O'Brien didn't help his cause among the soccer cognoscenti by referring to them as a "petulant little clique." This country's soccer snobs—and I count myself among them—are a persnickety lot. They lament that most of the USA doesn't give a whit about the beautiful game but bridle at attempts to invite in nonloyalists by, say, explaining the meaning of a yellow card. Our little tribe is like the fans of an up-and-coming rock band. We want them to be successful, but when they break big, we resent the hordes of newbies who weren't cool enough to be there at the beginning. ESPN's biggest mistake here was underestimating the wrath of the soccer purist by choosing a baseball guy. O'Brien never got a fair hearing. Hell hath no fury like a footy supporter taken for granted.Perhaps more telling is the fact that the guy doing the games for the Beeb is receiving attacks even nastier than the ones dished out by the elitist pricks in this country.
But the numbers say plenty of people have tuned in. This ratifies rule No. 1 of television: No one watches (or doesn't watch) for the commentary. Here's rule No. 2: The quality of the game affects the quality of the commentary. O'Brien was excellent during the pulsating Germany-Italy match, which was decided in the dying seconds of overtime with a pair of dramatic goals. As the game got tense, he augmented the scene with context about the Italian match-fixing scandal. Otherwise, he let the match play out. On the other hand, O'Brien made a lot of enemies trying to flesh out the drab England-Paraguay match during the tournament's opening weekend. That's what you get for trying to keep people entertained.
July 07, 2006
Slate effectively puts the tiresome complaints about ESPN's soccer coverage, and particularly of Dave O'Brien, to bed, here. Money quote: