Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Coverage

(Caption: This is a rare image of Eric Wynalda and Marcelo Balboa in mid-air chest bump. This is EXACTLY the kind of enthusiasm we are not getting from our guys in Germany. If only we could get Balboa back on the field!)

OK. We admit it. It’s a lot more fun to bash American soccer media than it is to praise it. But we must confess, outside of Marcelo Balboa’s hair and painfully obvious color commentary, ESPN, ABC and the Disney Corporation are doing a brilliant job covering this Cup. And I don’t think my assessment is skewed by the fact that I am watching every game on my roommate’s 51-inch mammoth TV in pristine, high-quality HD. If you still can’t see every blade of grass and inside Ronaldinho’s nostrils, you’re living in the 20th century and I am sorry for you. This is the way to watch soccer and select Discovery Channel rainforest documentaries.

It’s nice to see ESPN treat the World Cup with the respect they would use covering the Olympics or some other major sporting event. Those of us who are accustomed to watching the Arsenal-Barcelona Champions League final on ESPN 2 change abruptly to the tape-delayed World Ice Dancing Championships, without seeing a replay of any goals, are pleasantly surprised by the insightful and entertaining “World Cup Live” segment ESPN is using for pre-game and post-game analysis. Julie Foudy trumps 90% of American male soccer analysts and Eric Wynalda is impressive and engaging. Why is he not in Marcelo Balboa’s broadcast booth and Balboa sporting the old denim-looking USA jersey somewhere in southern California, far, far away from a microphone or the World Cup.

So, we have conceded a little praise. Thank the soccer gods that ESPN is finally figuring it out. But, on a more serious note, how about the 1994 USA World Cup-ers popping up all over the place like first season Real World cast members talking about the glory days?

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