The NBC Sports Network is broadcasting an unprecedented amount of Tour de France programming this year, the live content of which is again highlighted by the much-appreciated tandem of Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen.
Other international networks have longstanding cycling broadcast teams, but for American audiences, Liggett and Sherwen are the ringleaders.
Like any veteran broadcast team, the duo has its detractors. But Liggett, now attending his 40th Tour de France, and Sherwen, who’s been at it a quarter century, are still terrific.
Does Liggett misidentify riders? Yes. Does Sherwen repeat his “go-to” phrases a lot? Yes. But the two broadcasters know each other so well and work together so well, the broadcasters’ near limitless knowledge of cycling overshadow the mistakes and repetition.
Sherwen corrects Liggett gently; Liggett gives Sherwen plenty of time to reminisce about his time in the pro peloton, his friendships with team directors and his knowledge of French history. The marriage just works.
The evening broadcast of the race, a condensed rebroadcast of the day’s already concluded stage, isn’t a smooth. Bob Roll, the former pro, is unique. He knows the sport, provides insight and is refreshing because he’s the antithesis of every pretty boy, slick-haired broadcaster type.
What doesn’t work as well is NBC’s three-broadcaster approach to the evening broadcast. Scott Moninger, the now-retired long-time rider, is the newcomer and it shows.
If Bob Roll makes a comment about team strategy, for example, Moninger often adds the same information. It’s not that Moninger isn’t trying, but with his quiet persona, Moninger hasn’t figuratively or literally found his voice and where and how it fits best. Wouldn’t another broadcast tandem work better for the network than having three broadcasters working hard to find a way to share the airtime?
Like the event itself, the NBC broadcast team gets a rest from live stage reporting and quick state analysis until Wednesday. Sherwen and Liggett still seem eternally fresh, but the night crew needs the time to recoup and re-evaluate its tactics.