If you watched Monday Night Football last night, you probably noticed that none of ESPN’s regular sideline reporters were working. In their place was a guy named John Sutcliffe. Well, it wouldn’t be entirely accurate to say Sutcliffe’s not an ESPN regular – he works for ESPN Deportes (the name might fool you, but he’s from Mexico City). But he doesn’t usually work on the English-speaking side of the operation. And…well, it wasn’t especially difficult to hear why:
Sutcliffe didn’t sound very comfortable last night, and viewers felt the same way in turn. It was called awful. It was called a miserable failure. And it made us wonder: what exactly was he doing there, anyway?
Sutcliffe’s ESPN bio notes that he covered the Mexican soccer team for ESPN’s English-speaking coverage during the 2010 World Cup, but last night, he sounded a little lost. It made us wonder if Sutcliffe was even originally planned to work the telecast, and we emailed ESPN asking whether he was the originally-scheduled reporter, or a fill-in. We’ll update if and when we hear back.
(UPDATE: We figured this was probably the case, but according to ESPN spokesman Bill Hofheimer, “[Sutcliffe’s] sideline role on MNF this week was planned.” Hofheimer added that it was “the most recent example of ESPN utilizing ESPN Deportes and International commentators on U.S. domestic outlets.” Apparently the reverse is also true, since Hofheimer noted that Michelle Beadle appears on Nacion ESPN, ESPN Deportes’ version of SportsNation, weekly. Anyway, now you know – for better or worse, Sutcliffe’s appearance was the plan all along.)
The rest of the original post is below.
For now, we’ll allow that Sutcliffe wasn’t in an easy spot last night either way. Making your Monday Night Football debut is nerve-racking whether or not it was planned in advance, and the Candlestick blackout only made Sutcliffe’s job tougher. But no matter the circumstances, it’s hard to argue Sutcliffe’s stint went well, and we’d be surprised to see him reprise his role from last night anytime soon.