First of all, ESPN has started to get more useful analysts on the program, but unfortunately not in the commentator's booth where they belong: .
- Allen Hopkins has been doing the tabloid trawl for them. Hopkins is another good analyst. He's usually on Fox Soccer Channel where I've come to know him for his knowledge of the game. His only problem comes when he's teamed with his great mate Max Bretos. They both drift off into their chummy world together rather than focusing on the game at hand.
- Derek Rae is appearing about five seconds at a time with a smidgen of news on some obscure topic. What a freaking waste. Rae's Champions League commentary is impeccable, so you would think ESPN would think to use him as more than a cameo reporter.
Meanwhile the announcer disgrace continues. I ran out of patience with JP Dellacamera in the Ghana/Czech match. When Amoah was fouled dribbling into the six, Ujfalusi was rightly given a red card. The referee rightly consulted with his assistant, and then gave the big decision. The reason was obvious: Ujfalusi was the last defender, and fouled to prevent a clear goal-scoring opportunity. Apparently this was lost on both Dellacamera and John Harkes. First of all they mused for a few minutes that it was a straight red card for dissent. I was hopping up and down in front of the TV by then. And then someone apparently handed them a slip of paper to point out that the red card was for the foul. But rather than put the obvious together, they instead went on musing that the foul was not bad enough to merit a red card. By this point I had to restrain myself from irrationally damaging my TV. How could they not even guess at the correct reason for the red card? Dellacamera has called enough matches with a red card for that very same reason that he should be aware of the rule. It just seemed to me that they left their brains in the prep room, which is inexcusable for such a big game.
Balboa is not having an inspired time in the booth. I'm biased, as I said, and continue to believe his main problem is in having to cope with O'Brien. I do like that excepting his indignant reaction to the Pope red card, he was generally correct in his assessments of the U.S./Italy game, even when sound judgment ran against the U.S. In the case of the Beasley goal that was correctly ruled out for a McBride off-side, Balboa was very quick to point out the reason for the call. And I expect he was having to bite his tongue while O'Brien was saying "Yes. If McBride didn't lift his foot, it would not have been offside." Say what?
A few gems I couldn't resist quoting:
Dave O'Brien: "That was one stiff shot there by Mastroeni." Behold the midfielder-cum-bartender.
Rob Stone: "Here's Alex. Born in Brazil; native, now, of Japan." The born-again naturalization.
Rob Stone re-christens the instep shot. It's now the "inside stroke". You can use it in the water, too.
Then again while we're collecting ABC/ESPN announcer Goldwynisms, let's not forget that even the true football experts say some screwy things now and then.