Something miraculous happened during the NBC Sports Network’s telecast of the Vancouver-Seattle game on Saturday: They talked about Real Salt Lake.
Gasp! That’s pretty much unheard of.
Yes, we’ve already gone over the RSL-isn’t-on-national-TV ground. A lot. Which remains, well, curious. Because focusing on big-market teams sure hasn’t meant big ratings.
But, no, we’re not talking about that. We’re talking about the fact that the team that’s currently atop the Major League Soccer standings is so rarely mentioned at all during MLS telecasts.
And, no, it’s not just the locals who notice this. Writing on prosoccertalk.com — an NBC Sports website — Richard Farley acknowledged that RSL is not getting the attention it deserves. And he offered up a variety of excuses:
• An “East Coast bias” combined with a “West Coast bias.”
• RSL has been “too consistent for too long,” both in terms of success and the roster. Although Farley acknowledged that is “a bit lazy” given all the offseason changes.
• But not too lazy, apparently, because Farley went on to argue that RSL is the “epitome of the cliché: They don’t rebuild; they reload. Had they rebuilt, we’d probably be talking about them more.”
By that logic, nobody would talk about the Yankees because they’re good pretty much every year. They rarely are in rebuilding mode.
Whatever the reason, Real Salt Lake fans have become accustomed to the news blackout about their team.
Sit down and watch an MLS game on ESPN or NBCSN and you’ll hear sportscasters chattering on about the Galaxy, the Red Bulls or the Sounders, but you’re apt to hear nothing about that team from Utah. You’re even less likely to see highlights of an RSL game.
About the most you can expect to see is a graphic with the league standings and RSL on top.
Which is why the halftime chatter on Saturday night was so unusual. NBCSN’s Russ Thaler and Robbie Earle talked about the teams they saw as worth talking about midway through the Major League Soccer season.
“If we think of it as a halftime score report, the teacher’s merit would go to Real Salt Lake, who again have continued to stay up there,” said Earle, speaking in some sort of British slang. “But the A stars go to Dallas” and to Portland, which has a real chance “of getting the Supporters’ Shield.”
Earle just moved to NBCSN from the Timbers’ broadcast team, by the way. And he thinks both Portland and Dallas merit more attention than RSL, apparently.
He did, however, provide some unintended humor to the telecast. Earle did a halftime interview with Seattle coach Sigi Schmid and was holding the mic to Schmid’s mouth while he was asking a question — a Broadcasting 101 dumb mistake.
He should be a nice fit at NBCSN, however. Earlier this season, the channel’s then-lead soccer announcer, Arlo White, went an entire game without pronouncing the “R” at the end of Javier Morales’ first name — as in Ha-vee-A.
Maybe White thought Morales was French.
Thaler, at least, must have gotten the message that maybe the team in first place in the league ought to get mentioned.
“And maybe an extra shoutout to Real Salt Lake,” Thaler said.
Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.