FIFA World Cup 2010: We Americans Have Much to Learn (Part 1)

One of the best decisions I made as a child was to learn as many languages as possible thoughout my life.  Today, I can speak English, Spanish, Italian, and French.  This gives me the ability to, among other things, watch telecasts or read articles in other languages from countries around the world.  This past Sunday, I watched the Mexico versus Argentina match in the first round of the 2010 World Cup playoffs.  Periodically, I switched between the Univision telecast (in Spanish) and ABC’s coverage on Chicago’s channel 7-1 (in English).  In the end, I conclude that the networks’ presentations and commentating styles were vastly different.

ABC’s studio looked dark, austere, and serious.  Univision’s, however, used more colorful sets and a more lively broadcasting team.  Frankly, Alexi Lalas and John Harkes (I believe the latter was Lalas’ teammate in the studio) lacked the energy that Fernando Fiore showed on his own as Univision’s so-called “President of the Republic of Sport.”

Univision’s telecast of the game set a ratings record for Spanish programming.  It attracted 9.3 million viewers and stands as the most watched program in the history of Spanish television, according to Pablo Ramirez of Mexico’s Univision.  The American broadcast on ABC (which was orchestrated by ESPN) featured British commentators who did not effectively pass the “passion of football” onto the viewer.  Their slow, monotone narration sounded much too detached from the action on the field.  Furthermore, the team of Pablo Ramirez and Dr. Jesus Bracamontes often talk about the “beauty” of the game and use witty banter and their own positive attitudes to present soccer as an exciting and fun sport to watch.  They even teach viewers a thing or two about the game and how/why players made certain decisions through their use of Univision’s virtual playing field called “Vision 360.”  Could it be that ESPN was unable to find two American commentators who could match the Univision team’s enthusiasm, or even the rather cool British commentators they used for the Mexico/Argentina game?

Stay tuned for Part 2 of my analysis of the FIFA World Cup 2010 as presented on Univision and ABC.

Cam Suarez-Bitar.

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    • Kevin Flood
    • June 29th, 2010

    Camilo, I couldn’t disagree more regarding style of broadcasters. I am a huge sports fan and watch endless hours of sports on tv. When not in the house, sports radio is on in the car. Broadcasting sporting events, for me, about the game. Announcers who make the broadcast about themselves diminish my enjoyment of the game. The “Goooooooooooooaaaaaaaaaalllll” nonsense drives me nuts. Another example is the radio broadcast team for my NY Yankees. John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman, neither of whom played the game, report on the game at a 3rd grade level, but worse are Sterling’s patented home run calls (“Jorgie juiced one!; You’re on the Mark, Texeira; That’s a Tex message; El Capitan!; etc). He often will start his home run call before the ball leaves the park, often having to retract it. They also do not paint a picture of the game for me; they simply banter in cliches until the next patented call.

    In any case, for me, announcers should report the action; studio folks should tell me what I don;t know. The rest is nonsense. But that’s just me 😉

    • Dear Kevin,

      Thanks for providing your insight. It’s always good to hear from you, my friend.

      Regarding the examples you cited, that kind of commentary indeed sounds more annoying than anything else. However, commentators should try to infuse some energy into the telecast since the home audience lacks the stadium environment and energy of the atmosphere. Today, I watched the World Cup Final on ABC and Univision. I was unimpressed with the former and I conclude that Mr. Darke and friend’s commentary simply does not parallel the energy and enthusiasm of the “beautiful game.” Their technical savvy does not disappoint, though there is a certain romance in soccer (and all sports for that matter) and if the commentator does not connect with it or allows his mind to subdue his emotions, then there is not much difference between his work and the hypnotic scrolling of plain closed-captions.

      On Univision, the trio of Ramirez, Bracamontes, and Chilavert – while not perfect – do a far better job of bringing the excitement of World Cup soccer to one’s living room. The network’s coverage captures the “beauty” of the game more effectively than ABC; I will comment further on this in my next article.

      I am with you, though… “You’re on the Mark, Texeira?” Oh boy…

      Here on WGN, one of the commentators who does the White Sox games always says “he ‘gone” whenever an opposing batter strikes out. It feels like he is reaching for his own patented quip. An article in Sports Illustrated a month or two ago actually addressed the general lack of quality commentating on radio and TV broadcasts. It’s a shame… I miss the team of Pat Summerall and John Madden. =)

      Best regards,

      Camilo Suarez-Bitar.

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