It's Time For Eric Wynalda To Find A Day Job

Ron FurlongAnalyst IIApril 8, 2010

22 Jul 1998:  Eric Wynalda #11 of the San Jose Clash in action during the U.S. Cup Semi-Finals game against the Chicago Fire at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Texas. The Fire defeated the Clash 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Dunn  /Allsport
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Television networks tend to want a various mixture of different type commentators for their broadcasts. They want their older, steady play by play guys; guys like Dick Enberg or Al Michaels. But they also want their younger, louder, fierier play by play guys (guys who like to say “he drove in 3 RBI” instead of RBI’s, sending nasty shivers down on our backs); guys like Gus Johnson on CBS, who screams a broadcast instead of talking. And, the same with the color analysts. They want the older, calmer, more statistical guys; Dr. Jack Ramsey comes to mind. But they also want the slightly crazy, slightly off-center analysts who also like to yell a lot (age doesn’t seem to be a factor here); like Dickie Vitale or Bill Rafftery (Onions!).

They also seem to need, or at least feel they need, one controversial, opinionated guy who sits behind a desk in the studio and keeps things on the edge. A guy like Michael Irvin or Mike Ditka or, if you’re familiar with Hockey Night in Canada, Don Cherry.

These guys often toe the line between saying something not quite politically correct or, occasionally, even saying something completely insensitive and getting away with it. It seems like that’s what they are they for. Often it doesn’t even seem to matter how in depth their analysis is, as long as they are saying things that are off-color and they raise some eyebrows. Terry Bradshaw might be the poster child for getting away with saying almost nothing useful but uttering some controversial things from time to time, which seems good enough to keep him employed.

And then we have (deep sigh) Eric Wynalda. For those of you non-soccer folk, you may not know the name. He was a very good U.S. soccer player during the 90’s, primarily. At one time he held the record for most goals in U.S. Soccer history. But alas, don’t let me get ahead of myself, because that record he held is part of our story. Let’s just say he was a very good U.S. international soccer player. In fact he was elected into the National Soccer Hall Of Fame in 2004.

He then turned to commentary after his career, and was found on ESPN as an analyst, doing everything from MLS game commentary to in-studio stuff during the 06 World Cup and past Champions Leagues. Wynalda, for ESPN, fit perfectly into that mold as the opinionated ex-player who stirred things up and said things that bordered on insensitive. He was spot-on for that role.  It didn’t seem to matter to any ESPN execs that he offered very little as far as in depth commentary. They just seemed to like it when he was blasting U.S. coach Bruce Arena or droning on with his constant negativity about how bad the U.S. team was and how better they were back in the day (back in his day, as a matter of fact).

I still remember his broadcast on ESPN of David Beckham’s first game with the Galaxy. It was a friendly against English giant Chelsea. He spent the whole game ripping the Galaxy apart and telling us how poorly they were playing. It was a friendly against CHELSEA! But that was how all his broadcasts went, basically. They reeked with “I could have done it better,” and “Remember how great I was?” They were so constantly negative that were uncomfortable to listen to.

After a couple insensitive remarks on air (one where he joked about the wildfires in California), and one alcohol induced, profane laden blog about fellow ESPN on air talent Jim Rome (the infamous, Jim Rome can ---- -- ----), ESPN finally let him go. So who would hire him? Well, Fox Soccer Channel, of course.

Wynalda can now be found stirring up fires (sorry for the pun, Eric) on FSC. He replaced another insensitive, fiery, politically incorrect host on Fox Football Fone In, Steve Cohen, after he was fired by FSC for insensitive remarks himself. Ah, you think they would have learned.

So, now Mr. Wynalda has his weekly TV show where he can sit alongside Nick Webster and he has complete freedom to offer us all his opinions and hatreds and shallow commentary of everything from the MLS, to the U.S. National team to Serie A to La Liga. Let me tell you, if you haven’t heard Wynalda trying to act like he knows what the hell is going on in the Premier League or in Serie A in Italy, you have to hear him. It is quite riveting. Of course, it doesn’t matter about his shallow opinions and lack of constructive genuine criticism, or lack of any real insight into the Premier League or Serie A. . Apparently, as long as he stirs things up enough and let’s loose a little hatred here and there, the execs at FSC are going to be quite happy with him.

I am absolutely amazed every day that I don’t wake up and hear that FSC has let him go. It’s the biggest slight of hand since Harry Houdini was around.

And now, to the real heart of this piece. Eric Wynalda’s feelings, thoughts, opinions and musings regarding U.S. soccer player Landon Donovan, which is a subject he seems absolutely obsessed with.

This may come as a shock, so hang on, but Eric Wynalda, the former holder of the U.S. Men’s Soccer record for most goals, hates the man who now is the holder of that record, Landon Donovan. Wynalda has made it a major part of his post soccer career in trying to tear Landon Donovan down. I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if the main reason he took the job at FSC was so he would have a platform in which to launch his “Bring Donovan Down” campaign. I truly believe that he honestly feels that if he continues to rip Landon apart on his sorry excuse for a show, that it will start to actually have an effect. I think he feels that he can just wipe away everything Landon has done for American soccer with his smear campaign. What is he hoping for, they take all Landon’s goals away and he can have the record again?

The sad thing is, this is a big year for American Soccer, and all of our hopes lay on the shoulders of the 28 year old Donovan, who is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the best and maybe only world class soccer player this country has ever produced.

Not that I should need to defend him, but here’s a quick highlight reel:

Donovan, at 28, is the most decorated player in U.S. History. He holds the record for most goals and for most assists (funny, Wynalda never held the assist record; maybe that says something about selfishness?) in U. S. history. He has won the U.S. Player of the year a record 6 times. He won last year’s MLS MVP. At age 17 he won the Golden Boot as the best player (from all countries) at the FIFA Under-17 World Championships. At age 18 he led the US to a surprisingly strong 2000 Olympics. At age 20 he led the US with 2 goals and became the face of their team as they surprised everyone at the World Cup in 2002 and made it to the quarter finals, and was named best young player of the tournament.

Landon is coming off a great stint at Everton earlier this year, where he was on loan from the Galaxy from January thru March. Everton fans and players fell in love with him, and a return to the Liverpool team is highly likely. Everton named Landon their player of the month for January. He showed he could excel and even dominate at times in the best league in the world.

All U.S. soccer fans, which I’m assuming includes Eric Wynalda, should be rallying behind this team right now as they prepare for the World Cup in South Africa in less than two months. There is no more experienced international player on this team than Donovan. He is the leader and the heart and soul of the team, and how he goes, so goes the U.S. Shouldn’t that be enough to get behind him? On a past broadcast of Fox Football Fone In (I’ve finally had to stop watching it) Wynalda tried to rationalize to us how the U.S. would be better off without Landon playing, and that he actually takes away from the rest of the team. Wynalda felt that the U.S. would be better off without their best player.

Wynalda has lost all credibility has a commentator and an analyst. Ridiculous comments like that show his jealously and how his personal feelings have gotten in the way of absolute common sense. Of course, I’m giving him credit for having had common sense in the first place.

Maybe the big wigs at FSC will come to their senses someday and take this bitter, shallow, sad man off the air. Until then, when you’re watching soccer, make sure you have your finger on the mute button, just in case.