American Soccer star Abby Wambach Joins ESPN
American soccer star Abby Wambach joins ESPN. The soccer great has the opportunity to be the voice of a new generation of American sports fan with ESPN.
Former US international Abby Wambach was unveiled as ESPN’s newest analyst and pundit this past week. The retired US soccer star, who holds the record for most goals for US men or women in international fixtures with 184, becomes the latest addition to the ESPN family. Her appointment comes fresh off the heels of the high-profile dismissal of Curt Shilling.
The former baseball player was dismissed for his “political views” on religion and sexuality, and has since stood strong on those beliefs. While Schilling seems to be a voice from the past, Wambach is thought to be a vision for the future and a changing America. The openly gay soccer star is a breath of fresh air in the often testosterone fueled ESPN studio, that regularly features ex-NFL, NBA or MLB stars. Wambach’s hiring not only turned heads in the US, but in the UK and Europe.
Wambach’s hiring shows the sports channel attempting to reach a demographic often overlooked in the sports industry: women.
Yet it is not just women who are overlooked by the channel. Soccer continues to lag behind in coverage compared to the “big three”. Recently, SportCenter’s Matt Barrie announced the wrong English Premier League champions live on air, showing the company’s reporters have little time for the sport. With soccer’s unparalleled popularity in the US currently, Wambach’s addition and, further interest from producers in the game, can surely help the company’s falling appeal with the American public. The days of Keith Olbermann and Dan Patrick are long gone, and ESPN has been in need of a re-vamp for some time.
Wambach will not only be a pundit and analyst with the television network, but she will join the media company’s growing number of podcasts. With podcast and listening on demand becoming the norm in the twenty-tens, Wambach will debut her Fearless Conversation with Abby Wambach podcast in the coming weeks, giving her a chance to express her views on the world of sports.
Much can be read into the hiring of Wambach and the sacking of Schilling, and some believe it to be a new dawn in sports coverage. Strangely, the new dawn at ESPN is very metaphorical for the US as a whole with the current political climate.
ESPN is looking to find new ways to attract viewers in an age when cord-cutting viewers are the scapegoat for poor ratings. It shouldn’t be overlooked that years of similar, if not the same, programming has prevented ESPN from drawing in new viewers. No longer is ESPN the cutting-edge sports channel it once was.
The cynical view can be that Wambach’s hiring is twofold. One is that, yes, she can pull in the female and lesbian sports fan to a channel that has disregarded both over the years. The second view, is that Wambach is a cheaper option than Schilling – though terms of either pundits’ contract is unknown.
With her outspoken nature, something ESPN needs, especially an educated one, and an ability to bring new fans to the channel, the signing of Wambach makes her one of the most exciting additions to the company in years. Today, Abby Wambach has the opportunity to be the voice of a movement and a generation of sports fans no matter what gender or sexuality.
Follow Drew Farmer on Twitter @DrewMFarmer. Check out Drew’s latest book, Soccer Travels, in paperback and on Kindle at Amazon.com