Skip to Content

Love Him Or Hate Him, Alexi Lalas Stinks At His Job

Lalas confusing and infuriating Daniel Sturridge
Image via Fox Sports

This past week has been a boon for international soccer fans in the U.S., with Euro group-stage mornings shifting seamlessly to Copa América evenings. Americans haven't had to even change the channel to enjoy the bountiful schedule, since Fox Sports has broadcast rights to both tournaments. The catch is everything besides the matches: The network's coverage includes the monotone stylings of Landon Donovan on the call, Carli Lloyd's use of Don Cherry's old stylist, and, worst of all, Alexi Lalas's routine that would be considered too tired and desperate by a dunk-tank clown.

Lalas has worked Fox's Euro desk alongside a rotation of analysts including Giorgio Chiellini, Peter Schmeichel, and Daniel Sturridge, with broadcaster Jules Breach running the show. Each brings a wealth of experience: Chiellini and Schmeichel captained their teams to Euro and Champions League trophies, respectively, and Sturridge was part of a Champions League winner. Lalas has been introduced as a fourth-place finisher at the 1995 Copa América, and his strongest skill is being loud enough to be noticed, an act that is especially jarring in the context of the Euros. When Lalas compared England's team to the Dallas Cowboys, you could detect a little admiration in his voice, as if he saw some of himself in the remark. That would make sense—neither he nor the Cowboys have accomplished anything of note in nearly 30 years.

For another example of this dynamic playing out at the desk, consult the post-match reaction after England's draw with Denmark last week. Sturridge began the segment on the Three Lions by framing the underwhelming performance as a matter of great players needing to swallow their egos for the collective. Chiellini agreed and offered tactical suggestions; Breach teed up Lalas with a specific question about where to play Phil Foden. You can feel the tone shift in the clip as he began to speak.

"I recognize I have a very small brain, but that brain is exploding right now," Lalas said. "To quote the great Justin Timberlake, who's had a hell of a week: 'Cry me a river.' What's the word you guys use over there—'whinging'? This whinging that's going on right now is absolutely ridiculous. The embarrassment of talent, the wealth of ability that exists on this team: Figure. It. Out." Sturridge stared right into the camera; Breach and Chiellini looked like they were patiently waiting for Lalas to wrap up his thought, the same way a parent might let an excitable 6-year-old talk himself into exhaustion on a car ride. A decade after he was clapping for Roy Hodgson and interrupting Michael Ballack on ESPN, Lalas hasn't changed.

Any legitimate soccer insight from Lalas comes secondary to him proving that he looks at Twitter. His rate of shoehorned references is comparable to Bill Simmons's, although still lower than Dennis Miller's. His Copa América work alongside Rob Stone, Lloyd, and a rotating crew of former players would in theory be less off-putting than his input on the Euros, since he has a better grasp on the conversation surrounding the USMNT. But anything perceptive is still smothered in Lalas's persona of smug authority. He operates from a position of grievance, he dumbs down any broadcast he's on, and his primary purpose is serving as an obstacle between the viewer and the sport.

It's also phony, as Lalas willingly admits. In a profile from Adam Crafton of The Athletic last week, essentially seeking to understand why he's such an asshole, Lalas described his process:

I tell Lalas that some people took a deep breath when I mentioned I was due to interview him. He smiles. First and foremost, Lalas says he sees his studio role as “hopefully having an interesting and informative take, and doing it in an entertaining way”.

He stirs. “But I’m in the entertainment business. I am a performer. When you say that, sometimes people cringe. By no means am I saying that I can’t be authentic and genuine. But I recognise the way I say something is as important as what I say.

“When I go on TV, I put on a costume and when that red light goes on, I don’t want people changing the channel. I don’t care if you like me or you don’t. I am as human as I possibly can be with the recognition that, on television, things have to be bigger and bolder.”

The Athletic

It is no scandal that many people appear on unscripted TV and exaggerate a little bit. But in a sports analyst role, being entertaining does not have to come at the cost of being informative, and Lalas is neither. He just wants to be noticed. It's similar to the reason why Draymond Green stuck out like a sore loser on the TNT desk: The rest of the group operates on a different wavelength, and he has no interest in adjusting to match it.

In The Athletic's article, fellow Fox Sports analyst Stu Holden stuck up for his colleague. "People ask me: ‘Does he believe everything he says?’" Holden said. "And I say, ‘We have the same conversations at the bar that we have on air.'" That is more embarrassing than exonerating. If Alexi Lalas were doing what he does on TV at a pub instead, you'd wordlessly lock eyes with the bartender to confirm that you were both hearing the same thing from an obnoxious moron who hadn't ordered a drink yet. Lalas has one note, and he's played it long enough.

If you liked this blog, please share it! Your referrals help Defector reach new readers, and those new readers always get a few free blogs before encountering our paywall.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter