World Surf League breeds "an unmissable abomination!"
Fans of professional surfing, as produced and broadcast by the World Surf League, have long been frustrated by the patented Wall of Positive Noise™. Brought into existence in 2015, circa 1976, the Wall™ has managed to keep any negativity whatsoever, as it relates to surfing professionally, off the airwaves. No surfers are bad, no surfing lacking, as a crack team of commenters pour pure praise on every single moment.
Current champion Filipe Toledo, and his brave act of cowardice at Teahupo’o wherein he refused to paddle for a wave in 2015 then reprised the glory in 2022, is met with fawning oohs and ahhs from the booth.
He was entirely clinical in his approach to not dropping in while AARP gentleman shared waves.
Oh the Wall™ is not reserved for our heroes and heroines alone. The World Surf League, itself, is also the most successful enterprise on earth with millions upon millions of allegedly new consumers converting each and every day shooting viewer numbers on the just-wrapped final’s day through the roof.
Well, the whole business has attracted those responsible for airing World Cup soccer in the United States, allegedly, though the proper sporting media has not been as tolerant.
International headlines, today, scream, “Fox Sports’ US World Cup coverage is an unmissable abomination.”
At a time when things are clicking on the pitch for the US men’s national team and America finally has a generation of footballers with the technical quality to challenge the world’s best, there’s been something faintly reassuring about Fox Sports’ approach to this tournament. Whereas the USMNT is now a cosmopolitan ensemble of feather-fine talents, the Fox team is the equivalent of a farmers’ league XI that hoofs it long and hopes for the best.
In these circumstances you might expect Fox’s coverage of the matches, untroubled by politics, to be razor-sharp. You would be mistaken. From its Orientalist redoubt on the Doha Corniche (Arabesque motifs, casino lighting, no actual Arabs unless they’re from the Qatari tourism agency), the Fox team has set about its task with vigor: to beam all the tournament matches into the living rooms of America while being maximally patronizing to the country’s soccer fans. In those rare moments when Fox is not jamming a brand down our throats (“Here’s the player to watch segment, presented by Coca-Cola”, “Your first-half moment, sponsored by Verizon”, “Our player spotlight is hosted by the Volkswagen ID.4”), the network’s hosts, analysts, and match commentators seem determined to mansplain the sport as if we, the soccer-watching public of the United States, have spent the past four decades with our heads in the desert sands surrounding Lusail Iconic Stadium.
Take a moment to appreciate the full dizzying scope of Fox’s witlessness in Qatar. After Rob Stone noted, in the lead-up to the group match between Brazil and Serbia, that the Brazilians have won the World Cup five times – perhaps the most widely known World Cup statistic of all – a wide-eyed Dempsey exclaimed, “Wow, you really did your research!” During France v Denmark, match commentator JP Dellacamera described Kylian Mbappé as “a kid who’s 23 and already the whole world is talking about him,” an evaluation whose awestruck “already” suggested that JP has watched close to no football over the past half decade. Donovan started the tournament pronouncing Iran “Eye-ran”, witnessed Tyler Adams being corrected by an Iranian journalist for mispronouncing his country’s name – then continued to call the country “Eye-ran”.
But does it sound familiar?
Martin Potter (RIP)?