I spend a lot of time trashing various elements of television sportscasting, but I wanted to just take a moment to pay tribute to the best sports telecast on American TV – the Tour de France.
It’s true. The single best broadcast in American sports broadcasting is Versus’ telecast of the Tour de France.
Commentators Paul Sherwin and Phil Liggett make what is a daunting, complicated sport into a very approachable, entertaining, and informative show in a way that no other broadcasters currently do. They should be required viewing for “obscure” sports commentators everywhere as a lesson of how to do well. They know these athletes personally in many cases, are not too biased (and their bias is for all the Anglophones, not for any specific country), are able to analyse what is going on as it happen, have a keen sense of when to hype and when not to, and even have a sense of humor to bring to the proceedings. They also reap the benefits of Versus’ continued investment in covering this sport, which allows them to be in France at the end of every stage rather than in an American studio. It also means they have other commentators providing pre and post race interviews with the stars and providing viewers the little travelogue features that really put you in France.
I am no cycling expert, only knowing how much my hour-long spinning classes hurt, but when I come across the TdF coverage, it’s hard to flip away. Between the beautiful French countryside, the constantly evolving strategies, and the occasional cyclist flipping over guardrail (yes, he was fine), it makes for compelling stuff.