- Eric Wynalda's suspension by ESPN for ABC's Saturday telecast was nothing short of criminal. What ESPN lacks throughout its sports programming is strong witty opinions. Just consider the way ESPN's signature voices analyze their respective sports: Dick Vitale will never criticize a coach or a player who happens to stay in school four years. Peter Gammons will always whine when any manager gets fired. Bill Walton picks on easy targets and praises popular players beyond recognition. Mike Tirico, well he has never been critical of anyone in any event he's called except for poor Jean Van De Velde and assorted officials. That's why someone as candid and insightful as Eric Wynalda doesn't mesh with the ESPN " me too" culture. He doesn't pick on easy targets like the Miami Hurricanes and Ron Artest while praising Duke and the Boston Red Sox. (Let me add in the interest of fairness, as season ticket holder of Miami Football even though I graduated from a rival school, I have been completely disgusted by what I believe is ESPN's overt lack of fairness towards the University of Miami over a number of years.) If ESPN's long term investment in the MLS and US Soccer is going to pan out it will because of the interest someone like Eric Wynalda brings to the events he calls. Fellow blogger Bill E Shears put it perfectly when he said :
" His brutal honesty caused him problems as a player, both in the States and in Germany. However, they are what makes him a great analyst. In an American soccer climate, cleaved down the middle between mindless American supporters and overcritical Eurosnobs, Wynalda is a figure who can bridge that gap.
He has the knowledge and willingness to criticize the American game and the sycophants who run it, but the pedigree and enthusiasm to provide it with legitimacy and support. He also has a bravado and personality that the mainstream American sports fan would understand and appreciate.
He can work wonders with the increased marketing opportunities for soccer by an increasingly open-minded ESPN. However, one has to wonder why US Soccer hasn’t been more assertive in getting him involved in a meaningful fashion?"
I couldn't have said it better myself. Well said Bill E Shears.
- ABC's telecast of the DC United-Colorado Rapids game was halfway decent. The pregame show hosted by the incomparable Rob Stone (yes I am being highly sarcastic) was terrible, but Dave O'Brien probably called his best soccer game ever. O'Brien's style doesn't work with real Football fans, but the reality is most MLS type fans like his story telling and his over hyping of the league. Julie Foudy was very generic in her anaylsis which is probably what is demanded by the "me too" ESPN culture described above.
- HDNet had a crisp broadcast of Columbus-New York. The production was solid and Glen Davis works very well with Marcelo Balboa. Neither talks to much and they simply call the action and give timely thoughts. HDNet's telecasts are simple and to the point. They don't overwhelm the viewer with all sorts of worthless graphics and the follow the game
- Fox Soccer Channel had serious techincal problems on its MLS pregame show. Once they got that behind them, I thought they did well. Todd Grisham whose hiring I thought was a mistake since he has never covered soccer and is actually a wrestling announcer was suprisingly outstanding. Grishman brought a smoothness and a professionalism to the telecast that is often lacking in FSC programming. He obviously also knows more about Soccer than I had assumed. While Grishman was excellent, Max Bretos as is often the case was not. Bretos made a number of mistakes during the broadcast of Chivas LA-Toronto FC and missed some obvious details of the match. Christopher Sullivan as usual was solid and I thought Christian Miles who I am typically not a fan of, did an excellent job with his halftime and post match interviews.
- Telefutura was stuck with a dud of a match for their weekly Spanish language telecast. Houston Dynamo gave a aheroic but losing effort Thursday night in the CONCACAF Champions Cup semis and clearly had little left in the tank for tonight's match with the LA Galaxy. As expected LA has little offensive punch and the game was a dull scoreless draw. Telefutura's production and graphics look cheap when compared to Univision and Telemundo's experienced Soccer telecasts, but the announcers were surprisingly knowledgeable about MLS, and unlike the Univision announcers who called MLS in the ealy years of the league, they were condescending about the product on the field.