Last year, I wrote a story complaining about how soccer had not started to welcome women pundits and announcers on television in men's soccer, and why that was a problem.
This summer, women have been getting TV gigs in men's soccer, something I was very happy to see. Aly Wagner did a good job on Copa America Centenario studio coverage for FOX, while Julie Foudy has been a panelist on ESPN's "Euro Tonight" show and has done well. In contrast, Abby Wambach's cliche-ridden stint as a studio analyst for ESPN's Euros coverage was not very good, admittedly.
The biggest step, perhaps, was Kate Markgraf working as a color commentator for ESPN at the Euros. Markgraf, like Wagner, Foudy and Wambach a former U.S. international, has been working in television for several years, and getting the plum gig of calling men's games on such a high profile stage is a big deal.
And I think she's done a great job, too. Her first game, called alongside Derek Rae (my favorite play-by-play announcer working in soccer) showed a nice emerging chemistry between the duo, an easy understanding and an ability to make small quips in each other's company.
Since then, she's worked with other play-by-play announcers, but she remains strong at calling games. She's demonstrated an ability to combine game analysis, commenting on the larger narratives at play in a given game, and to mix in facts about the players with a professional's ease. Of course, that shouldn't be altogether surprising, since she's been honing her craft for years now on the women's side of the game.
Of course, preferences about announcers are ultimately in the eye of the beholder. Some people love Ray Hudson's bombast, others love Martin Tyler's understated style, and the subjectivity means there is no definitive "good" or "bad."
But here's where this story gets weird, or perhaps entirely predictable. During one of Markgraf's games, I happened to tweet this:
Really like Kate Markgraf's announcing for #EURO2016 so far.— Alicia Rodriguez (@soccermusings) June 17, 2016
...and got a handful of strangers to tell me, in no uncertain terms, I was totally wrong.
Now again, we all have our own beliefs, but none of the people who came to shout me down followed me on Twitter. They were literally going through searching for Markgraf's name and when they saw someone say something nice about her, had to tell that person "Nope!"
And it's one thing to say "I disagree with your assessment!" and then drop it and go on with your day, but this group of what appeared to be high school-aged boys insisted on arguing with me about why she was bad. Their arguments boiled down to the following:
- "She doesn't pronounce Petr Cech's name right"
- "She doesn't know these players (from countries like Hungary, Austria, Czech Republic, Croatia)"
- "She sounds like she did a bunch of internet research"
Uh, just found this. Never mind.