Pity Those Forced to Listen to Commentators

Wednesday, June 14, 2006 | 10:56 am

While on the topic of World Cup commentators, the ABC/ESPN folks have a lot to answer for in their coverage. My first impulse to mute came during the ABC coverage of England v Paraguay. Unfortunately, I was at a Scottish mates recently-purchased pub, so muting wasn't an option, and throwing a bacon-sausage sandwich at the widescreen wasn't going to endear me to the crowd either.

I think they pulled the lead guy from baseball: he didn't have the pace of a 90-minute game, and sounded like he hasn't been excited about anything since World War I. V-e-r-y   s-t-e-a-d-y   m-o-n-o-t-o-n-e. The "colour" guy was grating, and they both managed to approach the game from the point of view that "no-one out there has probably ever heard of soccer before". Thus you get US terminology equivalents (the "end line", or the inevitable "this is like the bottom of the ninth with 2 outs") and the side-effect is that any-vaguely knowledgeable part-time fan, of which America has millions, is talked down to like an idiot. Concentrate on yoru demographic lads! They got names wrong (not difficult names, they got Beckham wrong once) and worse was that even with the constant inane chatter, you couldn't find out anything you WANTED to know like who slipped that last pass in, or made that tackle.

All this is forgivable for newbie commentators, but the "colour commentary" was not. They must have had a sheet of factoids prepared for them, which they referred to every five minutes since they didn't know how to effectively talk during a passage of passing. If I had to hear the Paraguayan coach's quote suggesting England are "cheats", or Rooney's injury status, or Beckham's name (and the inevitable "bend-it" joke) one more time, I risk having my large intestine spring up through my throat and strangle me in self-defence.
"That’s a yellow-card. One more like that and he gets a red card, which means he must leave the field."
"That would leave them with only 10 men!"
You don't say.

Last nights Brazil v Croatia commentary had some corkers from JP What’s-his-name and John Harkes. Harkes could play the round-ball game, but talking isn’t his strong suite. JP keeps trying to open the door for Harkes to talk about his time with the US National side, and Harkes hasn't let that door close on him yet. Take this roughly-remembered quote from JP last night referring to a game years ago between USA and Brazil:
"And didn't the Brazilians say about that game John, that Casey Keller had one of the greatest games they had ever seen from a goalkeeper, or something like that?"

It took a loooong time for the commentators last night to give Croatia some credit, it was the all-Brazil show as far as they were concerned, even though Croatia looked strong (too strong for an Australian's liking!). But it was all worth it for this (rough) quote with the game at 1-0 to Brazil in the second half. I am going to attribute this one to JP:
"Take that goal away and you have a tied game right now and a whole different situation!"
And you get paid for this?

Thank god ESPN2 is using Irishman Tommy Smyth occasionally. He may sound annoying (like he is about to launch into a joke that begins "A Catholic, a Protestant, and a Rabbi walk into a bar..."), but at least he knows the game.


At 15/6/06 7:30 am, Blogger Shocho said...

A sporting event of any kind can be greatly enhanced or hideously marred by its commentators. I will tell you this and many will not believe it but it's true. We watch the CBS broadcast of Formula 1 races (they only do four a year, thank God) and suffer through the hideous commentary to watch it live (and in HD with great sound). Then we WATCH THE RACE AGAIN rebroadcast later on Speed channel where the commentators are SO much better and have a fucking clue.

Like ESPN with soccer, CBS is trying to show the US audience what the sport is about. But they have to get the best commentators they can or the whole thing is just ruined. What are they thinking?


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