A few things struck me as I watched ESPN’s broadcast of the U.S. vs Czech Republic in a friendly on Tuesday evening – actually only 1. American broadcasting of soccer games is HORRENDOUS, even if it’s simply the color man in the booth. Poor Adrian Healey – a class act that I commend ESPN for bringing in. What was going through his mind sitting next to John Harkes for 90 minutes is beyond me.
In case you missed the game, there was this: that doofus John Harkes commented in the first half that 4-5 spots were still up in the air (as depth on the bench, but nevertheless a ticket to South Africa), and that Bradley would be taking a close note of the evening’s performances, which would heavily weigh on his decision. Fast forward to the second half. Harkes followed that up by saying the game was a formality. It didn’t matter who had played well. Bradley made up his mind before the opening whistle.
Call me picky. Tell me I’m reading too much into it. But I love this sport too much to ignore the fact that American broadcasting of the national team is holding the game back in this country for the neutral fan. We can divide this country into 2 groups: the uneducated sports fans (those that use thunder sticks or clappers, wear the same color in arenas) and the educated sports fans (everyone else, and I’ll throw in the rally towels). But one thing both groups value above all else when they can’t see a game live, is that the man they are listening to on TV is a knowledgeable professional for that sport. A self-deprecating man who can appeal to any level of fan. It’s why we all love the team of Mike Breen, Jeff Van Gundy, and Mark Jackson during the playoffs. And why we HATE Joe Buck and Tony Kornheiser during his stint on MNF. Soccer is not our sport. As a result, the rambling idiots who call it in this country don’t know how to do it. BUT THAT’S OK.
ESPN has already brought in Martin Tyler for the entirety of the World Cup (they even gave the man his own commercial!!). Do us all a favor, put Andy Gray next to him or some other Brit. There is no shame in making the World Cup the best possible experience for American viewers – even if it means leaving the Yanks out of the booth.