soccer game, they gave any new fans who happened to stumble upon the program a good prep for what to expect.
Finally kickoff approached and we got to see all three of on-air talent settled into their roles with Egan and Gargan in the TV booth and Arnold on the sideline. It must be said from the outset that Egan is normally a TV host for beIN Sports, but sounded natural and confident as the lead play-by-play guy. He knows the sport and was easy to listen to all night. His calls of the goals had the right mix of excitement and unbiased tone. Even for Toronto’s equalizer, it was a fantastic goal and he treated it as such even though it wasn’t for the team he is employed to call games for.
Gargan’s role as color commentator was a little harder to critique. As far as I could see in my research, this is his first high-profile TV gig. But that’s not a knock on him because he gradually got better and more comfortable as the night went on. Predictably, the chemistry took a little while to form but once the comfort levels sunk in, the give and take between the two was pleasant to listen to. Gargan’s vast experience as a defender in MLS was valuable on the night as Atlanta United had to do a lot of defending and he did well explaining the certain situations in-game, specifically at the end when Atlanta were hanging for the point down a man.
Several times during the night, they’d cut to Arnold on the sideline to give some updates. Most notably were the two interviews she was given at halftime and fulltime. When the first half whistle blew, she talked with Atlanta’s goalkeeping coach, Aron Hyde. But it was after the final whistle that we get to see Arnold’s unique talent shine when she talks to Tata Martino and is able to translate the exchange thanks to her ability to speak Spanish. That’s a valuable asset to have on the sidelines for FOX Sports, especially with a team with a heavy South American influence.
On the production side, almost everything was top notch as you’d expect from FOX. However there were some little things that were a bit annoying. One big thing was the weird clock graphic in the score bug. It was a random blue looking thing that resembled the front of a VCR. And a huge problem with it was the lack of stoppage time displaying on the screen. Many of fan have said they were freaking out in the final minutes when four minutes of stoppage time was announced but couldn’t watch it tick down or keep track. I was certainly right there with them. That needs to be addressed for future broadcasts, for sure.
Other than some early jitters and the one production malfunction, in my opinion, the TV experience was very good and only promises to get better as time goes on and everyone gets comfortable with covering the team.
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