As usual, the ESPN and ABC broadcasts of the World Cup is filled with dull announcers very good at describing a wonderful match with the energy and excitement of watching a funeral.
Martin Tyler, Efan Ekoku, Ian Darke, John Harkes, Derek Rae, Robbie Mustoe, Adrian Healey, Ally McCoist, Jim Proudfoot and Roberto Martinez are mostly British, all are passionless, some are clueless, and many of them simply are not up to the task of transmitting the sense of excitement and passion that is the FIFA World Cup.
There are few American faces and voices. Moreover, none of them are American Latinos. No Marcelo Balboa, no Tab Ramos, no American multicultural presence whatsoever. (By the way, Ramos is of Uruguayan heritage. That would have come in handy now that Uruguay has reached the semifinals).
John Skipper, executive vice president of content at ESPN, would do well in acknowledging the masses of Americans of Hispanic heritage and other U.S. based international soccer fans that when not watching Univision, do turn to ABC or ESPN to watch the games. When they do switch channels they are greeted with a broadcast that does not reflect them racially or culturally. Let's remember that the vast majority of U.S. Hispanics are fully bilingual and watch ESPN and ABC regularly.
The ESPN ABC broadcast of the FIFA World Cup looks and feels like the broadcast of a PGA tournament. Not only do they not call a goal "GOOOOAAALLL" like the Univision on air talent. They do not even bother to say the world "goal!" when a goal is scored!
Seriously. They don't even have the decency to say: "Goal!" or "It's in the net!" Its all golf to the them!
The few on-air talent that hold their ground are former Dutch national team star Ruud Gullit and former German national team star Juergen Klinsmann. They are insightful, incisive, irreverent and, in Gullit’s case, passionate. The rest, with all due respect, are mediocre to barely adequate. They are doing their best and I respect them for that. But, they are not adding value to the broadcast or enhancing the experience. Quite the opposite.
Another bright spot, is the participation of former U.S. national team player Alexi Lalas. The red headed American soccer icon is sharp and opinionated and exudes some energy and passion. Against public opinion, Lalas predicted Holland would beat Brazil, and he got it right!
The other aspects of the ABC ESPN broadcast have been good.
The "One Game Changes Everything" theme is brilliant and exciting. The HD broadcast quality and camera work has been excellent.
Another regrettable mistake was to overlook competent American announcer JP Dellacamera, a frequent U.S. national team broadcaster for ESPN who has been relegated to ESPN Radio for the World Cup.
This is why more and more American audiences, including those whose entire Spanish vocabulary is limited to “Yo Quiero Taco Bell,” continue to turn to Univision. They may not understand the words, but they surely understand and feel the energy, the excitement and the passion.
The time has come to provide more diversity to the broadcast talent pool and to add some energy and passion that reflects the essence of The Game. This is not golf, Mr. Skipper. This is futbol/football/soccer, Sir!
Thank you and sorry if I come across a bit too strong. Not my intention to personally attack anyone. Just want to share my perspective on this with much respect and admiration for the great work ESPN and ABC regularly do in the vast majority of their programming.
Photo: John Skipper, executive vice president of content at ESPN.