I'd suspended blogging until I finished work on a new engine for Copia, but this is the World Cup. I feel like a kid on his birthday, and I just can't keep a lid on.
Despite an exciting start to Germany 2006 I've had a depressing inkling of how hard it's going to be to endure the announcers. For Germany vs. Costa Rica ESPN2 put forth Marcelo Balboa and some git I've never heard of named Dave O'Brien. Balboa is a good analyst. He's not exactly Robbie Earl, but he does know the game very well (he was one of the best US defenders in history, and is in the US Soccer hall of fame). Of course I'm biased because he also lives a few blocks from me (he played for the Colorado Rapids before he retired).
I wondered about the O'Brien guy, though, and I didn't have to wonder long. I think I can summarize his knowledge of football thus: He knows that the ball is round and that the goal's net is not made of barbed wire, but he knows hardly anything beyond that. Marcelo Balboa was constantly having to interrupt to correct O'Brien's laughably wrong assessments of matters on the pitch. Just to give one mad-cap example, a Costa Rican defender stuck out a hand to pull Schweinsteiger's shirt in the box. Schweinsteiger (I think it was him, but I might be remembering incorrectly) dove and the ref ignored him. It was one of those cases of: sure it's technically a foul, but far too minor to merit a penalty. O'Brien, however, took this as an opportunity to say: "That just shows that the idea that you cannot use your hands in soccer is a complete misnomer". As such he managed to 1) misuse the word "misnomer", 2) confound the the many possible senses of the term "use your hands" 3) ignore the fact that shirt-pulling is illegal in football.
My ultimate exasperation came when Klinsman brought in Neuville to replace Klose mid-way though the second half. O'Brien asked Balboa, in a mystified tone, "so why does Klinsman decide to sub Neuville for Klose at this time?" I just about jumped up and down yelling at the TV: "Because Neuville is one of the wiliest strikers in the world, and is a perfect man to bring in to poach a late goal when a game is not quite winding down the way you're hoping". The problem is that clearly O'Brien knows nothing about these players. Neither announcer has mentioned anything to indicate that they're at all familiar with players' exploits at club level. I end up having to explain to Lori each players' characteristics that I've learned from watching club leagues and cups. That's the sort of awareness I expect from an announcer. They should be the ones telling me that Klose sometimes tends to flag a bit at the end of Werder Bremen games. That Wanchope was known for gorgeous, composed goals (as well as some inconsistency) during a long stretch playing in England, etc. O'Brien was more keen on telling us over and over that Wanchope played college Basketball in the U.S. Bah! It's enough to drive a football fan to an early grave.
ESPN, why oh why can we not have Derek Rae to call for US TV? (To everyone else, yeah, I know people find Rae's usual gab partner Tommie Smyth annoying, but Rae himself is extremely knowledgeable and professional). Or if it must be an American, why not poach former USA player Christopher Sullivan from Fox Soccer Channel? Sullivan possibly has the most encyclopaedic knowledge of football of any analyst in any country. I'd say his only problem is that he seems to dislike saying anything negative about anyone. He's just a bit too affable.