June 24, 2006

Germany 2, Sweden 0: Lukas Podolski scored twice in the first twelve minutes, and Germany dominated an undermanned and outclassed Swedish team the rest of the way to earn a quarterfinal berth, probably against Argentina on Friday. Germany's performance through four games has been a vindication over the controversial, "American" tactics of manager Jurgen Klinsmann, who now finds himself the frontrunner to assume the same position with the U.S. Klinsmann lives in Orange County, and would no doubt find the move less taxing.

One of the more popular postings on World Cup-related blogs has been an attack on the lead announcing team for ESPN-ABC's broadcast, Dave O'Brien and Marcelo Balboa. Boycotts of the English language broadcasts have been proposed, an online petition has been started, demands that the Disney corp apologize for this massive affront to American soccer fans: a veritable clusterfuck of indignation. For most of the people watching, it's hard to see what the outrage is about. The broadcast sounds like a typical American sporting broadcast, not unlike what you would hear if the sport was basketball or baseball, the sport O'Brien hails from.

The real reason for the outrage is simple. Native-born American soccer fans are elitist pricks. Soccer is the only sport that is regularly attacked in the sports section, so we have to had to develop a pretty thick skin over the years. We have had to go out of our way to get our soccer fix, hitting pubs at 5 in the morning to watch Premier League games, picking up rudimentary Spanish to follow the broadcasts on Univision. As a result, we have come to see ourselves as a Band Apart: we're not the ones with the problem, it's the ordinary American sport fan, who despises soccer as an element from a foreign culture, that misses the point. When the World Cup comes around every four years, the sport picks up more than a few casual fans, fans who aren't in the slightest bit interested in the Bundesliga or the lastest fixing scandal in Serie A, but who are intrigued by the international flavor and intensity of the event, and those fans easily outnumber the native-born fanatics.

So it's not like Dave O'Brien is doing an inept job announcing the games.* Any American announcer would be getting blasted; every American who has attempted to announce World Cup games in the past, from Jim McKay to Mario Machado to Charley Jones to J.P. Dellacamera, has been blasted by the American Soccer Fan. It's part of the snob appeal of the sport, not unlike how the connoisseur of the music felt when Ken Burns did his documentary on the history of jazz; if an American is doing the game, and he's bringing techniques learned and crafted from announcing other American sports, he's going to get roasted. It says less about the quality of O'Brien's work and more about the chip on the shoulder that the native born fan has towards American culture

*One of the attacks, I swear to God, is that one of the announcers allegedly called the English goalkeeper Paul Robinson, "Paul Robbins", a syllable that probably gets dropped a hundred times during the Premier League season by announcers trying to think on their feet in the middle of a game.

1 comment:

Daniel Franklin Gomez said...

Klinsmann has done wonders to German football, given the dearth of quality players available. Hats off!