The good news for Major League Soccer: ESPN, the sports television empire that has made the NFL Draft a three-day extravaganza of media overload, is airing the MLS SuperDraft live on ESPN2 today as I type this.
The bad news: It’s airing live at noon on a Thursday, and is scheduled to last just an hour according to the cable TV guide.
But you’ve got to start somewhere.
It makes sense for ESPN to want to try and build more interest in the league with the broadcasting rights it’s paid good money for, but whether or not this will work remains to be seen. ESPN is the right place for it, since with everything they’ve done to pummel viewers with information during the interminably long NFL Draft they have the ability to simply scale it back and easily adapt it to MLS.
The draft is being held in Baltimore at the NSCAA Convention, probably not quite as ideal a place for fan interaction as Madison Square Garden has become for the NFL. Yet many fans still made the trip there, including a Philadelphia Union contingency that includes a certain SoB I know. (For those unfamiliar with the Union, their devoted fans are called the Sons of Ben, as in Franklin. I’m not insulting the gentleman in question … as far as he knows.)
The commentators obviously know what they’re talking about, but they seem uncomfortable being on camera so long talking live which they are not used to doing as part of a simple game broadcast. They know their stuff (I’m assuming, since I really don’t), but can they keep viewers who aren’t already devoted fans interested? I wonder.
The touch I do like is giving the players who come up to the podium after they’re selected a scarf of their new team instead of a jersey, giving people a taste of what makes soccer different than other sports.
As I type, the hour set for the show is up, yet there’s no sign of them leaving the coverage. So soccer is at least important enough to warrant extending the coverage, perhaps through the end of the first round which is not quite two-thirds done.
How much more of the three rounds will be broadcast? (Turns out it went off at 2 p.m., early in the second round.) And will it help the MLS broaden its fan base? Who knows? But every little bit helps.