Saturday, June 14, 2014

On ESPN: Two World Cup Observations Saved by Another Two

The long awaited event is finally here and the ugly drunk side of (everything is a controversy, hot take, argument-) ESPN showed up. Even Ian Darke has been sucked down into the muck. It got bad enough for me early on to have me saving links of foreign streams.

Fortunately, there were the right guys calling the right game and things have hopefully switched back to a focus on the matches and not the organization covering it here in the US.

Here are a few observations from the couple days of the 20th World Cup on ESPN off my chest so I can (hopefully) move on the the games.

1. TWELLMAN TRIBALISM: ESPN's Rotten Side Manifests
Taylor Twellman completely lost me in the early going of this World Cup. The whiny, contentious, breaking news vessel type personality he has honed (and gotten away with) covering MLS games and arguing on social media is a train wreck for something like the World Cup. Everything is a DISASTER or JUST HORRIBLE. Twellman seemed incapable of normal, engaging discussion. Each time he smirked into the camera, I cringed. I think the tone was set opening game however, by...

Ever since making that "go-go USA" call during the last event, everyone has wanted Darke to call games. I loved the guy in the last World Cup, he was great. This go around he still can be but he has to shake the - EVERYTHING IS A CONTROVERSY so let's fight about it on a debate show (and belittle the sport at the same time!) - that he has learned from ESPN. He set the tone for the the studio team the first night and Bob Ley bought in hook line and sinker. It carried over to this afternoon in the Mexico / Cameroon match when Twellman would. not. stop. about the officiating. There was even a point where I was already about done with the whole event when Ley broke in with news of Franz Beckenbauer getting suspended for 90 days from FIFA and ESPN just turned the halftime of a match into Outside the Lines.

Robin van Persie Headed Goal
There was more quality in this match than the first half of the 2014 MLS season. As such, it's pretty difficult for me to explain how I took this match in. It was like it was from another planet. By the time the second half started I was sitting on the edge of my couch completely still. The Dutch I've wanted to see for 20 years finally showed up and it was poetic. The sport again became like a great painting to me. Just amazing.

After Ian Darke and Steve McManaman's opening call and the Mexico match where Fernando Palomo and Alejandro Moreno's tone matched the emotions of El Tri, I had about had it. I love the emotion of Palomo had and maybe had it not been for the negative slant the studio had taken I would have liked it but after months and months of anticipation this sucker started out with a thud on ESPN until the tandem of Jon Champion and Stewart Robson came along. Martin Tyler, Champion is likely not but he was the perfect person to have on the Netherlands v Spain match. It brought the special feel of the World Cup back.

The first four matches ended with Chile taking care of Australia 3-1 with a very good Daniel Mann and a very green Kasey Keller. The match was full of heart and emotion and Keller was kind of a drone-like at times but overall it was fine. Also fine is Bob Ley and Alexi Lalas in handling the studio. Roberto Martinez and Ruud van Nistelrooy have excellent observations on each match.

Here's the Lineup for this weekend, highlighted will be the best calls and probably the best matches (to be honest). I'd recommend finding a stream of the Colombia, Greece match. The Ivory Coast, Japan matchup should be a treat with Rae and Ekoku.

June 14 (Sat.): Colombia vs. Greece, ABC, 11:30 a.m. (Adrian Healey and Taylor Twellman)
June 14 (Sat.): Uruguay vs. Costa Rica, ABC, 2:30 p.m. (Jon Champion and Stewart Robson).
June 14 (Sat.): England vs. Italy, ESPN, 5:30 p.m. (Ian Darke and Steve McManaman).
June 14 (Sat.): Ivory Coast vs. Japan, ESPN, 8:30 p.m. (Derek Rae and Efan Ekoku).

June 15 (Sun.): Switzerland vs. Ecuador, ABC, 11:30 a.m. (Adrian Healey and Alejandro Moreno).
June 15 (Sun.): France vs. Honduras, ABC, 2:30 p.m. (Daniel Mann and Kasey Keller).
June 15 (Sun.): Argentina vs. Bosnia-Herzegovina, ESPN, 5:30 p.m. (Derek Rae and Roberto Martinez).

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