This year NFL coverage in the UK has broken new ground I feel. TV, radio, social media, podcasts – all were there in abundance.
Sky Sports have kept up their excellent coverage with 2 Sunday night games and NFL Network’s brilliant RedZone on the red button. All the Thursday night games were live on Sky as well, with a new midweek special with extended highlights and a couple of editions of Total Access thrown in too. Other than Bradlee Van Pelt, the guest summarisers have become better and more extensive this year. Aki Jones was a good addition to the team and Moose Johnson was a great addition in the playoffs. Jeff Reinebold was excellent in his stint and Cecil Martin brought his aloof antics in the late autumn as usual.
Channel 4 finally figured out that the best way to present their coverage was getting the old Five team back together, bringing Nat Coombs in to set Mike ‘on the side’ Carlson up for his consistently great work. It gave the show the sense of humour that it had struggled for with less Mike friendly anchors of the past couple of years. The feature at the outset of the show where they contact an American journalist with a local angle on the teams playing was a good touch, and the interactivity with the viewers made it feel like a fan friendly show.
A big enhancement this year was the addition of a new broadcaster to the Monday Night Football slot – the BBC. The drawback to the coverage was the red button basis, making it harder to record and meaning I didn’t bother with a number of fixtures. They only had some studio based content from a third of the way through the series in ‘the man-cave’. Let’s not pretend they had it totally right this year, but the games were there to watch free-to-air, which can only be a good thing. Having Darren Fletcher presenting was good – a familiar voice to sports fans, but an unfamiliar and happily excited face, the man clearly loves his job! He was helped out by ‘experts’ like former NFL player Rocky Boiman. BBC capped the season off with live coverage of the Super Bowl, borrowing Iron Mike from Channel 4 and bringing in 3 time Super Bowl winner Willie McGinest as an expert guest, as well as some big name visitors popping in through the coverage.
The BBC went beyond the TV coverage too. There was extensive coverage on the radio too. As I found myself watching he games on TV most of the time I didn’t really catch much of the game coverage but its good to know that BBC are getting the game covered in some free to air capacity on a Sunday evening. Then there were the specials Darren Fletcher presented. I really enjoyed the documentary he did for 5live on the Green Bay Packers and what that franchise means to the community in (relatively) small town Wisconsin.
The opportunities to listen to NFL content didn’t stop there either. Podcast listeners were treating to an entertaining and growing list of shows. I can’t say I listen to all the UK based NFL podcasts out there. I’ve probably not even heard of a lot of them as every fan and his dog seems to have one nowadays, but there are some I feel deserve note. The most well known is probably NFL UK’s ‘Inside the Huddle’ with Fletch and Reynolds. This year we’ve been treated to regular twice weekly shows making sure fans are up to date with all the important news and what went on in the games that weren’t televised. ‘NFL Rants & Raves’ is another long standing pod that although presented and recorded by Americans is heavily aimed at a British and global audience. It can be enjoyable, it can be a touch irritating, but often detailed and informative. A newcomer this season was the ‘Tuesday Morning Football’ podcast. An all Brit affair this one, and often an enjoyable listen, although you sometimes feel you’ve slipped into a conversation between some mates exchanging in-jokes. The most notable thing here is the quality and range of guests they’ve managed to get on the show, from personalities familiar to UK fans to former GMs and coaches from the league. Most notable was probably hall of famer Warren Moon, although they also did a great job getting active players from both sides on the show for the Super Bowl preview. The ‘Americarnage’ podcast which isn’t exclusively NFL based content but covers off all you need to know is possibly my favourite. Always entertaining and funny, with good insight too – plus, as it involves Coombs and Carlson, it helps you understand some of the jokes made on the Channel 4 coverage too.
The are also a massive number of UK based fan Twitter accounts to interact with on social media and the forums on the NFL UK website to interact with other fans. You’re never short of content on the web and you learn that we probably are the most knowledgeable NFL fans around. Probably why the best and most details NFL analysis available on the web, Pro Football Focus, is a British based British run organisation that many NFL teams and media guys have come to rely on for statistical support.
No wonder we’re getting two games at Wembley Stadium next season! It’s never been a better time to be an NFL fan in the UK.
Source: NFL coverage in the UK
Big sports fan (Wigan Warriors, Manchester United, Pittsburgh Steelers, Lancashire County Cricket Club, St. Johnstone). Walking enthusiast.