If you watched Real Salt Lake's win over San Jose outside of RSL's local TV deal — perhaps on MLS Live, or maybe on Comcast SportsNet, MLS Direct Kick, or even in MLS's highlights — you'll have noticed that the crowd noise was incredibly, well, awful.
And by awful, I mean that it was actually a pre-recorded loop of generic crowd noise. The loop was something like 25 seconds long, and over the course of 90 minutes, that gets to be incredibly problematic. It's even worse when, say, one team scores a goal and the crowd noise loop remains.
Now, it would seem that the San Jose-sourced feed from the match was recorded in a studio, and for some reason, they didn't have access to the crowd noise. I guess I understand that, but there's something incredibly problematic when you're on a semi-major sports broadcasting network and you can't send commentators to a match. It's something Real Salt Lake does consistently, and it makes our local broadcasts enjoyable to watch.
We have two very good commentators at most matches: Brian Dunseth, who has grown into regularly working national TV matches, and Bill Riley, who is a mammoth of Salt Lake City sports media. They put time and effort into doing their part of producing a high-quality broadcast week-in, week-out, and there are plenty of people with less visible roles doing just as much, if not more work.
But too often, those looking to watch highlights or full matches are treated to horrible coverage of important matches. Nationally broadcast matches may have increased in quality, but too often local broadcasts are stuck in the stone age. Players' names are mispronounced (Nate Borchers, heh), fake noise is pumped in, and we haven't even touched the generally home-team-blind commentary that turns into a miserable experience.
We're lucky to have a good broadcast here in Salt Lake City. I understand that it's easier for MLS to use broadcasts that are piped into cable systems — but if it's just about what's easiest, we're going to continue being given a subpar experience. With most teams struggling in their home markets (Portland, Seattle and RSL are the three leaders in this area, and that's not surprising), MLS should look at the broadcasts. And when that negative experience is reflected in the media MLS chooses to make available, it all begins to look an even less rosy picture.