John Sutcliffe made his sideline reporter debut on ESPN’s Monday Night Football last night and confused a nation.
Instead of Suzy Kolber or Rachel Nichols, we found John Sutcliffe, reporting from San Francisco on the occasion of the Steelers – 49’ers game on Monday night.
When he first appeared on screen, America wondered whether the ladies had an emergency that required them to be off camera for a moment.
The truth was that Sutcliffe, identified by ESPN corporate as a mainstay of its soccer coverage on ESPN Deportes, had appeared all afternoon during commercial breaks as the update reporter for the Monday Night Football.
Since many MNF fans don’t tune in until game time or later, the first sighting of Sutcliffe on the sidelines was a bit jarring and certainly surprising. The question on Twitter was “Who the heck is this guy?”
Sutcliffe, while an average looking gentleman with grey hair and a nice suit, is a departure from the usual ESPN types like the outspoken Sal Paolantonio or Ed Werder that perform the same function for NFL telecasts. It wasn’t just how he looked, it was how he sounded.
Detecting more than a hint of an accent was not difficult but realizing that he was having trouble reading the teleprompter in English was the key to the head scratching on the part of the viewing public.
Never one to let ESPN gaffes or mysteries go without investigation, Deadspin.com did its homework and waited patiently for a reply to inquiries made to ESPN about Sutcliffe and why he was on the air.
On Tuesday, the media relations department explained. “[Sutcliffe’s] sideline role on MNF this week was planned.” Bill Hofheimer told the sports-investigative website.
He added that it was “the most recent example of ESPN utilizing ESPN Deportes and International commentators on U.S. domestic outlets.”
The truth is that Sutcliffe is not unfamiliar with MNF. It’s just that he does sideline reporting for ESPN Deportes in his native tongue, Spanish.
It was the worst example of cross-platform sharing because of the telecast on which he was placed.
The Steelers vs. 49’ers game was thought to be one of the best match ups for the Monday Night Football crew in many a week.
The unusual circumstances caused by two blackouts in the stadium after transformers blew all the lights out, meant there was a lot of time to fill.
Sutcliffe struggled to look comfortable, informed and even happy to be there.
Nary a smile crossed his face all night. In the video posted below, the reporter is seen speaking his native tongue during an ESPN Deportes telecast earlier this year when Tony Romo of the Dallas Cowboys played in a vest to protect his ribs.