Looking at the ESPN’s team of commentators for the 2010 World Cup TV coverage, we knew ahead of time that Adrian Healey and John Harkes were the weakest links in a team that features some of the best commentators in the world. Both men are qualified professionals. However, they’re not nearly as good as Martin Tyler, Derek Rae, Ian Darke and others. Unfortunately, Harkes and Healey showed two perfect examples of the improvements they need to make Sunday during the live coverage of the Slovakia versus Paraguay game.
Harkes and Healey both like to talk and they tend to talk so much that it can send the TV viewer into a daydream and detract from what is happening on the pitch itself. Such was the case for the 30-60 seconds leading up to the first goal of the game where both Healey and Harkes had a conversation on-air about how Paraguay qualified for the World Cup. Harkes added that “it’s not how you get there, but it’s what you do when you get there.” While the words were directed at Paraguay, they were true for Harkes, too. What he missed was Paraguay winning the ball in a dangerous area of the pitch and advancing in front of the penalty area and their clinical pass that fell into Enrique Vera’s path, which he hit with the outside of his foot into the corner of the net.
Harkes finished up his sentence just as the ball was going into the goal. What he should have done was to stop his train of thought. Or, better yet, Healey should have broken into the commentary to stop Harkes from rambling and focus him on what was developing on the pitch.
To make matters worse, a couple of minutes later, Adrian Healey wished everyone a happy father’s day but then put his foot in his mouth when he said that it was Slovenia playing Paraguay.
Both Healey and Harkes need to concentrate on their games work. They also need to limit the amount of statistics that they throw out because it takes the viewer away from the game and into la-la land where it’s hard to focus on what’s happening on the pitch when the topic of conversation has nothing to do with what’s happening right now.
ESPN’s coverage of the 2010 World Cup has been exemplary since it has started. But it’s important that the integrity of the commentating and analysis remains top notch. Both Healey and Harkes can do better, but they just need to concentrate at the game at hand and let the match do the talking.