American Shmundits. Argh!

I play much more soccer than basketball.  But when it comes to the end of televised seasons, I watch much more basketball than soccer.  Maybe it has something to do with the excitement of a top quality league that actually has playoffs combined with the speed and high scoring of the NBA.  But it also goes to show just how much I watch the NBA… ‘cause I watch a lot of  EPL.

Anyway, I was sitting through the halftime show in game four of the NBA finals- my beloved Lakers up by a few points on our age-old nemeses, the Celtics (I grew up in LA).  Immediately following the first half review, there was a World Cup mini-preview.  It was on ESPN so John Harkes was the pundit who was given about 25 or 30 seconds to build anticipation with a notoriously apathetic US audience.  I’ll take or leave the guy as a color man.  I know some people say he talks too much, but, in my book, at least he’s not Max Bretos, and he has the background.  Then he got his 25 seconds.  The man actually came on and used the phrase, “bitter rivals” to describe the relationship between the footballing nations of the US and England.  He also dubbed Landon Donovan “the Steve Nash” of American soccer, which is so far off-base to anyone who knows both sports, it’s ridiculous.  His short segment was obviously, to any soccer fan, a scripted farce created by some ESPN exec who handed him a script and said, “Read this or else.”

Harkesy had to know that the balderdash he was putting out there for the listening public was exactly that:  balderdash.  Moonshine.  Rubbish.  Poppycock.  And yet, he said it, losing credibility with people who know the game, and making sure yet another American soccer pundit was made to look ignorant of even the gross details of the game- when we know that is not the case, at least not with Harkes.

It’s just frustrating.  I know he likes his job, but it would be nice for us Yanks to be able to rest our hats (or boots) on an American announcer that stays true to his/her ideals and the integrity of the sport, versus selling it and down the river for some hyperbolic hype with no legs.

p.s. Comparisons between Donovan and Nash welcomed.


28 thoughts on “American Shmundits. Argh!”

  1. I will bite:

    Landon Donovan leads MLS in assists this season.

    Steve Nash led the NBA in assists this season.

    Landon Donovan has the highest shot/goal conversion ratio out of forwards and mids on the USMNT.

    Steve Nash led NBA point guards in field goal percentage for most of the last 7 seasons.

  2. I'd say Landon Donovan is the Mikael Pietrus of US Soccer. He's pretty much the best player from his country (or almost the best), and he can be a very solid player on a pretty good upper level team in the best league in the world. But for the Nash comparison to work, he'd have to be one of the best in the world. Huh-uh.

    1. Well said Donovan is under rated and a great player but there are better players in the world.

      I like the guy but I'm not ready to call him Messi or Rooney.

    1. @Killface: You're right, I hadn't thought of that. If that were the case, though, I'd probably have taken hostages by now.

      The thing is, ESPN is not about covering sports anymore, it's about SELLING sports. There was a time when you could get some excellent NFL analysis out of Bristol. Now that they broadcast games, though, they're all about pimping matchups, even between last place teams.

      ESPN has made a significant investment in the World Cup, and they're going to do their best to get people to tune in. But don't expect anyone associated ESPN/ABC/Disney to be anything but a relentless whore until it's all over.

  3. Give them a break. It may have been the 1st time many of the nba final's audience have ever heard London's name. So maybe it was an easy/lazy way to describe him by comparing Donovan to Nash. Most people in the US probably don't know who's who in soccer anyway unless they're fans of the game.

  4. The rivalry stuff is bunk. The US's rivals in soccer are Mexico. Period.

    I'd love to beat England on Saturday, but even if we do it won't have the emotional significance of beating Mexico in '02.

    A win over England would turn many heads, much as the win over Spain did. But that doesn't make them a rival.

  5. please please please US pundits learn more about the game before you say some thing,I say this guy is the worst pundit ever.ESPN ought to know better

  6. mike,

    This "guy" you say needs to learn more is John Harkes, long time US national team midfielder with 90 caps who has played for Sheffield Wednesday, Derby County, West Ham Utd. and DC United. I hardly think he needs to learn more.

    The point is that his bosses at ESPN make him say really stupid crap and it annoys legitimate soccer fans when US coverage feels a need to make everything "US-Friendly."

    The game is interesting enough. It doesn't need to be Americanized by the likes of ESPN.

    1. "The game is interesting enough. It doesn’t need to be Americanized by the likes of ESPN."

      I actually think it does. For ESPN to draw big ratings for the coverage it paid $400 million for, it will need more than just the diehards to watch.

      Don't forget, about 1/3 of the people in the US don't know what sport is being played at the World Cup. So you have to do something to bring along Joe Average Sports Fan.

      It may be annoying for those who are knowledgeable, but bringing more people to the sport will ultimately be a good thing

  7. Just be happy its not on CBS!
    Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson would be bound to mention Tim Tebow and call the teams by the wrong monikers; "Georgia is wearing orange and blue moving left to right here in Jacksonville"

    There's nothing bitter about the team's rivalry unless you serve your tea without sugar.

    Steve Nash is Canadian and by far the best player from Canada in basketball. Landon Donovan is more like a Reggie Bush. A great individual talent that infrequently produces. However, Landon is not a collegiate fraud and the reason USC is on life support.

  8. I don't think there is anything I hate more than listening Americans talk about football. They call it soccer but the sport existed before their football came about so go figure. Secondly, shot conversion ratio are you serious? Which football fan talks about such things. Next thing you know we will be talking about double teaming lol. I say first learn the history of the game, the rules and then call it by its correct name and then maybe people will see America as a footballing nation. The game is a bit more than just beating England.

    1. "I don’t think there is anything I hate more than listening Americans talk about football. They call it soccer but the sport existed before their football came about so go figure."

      Blame England. It's their word

    2. There is nothing that bothers me more than someone who doesn't understand the origin of the term soccer. It is shortened from association football which is the term the English used to distinguish it from rugby. They shortened it to soccer and we in the US along with some other nations (Socceroos for instance) use it. So maybe you should learn the history of the game.

      Enjoy the game tomorrow.

    3. "shot conversion ratio are you serious? Which football fan talks about such things."

      Anyone who is knowledgeable about the sport cares about goals:shots ratio. Scoring 1 goal per 3 shots (Torres) is much more impressive than scoring 1 goal per 10 shots (Rodallega).

      Come on now.

    4. I don't think there is anything I hate more than a troll spewing xenophobic vitriol on a topic about which he appears to know very little.

  9. Don't quite agree that I should blame England. It is after all the correct name. Also if I were to blame England I would also have to blame the other 90% of countries that also call it by its correct name. I just can't understand for the life of me why if something already has a name someone would come on the seen and just call it another name. Not saying its only the US that does it. I wonder what Americans would think if people from a couple of countries were to wake up tomorrow and call 'American football' by some odd name? Also, on top of that they go around correcting people. They would probably say those people are daft wouldn't they.

    1. "Also if I were to blame England I would also have to blame the other 90% of countries that also call it by its correct name."

      Nope, just the English. They invented the word. Blame them.

      Football (a variation of rugby) was an established game in the US well before soccer came along. So in looking for a name for this newer (to us) game, we chose the English word soccer.

      And the result is Europeans complaining about Americans using a word invented by the English. What fun!

    2. The reason any country uses "soccer" instead of football tends to be because there's a different code of football that's more popular: e.g. USA=American football, Australia=Aussie Rules. As was mentioned before, Rugby Union is actually Rugby Football Union.

      And to be fair, it's mostly us English that go round correcting Americans - I find that the people I talk to are happy to call football football. At least in my company. FWIW I don't like the word soccer either, but it's not going to change in the US until the NFL loses popularity. Fingers crossed then...

      1. "I don’t like the word soccer either, but it’s not going to change in the US until the NFL loses popularity. Fingers crossed then…"

        Even if the NFL folded you would not see a change.

        1. You might be right, but stranger things have happened - a few years ago the Aussies changed the name of their federation to Football Federation Australia from Australian Soccer Association.

          1. "but stranger things have happened"

            Actually I'm not sure it has, lol. The US collectively changing the name of football is about as likely as England starting to use the word soccer.

            Football has been ingrained in this country for the last century or so. The NFL has very little to do with that.

  10. I'm a reformed user of the word "soccer". Used to try to call it football around my soccer friends, then I just decided, "You know what? It's actually amusing to piss people off who care way too much about whatever-the-f-you-want-to-call-this-game-we-love."

    It's liberating.
    Try it.
    The Irish do it. The Aussies do it. Us Americans do it.

    Soccer Soccer Soccer. God that feels good.

  11. This coming from the same website that said that complained about not having an "american presence" in the booth. Make up your minds.

  12. Its going to be a bumpy road for a while. I think we {America} are just just touching the tip of the ice berg on how popular and lucrative soccer really is and can be here in the states. So we need to sit back and take these horrible attempts at main stream media trying to make soccer their own. We are headed in the right direction but there will be MANY bumps and bruises on the way. Get ready.


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