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ESPN World Cup Commentators: Progress Report Card

 ESPN World Cup Commentators: Progress Report Card

ESPN’s coverage of the 2010 World Cup has been spectacular. But if I must be honest, some of the commentators are beginning to get on my nerves. It’s normal, I guess – especially after you consider how many hours we’ve spent listening to these commentators since the tournament began on June 11.

Based on what I’ve seen from ESPN thus far, here are a few interesting observations regarding the World Cup coverage:

John Harkes. I have an incredible amount of respect for Harksey as a player at both the club and international level. And he seems a genuinely nice guy. But he’s not a brilliant co-commentator. I’ve already discussed how I feel he talks too much. But there’s nothing that annoys me more about commentators than when they seemingly jinx players.

For example, when I saw Landon Donovan walking up to take a free kick against Algeria, the last thing I want to hear is how Harkes thinks that Donovan is lethal with free kicks. When Harkes says that, the expectation level among viewers soars because many of them think that Donovan will score. But more often than not, a goal comes when you least expect it. And when it doesn’t come from a free kick, it’s almost as if Harkes is setting up the player and viewer for failure, although I realize that’s not his intention.

Ian Darke. I love Ian Darke, I really do. But during a high pressure game such as the United States against Algeria, the last thing I want him asking the viewer and John Harkes is how nervous we are. If we’re US fans, of course we’re nervous. And by asking the question, it only adds more pressure on top of what we’re already feeling.

Martin Tyler. There is no commentator on this planet who is better than Tyler. Having that said, Tyler sounds more understated this tournament than usual. At times, he sounds blase’ — much more so than usual. Other times, he sounds tired. While he’s a brilliant commentator, his delivery in this World Cup hasn’t been at his top form yet. But I trust that things will improve after the intensity of the first round concludes.

British commentators. I’ve been enjoying the myriad of British commentators that ESPN has hired to cover the World Cup. But I’m bemused by the amount of references the commentators continually make regarding the English Premier League. In many ways, it’s understandable. It’s the league that the British commentators are most familiar with. But I’ve found that in most games, a few references to the Premier League are often mentioned whether it’s about a player or manager. If it wasn’t for John Harkes (and Martin Tyler, to be fair), Major League Soccer would be forgotten in this tournament. Thankfully both Harkes and Tyler weave in mentions now and again to ensure that MLS is not overlooked entirely in this tournament.

The other thing about the British commentators is that every once in a while they’ll throw a British expression which may seem perfectly normal to them but may be befuddle some American viewers. When Darke describes a defense as at “sixes and sevens,” do most American viewers understand what he means?

Not that there’s anything wrong with using British expressions during commentary of games. I just find it interesting that we’re watching the games in America on American television yet the commentary is very Anglo-centric.

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About Christopher Harris

Founder and publisher of World Soccer Talk, Christopher Harris is the managing editor of the site. He has been interviewed by The New York Times, The Guardian and several other publications. Plus he has made appearances on NPR, BBC World, CBC, BBC Five Live, talkSPORT and beIN SPORT. Harris, who has lived in Florida since 1984, has supported Swansea City since 1979. He's also an expert on soccer in South Florida, and got engaged during half-time of a MLS game. Harris launched EPL Talk in 2005, which was rebranded as World Soccer Talk in 2013.
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66 Responses to ESPN World Cup Commentators: Progress Report Card

  1. Mike says:

    I find this year’s experienced announcing team refreshing after 2006′s dumbed-down commentary. ESPN earns top marks all-around from me; the time & effort invested are paying off. Tyler is a total pleasure to listen to but Darke’s enthusiasm, to me, plays a little better to an American audience. (He peppers his patter with enough references to US sports to suggest he pays attention) Splitting hairs, really. Enjoying Efan Ekoku & Harkes (gets a bad rap – at least he knows the US squad and its history through & through) on game coverage and Lalas (the same), Klinsmann, and Martinez in particular in the studio. The rest are fine, as well. IF ESPN were to maintain this level of commitment to their coverage of the EPL, etc., they’d blow FSC away.

  2. Peter says:

    This is a really petty article. Can we just enjoy the fact that we have some of the best English-speaking commentators covering our matches? As for Harkes, he’s not my favorite, but he has gotten a hell of a lot better over the years.

    • CTBlues says:

      And he is whole lot better than Lalas who I can’t stand expeically after his comments about the England squad, “they just aren’t that good”. I facepalmed when he said that.

  3. BayVol says:

    I have heard numerous times how the US fans and others viewing the games have embraced Ian Darke. His passionate calls on both Slovania and Algeria were both priceless. Many have communicated that they wish Ian would do all future matches that the USA play in at the World Cup. Martin Tyler is not the right fit for those matches. His understated style puts many people in a subdued state.

    Harkes has been average at best and I do agree with your analysis of his performances.

    • LukesDukes1 says:

      I am a huge fan of the game and have been watching the World Cup with people/family that don’t share the same passion for the sport, but one highlight they had to say was that Ian Darke helped them appreciate the game, or at least made it more interesting for them to watch. I hope this was the case for more people in the USA. I would like to hear his voice more often.

  4. JW says:

    I love Darke. Just love the enthusiasm, but still lets the game breathe when it needs to.

    As far as Harkes, i we played a drinking game for every time he mentioned to his partner that “we talked about this last night” I’d be s%#%faced within the first 10-15 minutes of the match. Enough already, we get that you put in your proper preparation…

  5. Gary Talarino says:

    I understand the delicate position you’re in, Gaffer, but this is, at times, less an opinion article and more like you’re their boss giving them a performance review.

    Harkes is horrible. A homer for the US. Nightmare. Everyone else, for me, has been spot on. It’s frustrating when the British commentators call with Harkes on a US match, because they seem to dumb themselves down to match him and his endless pro-US opinions (has Harkes seen an American commit a foul in the tournament yet?).

    The person I’ve been the most pleasantly surprised by has been Ekoku. Funny, insightful, and not holding back from criticising any club. I particularly cracked up when he called out a player for missing a goal-scoring opportunity, and then said, “Of course, I’m able to score a hat-trick up here from the booth every night.” I’ve also had no trouble understand Ally McCoist.

    Regarding the references to the Premier League, compare it to what you cover. I have no problem with what they’re doing. I guess I can say the same for Harkes, but, seriously, if casual Americans are enjoying this World Cup and then decide to turn to MLS after July 11th, they might not come back for more. MLS is still League One football for me.

    Finally, I want an American viewer to go and look up what these terms mean. Watching the NBA Finals with Mark Jackson, Jeff Van Gundy and Mike Breen, the best three-man commentary team in basketball history, they didn’t dumb anything down, and were all the better for it. If you want to know more about a sport, then go and find out what “sixes and sevens” means in football and what a “slip cut” is in basketball.

  6. JC says:

    I also think the coverage has been great. I think the references to players that play in the EPL may be looked at in a couple of ways. Surely with ESPN now covering the EPL it could be seen as a plug to the casual viewer that you can catch some of these players on ESPN’s coverage of the EPL this coming season. Also these commentators are just used to doing what comes naturally to them (they have been doing this years) and it maybe they just forget that they are commentating to ta majority US audience. My guess is that the most of the ESPN worldwide audience and indeed a good bit of the US audience have been watching the EPL and are fairly familiar with the commentators and some of their expressions by now anyway. And if you are a Brit who has have lived here as long as me and remember watching the 1986 world cup when they actually broke away from action for commercials and had Ricky Davis as the pundit it’s clear to see the US has come along way.
    Cheers.
    USA 2 – Ghana1
    Germany 1 – England 3 (i can dream)

    • The Gaffer says:

      JC, I agree. But the world is a much bigger place than just the EPL. There are so many other talking points for commentators to discuss, but they keep on relying on what they know best which is the Prem, which makes it for a very Premier League-focused World Cup.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

  7. fsquid says:

    I think Ian Darke’s, “you cannot write a script like this” call on Wed. will be remembered for a while. I’ve liked the Darke-Harkes pairing so far. Is Harkes the best, no, but to call him out on being a homer is stupid. This is an American broadcast channel.

    I do think the commentary has been great so far. If we want to see someone ruining the coverage, watch Hannah Storm at Wimbeldon. She is fecking horrible.

  8. jk says:

    Ian Darke is my new favorite commentator. People are might Martin Tyler is too understated for US games. “It’s Donovan, GO, GO USA.” I think will be right up there with Al Michaels “Do you Believe in Miracles!) 1980 call. He has been my favorite part of ESPN by far.

  9. Clampdown says:

    Darke has been really great. I love his enthusiasm. Same for McCoist. Oddly, I was never a big fan of Ekoku calling Premiership matches, but I think he’s been fantastic as well. Harkes is a homer and does talk to much, but I guess he serves a purpose in keeping casual US fans interested.

    The studio team has been brilliant, except for Lalas, of course. Martinez is excellent and you can see why he is a good manager. I’ve also been pleasantly surprised by McManaman.

    All in all, ESPN should be commended for assembling the team they did for the World Cup. I hope we get some of these guys as regulars on the channel going forward.

  10. Fee says:

    Overall ESPN has done a fantastic job on this World Cup and compared to what I’ve been hearing from the UK regarding the coverage we should be grateful that ESPN got behind it 100%!
    I think the fact that they have been mentioning the Premier League so much is understandable when you think about it… So I will give you a second to think about it… Ok thought about it? Still appalled?

    Ok, there are 125 UK-based, 109 of them played in the Premier League last season compared with 75 provided by Italy’s Serie A and 57 from Spain’s La Liga. The rest a colorful mixture of the rest of the worlds leagues. Pulled that little chestnut from a Daily Mail article. The Premier League is considered by most to be the strongest league in the world and is definitely the most popular. So with this information coupled with the fact that ESPN has an interest in promoting themselves is the apparent Premier League bias so surprising?

    Regardless I think saying that there is too much mentioning of the “EPL” is daft to say the least. I’ve heard reference to the Bundesliga, La Liga, Serie A, MLS, Eredivisie (the Dutch League) and even the Primera División in Mexico!

    I say keep up the good work ESPN, the commentary has been worlds apart from what I expected and even the pundits are of good pedigree. I love how the US pundits and hosts are really getting into this whereas initially it was just another reporting job, now they can’t get enough!

    Let’s hope the US can make more headlines and have Football on everyone’s lips for months and years to come!

    • Kartik Krishnaiyer says:

      There are 79 Bundesliga players, the second most of any league. More than Serie A and LA Liga which you imply are 2nd and 3rd overall.

  11. David says:

    ESPN’s coverage superb; the Gaffer’s comments puerile. Are you really advocating a return to the amateurish coverage with US commentators, plus that unintelligible idiot, Smyth?

    • The Gaffer says:

      David, I didn’t mention anything about bringing Tommy Smyth on. And regarding ESPN’s coverage, it has been superb. It hasn’t been perfect (as I’ve indicated in the article above).

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

  12. fsquid says:

    I agree on Martinez. He has been fantastic in my book in the studio

  13. Looks like it is just you and Kartik on this one Gaffer :)

    Glad you guys are enjoying Tyler and Darke out there, I’m looking forward to having them back for the prem. I’m having to listen to Jonathan Pearce over here on the BBC and he has got to be the worst I’ve ever heard on British TV.

    • Kartik Krishnaiyer says:

      Darke in particular has developed a following in the states. Firstly, he’s done TV in the US before which Tyler hasn’t (although alot of people remember Tyler from FIFA video games) and also his boxing work is well noted. Since he’s called the two most recent US games, Darke is quickly emerging as a cult hero.

  14. nick says:

    This world cup coverage has been fantastic… just think back with horror of the coverage we had of 4 years ago with Smyth,Balboa & who can forget pk! pk! Messing. i for one think all the commentators have been superb (even Harkes,just goes to show when your surronded by talent it rubs off) Gaffer u seem to be trying to pick holes in places where theres none,just enjoy what is turning out to be a wonderful tournament

    • The Gaffer says:

      Nick, I agree that the World Cup coverage has been fantastic and have written about that on several occasions. Plus, I began the story by writing “ESPN’s coverage of the 2010 World Cup has been spectacular.”

      BUT, ESPN’s 2006 World Cup coverage should not be used as the bar for the level of coverage. 2006 was one of the worst thanks to Dave O’Brien and Marcelo Balboa, who were both incompetent.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

  15. Ludo says:

    Pretty much sport on, though Harkes has to go. Whilst a good player and knowledgable about the US team, he doesn’t bring any insight that the average fan doesn’t already know about the game. And one of his comments today…”Portugal and Brazil is usually a game reserved for the final”!!! Er, not sure they’ve ever played against each other in a final John! I forgot all about Tommy Smyth. It really is nice not to have to listen to his awful accent. Every one else has been superb, and Klinnsmann and Gullit in the studio bring a great amount of credibility. Still, as an Englishman, hearing Bob Ley say that “the US has a minus 2 goal deficiency” when he could just say they are losing 2-0, makes me cringe.

  16. Andy C says:

    “I just find it interesting that we’re watching the games in America on American television yet the commentary is very Anglo-centric.”

    Because until you lot stop talking about ‘matchups’ and games being ‘tied’ you can’t be trusted to commentate with any credibility! We don’t impose British commentators when we show American football or Ice Hockey in the UK because we don’t have the same level of understanding or nuances of the game that you do.

    ESPN have done a superb job of covering this WC, it’s better than past coverage on the BBC or ITV – and Martin Tyler is the best commentator in the world, Andy Gray is the best summariser. Don’t question it, embrace it.

    • Kartik Krishnaiyer says:

      Martin Tyler is the best commentator in the world, Andy Gray is the best summariser. Don’t question it, embrace it.

      Andy Gray has an incredible lack of knowledge of players not playing in the Prem. He knew ZERO about Germany and Italy during the Euros in 08 and did not even know the offsides rule.

      Also, when you say the best in the world, you mean the best English language commentators who cover the English game. Many Spanish language commentators are better and many English language commentators know more about the international game than Gray. Tyler is quite good, but his style unlike Dark’s does not match US TV or the preferences of US audiences.

      This is yet another example of the English standard being imposed on American audiences. Our culture is different and while we need to learn from you guys we cannot just blanket accept all things British because it appears to be more “authentic.” The reality is in many cases the English commentators don’t know the world game or other domestic leagues as well as some of the commentators in the US where we are exposed to many different leagues.

      • Well atleast he knows not to call offside ‘offsides’. My view of your knowledge of the game has just got lower, if that was possible.

        Whatever you do Kartik, don’t try for a career in England, you’re out of your depth.

        • Kartik Krishnaiyer says:

          So Poker it is okay for a commentator like Gray to not even do proper research on players in Germany and Italy’s domestic league? You people have the attitude that any football played outside the British Isles does not matter and that the quality of a side is determined by the number of Prem players on each team. Based on that standard, Nigeria should have overtaken Greece and South Korea in its group and the US is better than Germany or Brazil.

          I do admit I cannot possibly have the football knowledge of you. Let me ask you, how many leagues do you watch? Do you watch the Bundesliga? The J-League? The Brazilian Serie A? The Argentine league? I watch them all frequently. I must not watch as much English footy as you though so cannot possibly know the game.

          After all I have the wrong accent and have the wrong skin tone to know anything about football. People like you think because of my skin color and accent I cannot possibly understand what i watch even though I see more of it than you and actually work in the game. You probably think that for saying what I have about England I should be sent to the oven. Heaven help us if people like you get your way.

          • It is not Andy Gray’s job to know every little detail about every league. He is there to give his opinion on tactics and formation. How a game was won or lost, what a manager did during the game to make sure that his team got a positive result.
            When he has done all of the above, he has to try and explain this to the viewers in a way they can understand.
            He does not need to know everthing about every league to be able to do this, he just needs to watch the game in front of him and give his opinion.

            As for me, I watch La Liga and the Prem. I did for a while watch the Italian league but found it so boring i had to stop. I do not feel i need to take in every league in the world, I watch the two best leagues and the champions league and i watch them a lot. If you are the cream, these two leagues and the champions league is where you will be.

            As for me having a problem with your race and accent, that is not true. I listen to what people say and decide whether I agree with it. Colour of skin and accent plays no part.
            Believe me, I have no love for the Scots, but I respect what Andy Gray has to say, I listen to him week in week out and find his tactical know-how nothing short of fantastic.
            I like to think of myself as being harsh but fair, and i like to give credit where it’s due. Do not try to accuse me of being racist when you know f**k all about me. I would say what i have said if you were white, black, or yellow with green spots.

        • Kartik Krishnaiyer says:

          I did for a while watch the Italian league but found it so boring i had to stop.

          Oh please mate……do not fall into that typical English (and some Americans) stereotype about Serie A. It’s a good tactical league with different formations and variations.

          The problem with Gray is when Germany and Italy are favorites in a tournament (Euro 2008) and he knows absolutely nothing about their players, he’s doing the TV audience a dis-service. England did not qualify and yet his entire frame of reference was the Prem and La Liga. Anyhow, Tyler is much better and Ally McCoist is providing some top shelf analysis over here. Although I think he’s come down with a cold or sore throat recently and had a bad outing and has not commentated in a few days.

          Anyway, let’s call a truce. Your not as ugly as some of you compatriots, who clearly are more angry and violently motivated than you.

          • Pakapala says:

            “Colour of skin and accent plays no part.
            Believe me, I have no love for the Scots”
            by Poker Rakeback

            lol! couldn’t help notice the contradiction there! How you manage to follow the first sentence with the second is beyond me. Apparently you got a problem with people’s place of birth.

      • Scott Alexander says:

        Have the preferences of US audiences become perceptibly monolithic?

    • Pakapala says:

      “Because until you lot stop talking about ‘matchups’ and games being ‘tied’ you can’t be trusted to commentate with any credibility! We don’t impose British commentators when we show American football or Ice Hockey in the UK because we don’t have the same level of understanding or nuances of the game that you do.”
      by Andy C

      Are you lot gonna ask us to stop saying words like “elevator”, “ride”, “visit” also? The nerve! So because americans use different words and expressions to describe the game that means they lack understanding and nunaces of the game? Got news for you, since most of y’all know squat about the game outside of the UK, countries all around the world have adopted the gmae and use different words and expressions to talk about it. The arrogance you display with so much pride only shows how shallow you and your lot are when it come to the game.

  17. Davenho says:

    Like most everyone here, I’ve enjoyed the coverage but I have one great fear. It seems like John Harkes may be the lead color commentator for all the remaining matches. I know he’s American and this is an American broadcast but his insight is shallow at best and worthless at worst.

    Also agree that Ian Darke’s energy plays better than Martin Tyler.

  18. Max in Chicago says:

    Can’t stand Bob Ley. He’s just phoning it in. He is most likely just reading cue cards, and could probably care less about this sport.

    • The Gaffer says:

      Bob Ley is best when he’s in storytelling mode. He’s OK as a presenter, but his true expertise is in telling stories about what’s happening off the soccer field.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

  19. BobbyB says:

    No love for Derek Rae? He’s been fantastic this WC.

    Harkes and Lalas are brutal but at least we’ve been spared from the truly awful JP Dellecamera. The last thing we need is the play-by-play announcer yelling at us for 90 minutes.

  20. Kevin Webb says:

    I have to agree that this year’s World Cup has been an absolute joy to watch and listen to and I give ESPN full marks for the teams and personalities they put together. Like others, I do hope that Harkes is not the lead analyst for the semis and final, (unless the U.S. makes it) as while I think he’s gotten better as the touranment has gone on, he is the weak link in the announcing group.

    One question for anyone: What has happened to Derek Rae? I haven’t heard him in several days and I’ve noticed that Jim Broadfoot (?) has done a couple of matches recently.

    For those who are missing the more familiar voices there is always ESPN Radio, where because of work I have listened to JP and Tommy more than I care to.

    And lastly, to see how far we’ve come, I watched “The Two Escobars” doc on Tuesday and in the 94 WC footage, I think it was Jack Edwards and Sheamus Malin (?) that was on the U.S. – Columbia match. We’ve come a long way!

    • The Gaffer says:

      Hi Kevin, Jim Proudfoot stepped in yesterday to do one of the commentaries. He has worked for ESPN quite a bit before. Derek Rae, meanwhile, is back today for the Switzerland v Honduras game.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

  21. Mike says:

    Darke has been great; Tyler a bit too low-key for my liking, though he’s good.
    Harkes is the only low point.
    http://bit.ly/cqLobL

  22. brn442 says:

    Another John Harkes classic during the Italy/Slovenia match I think. After the ref called a foul – Harkes: ” I don’t see what was wrong with that – it was a tackle from BEHIND but he got the ball.” and as I’ve said before he is unprofessional when he calles the US matches.

    Gaffer, I would use “sixes and sevens” to characterize most of your comments about the UK commentators, would you prefer they use baseball terminology? Your criticism of Darke is bizarrely petty. Mustoe’s “It’s not as easy as it looks” is more annoying.

    The commentators are English – they will reference the Premier League. I’ve heard them often refer to Serie A and La Liga to be fair.
    Tyler has been underwhelming I would agree.

    • Pakapala says:

      “Another John Harkes classic during the Italy/Slovenia match I think. After the ref called a foul – Harkes: ” I don’t see what was wrong with that – it was a tackle from BEHIND but he got the ball.” and as I’ve said….”
      by brn442

      Wow! this is really a Harkes classic!!! Harkes is so bad he said if the player got the ball even if it’s from behind it’s not a foul. There must be a bunch of Harkes clones passing themselves as brittish commentators, because I am pretty sure I’ve heard that comment before from the heralded birttish commentators out there. Hmm! For example Darren Fletcher’s tackle on Fabregas in the Arsenal vs Manchester United game in 2009.

      Again your hypocrisy never cease to amaze me!

  23. Andy C says:

    jesus wept…..have you ever actually watched the Bundesliga? It’s not on mainstream tv for a reason – it’s utterly dreadful.

    You lost any credibility in my eyes when you admitted watching the J-League. You’re going to say you’re a fan of WPS next.

  24. Cricketlover says:

    One of the only low points of ESPN’s coverage is having John Harkes covering the early morning matches daily. He is just awful. I only wish ESPN would do some kind of survey to find out who the best commentators are and have them do the knockout stage matches. I’ve taken the advice from someone in this forum and I just turn the sound off when Harkes is commentating and listen to some music while watching the match. I’ve rediscovered Mark Knopfler and he never sounded better.

  25. Pakapala says:

    It’s amusing seeing many replies above call out Harkes for being too american-focused in his commentary yet on the other hand defend the brittish commentators for being EPL-focused and barely talking about other leagues. Let’s face it most of them know little about other leagues, or do not care to learn about them… that’s always been my gripe with brittish commentators, it’s something that become pretty glaring when they cover Champions League games. Yet no one there call them out for their ignorance, yet have no problem to lash out at Harkes for knowing only about EPL and MLS mostly. The hypocrisy is so obvious it’s sickening. Some americans think to be considered real fans of the game, they have to kiss up to or worship anything brittish when it comes to soccer. Every country where the game has been, have localized it and given it their own identity, but no not the US if we dare try to develop our own identity it’s because we know nothing about the game.

    As for the article, I agree with everything except the petty arguments you made about Darke and Harkes. Darke asking how nervous we are and Harkes mentioning how the kick taker is lethal from that spot is typical commentary; I understand that Harkes may not be to your liking because he talks to much, but to bring out perfectly normal things like that as a reason why he’s not good make you look hypocritical.

  26. The Fog says:

    I’ve got to disagree with you on the use of British expressions. I believe that it is part of the charm. I believe that I first heard “6’s and 7’s” used by Toby Charles back on “Soccer Made in Germany” on PBS.

    What next? Eliminate all references to “pitch” or Ally McCoist’s “park”?

    What do you want? A team of Harkes and JP Dellacamera? These have been the best announcers soccer has ever had in the US. If someone doesn’t understand a term…Goggle it.

    I would hate to have Ally McCoist have to learn “American”. For me, he has been the most refreshing announcer I have heard.

    BTW, what’s a “Gaffer”? Are you going to change your name so everyone understands that you are “The Boss”?

  27. AndyMoss says:

    Ian Darke is simply the best.

    Martin Tyler is also pretty damned good.

    As a proud Englishman living in America and an upper level referee (working USL2 and PDL games (Conference level games in England)), I really wish some (most) of the commentators would take the time to learn a. the Laws Of The Game and b. the application of said Laws.

    • Pakapala says:

      Indeed the commentators should make an effort to learn and better understand the law of the game and its’ application. Understanding the offside rule or the tackle foul will prevent comments like “There was a defender on the line, how come the referee call offside?” and “He got the ball, so the referee was wrong in calling a foul there.”

      Anyone who think Martin Tyler is doing a good job in this tournament are deaf. The guy is just not what he used to be; it’s time fans realize and accept that.

  28. M.Garcia says:

    I can’t believe no one has mentioned Ian Darke ensuring that Harkes doesn’t ruin a perfect call of Donovan’s winning goal. The now famous call having been completed, there is a calculated pause so we as fanatics can absorb the visual candy and just when Harkes starts in to describe the goal on replay, it’s as if Darke says “Oh hell no John, you are not going to ruin this one for millions of Americans” and then continues to describe the deciding goal in typically eloquent prose. That moment was almost as priceless as the goal and the moment that cemented Ian Darke as THE commentator of the tournament.

    I love Martin Tyler as much as anyone on this forum but, if I can talk a bit out of turn, it just seems he’s mailed it in a bit. He just doesn’t seem all that interested. Believe me, I love the guy and GET his under-stated and classy style but he’s rarely varied his monotone delivery over the course of a game. His cleverness however, will always make him a little better than most anyone.

    Final word on the commentators. Derrick Rae is absolutely the dog’s bollocks. His voice and delivery are pure gold. I really missed him in Champions League this year and hope he continues on past the World Cup on broadcasts for ESPN. As much as I like Ian and Martin, for me, Derrick is THE man.

  29. sucka99 says:

    Derek Rae is class – puts his words together well, and knows more than just the EPL having called Champions League, SPL, La Liga and Serie A games for ESPN

  30. DaveG says:

    I’m not going to split hairs on this one
    The coverage is top notch….I can deal with Bob Ley, Lalas and Harkes because the overall quality of the rest of the team is top notch. Healy, Mustoe, Darke, Tyler, Rae, McManaman, Gullit, Martinez, Ekokou, McCoist!!!!…..bloody hell, I am in dreamland!!
    Kartik, we all know that you dont have any time for Andy Gray, and I have no problem with that, but he was a top notch footballer in his day for club and country and with all due respect to you and your background in football blogging, I’ll take his opinions/analysis any day over your whining and complaining that he doesn’t know anthing about the german leagues…all a bit petty really.

  31. Smokey Bacon says:

    Ian Darke is the man so far. Hope he gets today’s game versus Ghana. On form you’d have to say he is ahead of Tyler for the final not that he’ll get it. Reminds me of the Motty/Davies debate for the BBC. Davies was a far better commentator but Motty got all the big games because he was Motty.

  32. jon parish says:

    I’m a Brit watching the Ghana v USA game in America, and i think the commentary is appalling. I have never heard so much a*se kissing from a british commentator in my life! espn are obviously paying his wages, but why the need to sell his soul? The commentary is disrespectful to a Ghana team who have been the better side for most of the match.

    • sucka99 says:

      so you’re saying that the BBC broadcast would wax lyrically about Carlos Bocanegra and Robbie Findley?

      come on, dude. I could see if you said Harkes sucked on a North Korea match (which I’m sure he’s very capable of) but this game is a tad bit different, don’t you think?

  33. The Gaffer says:

    Ian Darke was at it again today in the USA game against Ghana. He asked John Harkes, “how are your nerves?” in a cheeky way. Ian, we get it. We’re nervous but don’t rub it in. It doesn’t make it any better.

    Cheers,
    The Gaffer

  34. M Simiyu says:

    As an African fan watching the World Cup, I am appalled at how much ignorance the commentators have shown when it comes to calling matches involving African sides. One commentator today noted that Africa (not South Africa) has eleven languages…and that is why the Jabulani ball has eleven colors…I think (I hope) he meant South Africa and not the entire continent and it was a misstep on his part. Additionally, the commentators keep noting the population of each country like that plays a part in the final score e.g. Ghana is the size of Oregon and it has beaten the United States! It’s about the eleven players on the field. Not the size of their countries. Some of the comments during the North Korean matches were also inappropriate; jabs at the North Korean leader and their coach. The commentators forget, I think, that football unifies countries, nations and people more than anything else in the world. Ask Didier Drogba what football meant to his country when the Ivory Coast was on the brink of civil war a few years ago.
    I agree with Jon Parish above, who notes that ‘the commentary was disrespectful to a Ghana team who have been the better side for most of the match’. Watching this match in the United States really disappointed me because the commentators failed to give Ghana their due credit. This match was also a make-or-break for the African side who, rightly, represented the entire continent. I respect the US effort and I appreciate the fact that I am watching these matches on a US television channel BUT there must be an awareness amongst the commentators that the whole world is watching. I have decided to watch the rest of the games on the Spanish channel so I can avoid the ignorance, bias and wordiness of the commentators. Go Ghana=Go Africa!

    • Paula says:

      Well, I will just say that relative ignorance of all cultures other than the “west” is going to be a feature for all western broadcasters covering international sports. I noticed a similar kind of dissonance (and stereotyping) when NBC covered the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. “Exotic” culture, “authoritarian” style of sport/governance, even the (then-unfounded) accusations of cheating in the gymnastics competition. Until we get broadcasters from host countries getting spots in “western” coverage, the coverage will be stilted.

      Darke is a great commentator because he wears his emotions on his sleeve. As much as non-USA fans were miffed at his call of the USA-Ghana game, there were people who were (in one Guardian poster’s word) “sickened” by what they saw as a pro-Ghana bias in their loss to URU. And then people were pissed off again when he continually wanted to defend Suarez against the booing fans in the stadium for the 3rd place match. Harkes (and Lalas and Mcmanaman) were left in the unusual position of trying to be the rational ones defusing his indignation.

      As for the “homerism” of ESPN — give them a break, they are a network covering this event for the United effing States. There’s a reason people like Vin Scully and Chick Hearn are considered honorary members of the teams they cover.

  35. Alan Laythorpe says:

    The major difference in using British commentators is the do not do a blwo by blow account of a game. They know you can see that one player passes to another. They don’t have to tell the viewer it is happening.
    American commentators tell you every move, moves that a viewer can readily see. They just seem to think viewers are not capable of actually seeing what goes on.

  36. SantaClaus says:

    I only wish ESPN would stop using John Harkes for the rest of the World Cup. He is by far the worst commentator on show. I know he is there because he’s American but it’s time ESPN recognized that Harkes is really poor. Like many, I just turn the sound off whenever he is on.

  37. Kicker says:

    British BAD HAIR day? Premier league sucks as well as the shitty food they serve in the American clone pubs. Boots? They are cleats asshole!

  38. danny says:

    Does Andy Gray still think Germany are “ordinary, at best”?

    Most people can’t stand him in England.

  39. cmasia says:

    Having read the original article and all the comments, here are a few observations. I have – for better or worse – watched every minute of the 60 matches played so far.
    First, we should all count our blessings ESPN has treated this World Cup with a reverance they have never showed for anything else they televise. Anyone heard Hannah Storm at Wimbledon?
    Second, all the match commentators, with the exception of Harkes, have been superb. Harkes may know as much about football as all the others, but he does not know how to communicate that knowledge as well as Okoku, McCoist, and Mustoe. McCoist has been the standout,
    Third, Ian Darke has outshone Martin Tyler here. And I am a Tyler / Gray disciple. Tyler seems to be half a beat behind the action, although he was excellent in the second half of Germany’s dismantling of Argentina today.
    Fourth, Ley, Tirico, and Fowler have been a nice surprise. I went to Seton Hall with Ley and he’s always been a soccer nut. But Fowler and Tirico have clearly done their homework here.
    Fifth, Lalas sucks. Big time. He steps on people. He says the same thing over and over again. He has added nothing.
    Sixth, when a defense is truly at “sixes and sevens”, any idiot only needs to see and hear that once to know what it means. Commentary like that can only add to the lexicon of broadcasters here.
    Seventh, how we managed to escape Dellacamera and Smyth is a gift we should forever be thankful for.
    Eighth, Gaffer, reread your article in another month or two, and you’ll realize how nitpicky you’ve been here. We have been given a gift this year.
    Ninth, for the bulk of non Hispanic viewers who do follow any footy outside the US, the league they follow is the EPL. I think Tyler and Darke have taken pains to not appear too EPL centric.
    Cheers.

  40. Rob says:

    count how many times Harkes says “excellent”
    he said it twice in a sentence in last night’s game.

  41. gareth wiliams says:

    ian darke propper commentery sport is boxing he only stated doing footy again 2 years ago roughly

  42. Jennifer P. says:

    With the exception of Harkes, Mcmanaman and Lalas the rest have been very good. ESPN has done a great job so I’d like to applaud them for it. I just wish they didn’t have Harkes doing games in the latter stages of the tournament when so may others have been so much better.

    All in all a passing grade to all the commentators and analysts except harkes, McManaman and Lalas. Special praise to Roberto Martinez who has been excellent.

  43. Tad says:

    The ESPN commentators were very impressive and I had several friends that were new viewers of the game make note of Darke’s work in particular, many still quoting his more electric moments. ESPN did an outstanding job all around between the match coverage and complimentary shows. I have to say however that while Bobby McMahon is the Gem of FSC I was fairly sickened by FSC’s “Ticket to South Africa”. I realize that most American viewers of league football are familiar with the BPL teams and players, however FSC can do us the favor of not inundating viewers with the one-eyed and limited view of the likes of Andy Gray, Richard Keys and Warren Barton. Frankly I like all three in the context of the BPL only but when covering a world event it would be nice to get a more balnced array of analysts, hopefully with more than a rudimentary understanding what it takes to win at football than just words like “passion” and “graft”. I actually felt sorry for Christopher Sullivan.

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