ESPN's World Cup coverage: Good job done, folks!
Tommy Smyth- ESPN analyst
Its gotten to the point that I now look at who is broadcasting the World Cup games. If its ABC, then you might just want to put the audio down. Dave O' Brien and Marcelo Balboa are the most dysfunctional pair going around. O' Brien regularly misidentifies the players. And when he throws something out that Balboa should respond to, the chances are that there is going to be a whole lot of silence. And when Balboa finally speaks eons later, it is as if everybody around has a hearing impediment. And they don't really know much about the players. ABC has adopted the Olympics template- everything has to be a good story. And listening to Dave O' Brien you get an idea of what I am talking about. The problem is that he has Marcelo Balboa who ignores him at best but most likely does not know what the *@%$#&* O' Brien's talking about.
OK, so they are ignorant about soccer- but what about the camera work. Well, we really don't have the Goodyear blimp, so those aerial shots won't work. But you can see that ABC really misses those shots. So you have cameras that look down at stadiums that are half the size of football fields. And what you see are a bunch of players running around with barely discernible jersey numbers and names. And the camera work is static, you have to hear the audio to figure out that there is a crowd watching and that they are reacting to the match.
ESPN's coverage is so, so, so much better. Hearing JP Dellacammera (what a name!) and John Harkes is a relief. They are genuinely interested in soccer and they know a bit about strategy and the players. And the ESPN camera work is great, close angle shots of the players with the sweat making their jerseys cling, panning the crowd to see those fruitcakes with crazy hats and face paint, the wave that starts of at one end and ends in another. And stats. You get into the game.
And the best are the fiesty little Tommy Smyth and Ian Sealey. OK, Smyth is Irish and Sealey is a Brit, so they know their stuff. But they are also good together. Smyth, the fiesty little Irishman and Sealey, the more' lets roll with the punches' Brit. They all have their facts in hand, and to hear them report the Portugal- Angola match just brings home ABC's ignorance. We got to know about Mantorras- in fact, Smyth was spot on when he said that Branko Ivanovic would bring in Mantorras at the hour mark. It was to replace Akwa which was a bit of an eyebrow raiser. And they knew extensively about the players. And not just the stars. We all know that Cristian Ronaldo is a spoilt brat. And that Figo came out of retirement. But they kneow about players like Akwa. Nuno Maniche. Figuierido. Jamba. Loco. Ze Kalenga. I have to go to the internets to find out more about those players.
Best of all, they all appreciated that Angola played their hearts out just when they looked as if they would be blown over. Down by a goal by the fourth minute, with one chance missed a minute before. And they were quick to point out that for a country that went in as clear favorites to win, the Portugese spent a lot of time rocking back on their heels in the second half. And when Smyth pointed out that the crowd would not appreciate the Portugese effort, on cue they started booing. You have to have seen a lot of matches and reported them to feel the same way. And to back up the point the camera actually tracked the Portugese fans displeasure and anxiety.
This little repartee between Tommy Smyth and Ian Sealey. Reported from memory, and an inebriated one at that.
Smyth: "I don't see the English cheering much after their win."
Sealey: "A win is a win. You get 3 points."
Smyth: "That it is. That it is."
Sealey:" I don't see much green in this World Cup."
Smyth: "Well, you have the Ivory Coast. Thank you very much."
Thank God! Its going to be ESPN reporting on the US- Czech Republic match. So they are not going to report on how Brian McBride had to conquer a fear of heights before he started making those headers. We'll thankfully just get the game!