Joe Scarborough has his hands pretty full, what with the MSNBC morning show he hosts with co-anchor Mika Brzezinski and the many responses the two devise five days a week for the Trump administration and the Republican party. But he has found room to add a little more to his schedule: a new series about his fervor for Premier League soccer.
NBC Sports Group is ready to launch “This is Football,”a new series hosted by the morning host. The show will launch on Boxing Day – Tuesday, December 26 – and will take viewers inside the history. tradition and rivalries between the clubs and their supporters. In the first episode, for example, Scarborough explores the heady competition between Manchester United and Manchester City, while examining the city of Manchester and its history and traditions.
“If Anthony Bourdain can explore culture through food, we ought to be able to do it through football,” Scarborough said in an interview.
For the morning host, the series may be the natural conclusion to a hobby he shares with one of his sons. “I actually grew up an American football snob of sorts. We never could understand why kids would play soccer. We were always a little contemptuous of it. So it was a bit of a shift in 2006 when my son asked me to fill out a bracket for the World Cup. ‘OK, I guess so.’ I’m sitting there watching with my son and about halfway through the World Cup, we really started getting into this.” Before the tournament was over, “I completely fell in love with it.”
Scarborough and his son continued to delve into the game, doing research on teams. He chose Liverpool, while his son chose Chelsea. “I told him that was like choosing Microsoft,” Scarborough quipped. These days, Scarborough says he focuses on “Red Sox baseball, Liverpool football and college football.”
The host says he never realized fan interest in the sport could be as intense as that accorded to college football in the deep South, where he grew up. “You plan weddings around in the fall when rivalries are not being played. Nobody likes to come to the wedding – or God forbid, a funeral. I grew up thinking that was the most intense rivalry in sports, but you look at the rivalries in European football, in English Premier League football, and I think there’s even a greater rivalry there. And it’s far more personal, more tribal.”
In the first episode, slated to debut 4 p.m. on December 26, Scarborough will interview Alex Stepney and Paddy Crerand, two former longtime Manchester United players; Mike Summerbee, who played for Manchester City for a decade; and Sir Howard Bernstein, the former Chief Executive of Manchester City Council. In addition, Scarborough talks with the owner of The Old Nags Head bar, one of the biggest United supporter bars in Manchester; a Manchester United chant writer, and a Manchester City super fan who has attended the last 800 matches. The series is produced in partnership with IMG and Dynamo Films.
Three episodes are planned at present, said Scarborough, with one slated for Super Bowl weekend.
How will he find time to tackle the shows given his A.M. duties? “We do a lot of planning ahead. It is a little bit tougher, but we just have to plan the weekends well ahead,” he said. He may have to take a Friday and a Monday off from “Morning Joe” to work on the NBCSN episodes.