It’s quite an incredible achievement to secure Martin Tyler for two World Cup tournaments in a row. The man is hands down the best soccer commentator in the world. And by having Tyler in such a prominent place in ESPN’s line-up of talent, it gives the network a great ability to hire other talent who want to work alongside him. And it also shows the continued commitment ESPN is making to the sport in United States.
Going into World Cup 2010, the surprising factor about ESPN’s World Cup commentary team is that Ian Darke has been better than Tyler. Both gentlemen have completely different styles of commentating. Tyler is understated, more impartial and can say more in a few words than others can say in several minutes. Darke, on the other hand, is closer to an American commentator in the way that he’s more enthusiastic in his voice and words, and is more conversational.
Neither Tyler or Darke are perfect. Perhaps the perfect commentator would be someone with a style that was in between the two. But to each his own. Tyler has seemed pretty drab at times, especially in the first few days of broadcasting where he seemed to be trying to find his spot. But his commentary during the Round of 16 has been exemplary. And Darke has sometimes been too over the top and partial to the United States where he would be better curbing his enthusiasm, even if just a little bit.
No news yet on whether Ian Darke will return to ESPN in 2014. Let’s hope he and Roberto Martinez, just to name two professionals, return alongside Tyler.
Overall, soccer fans in the United States should feel lucky that the country has one of the best, if not the best, World Cup viewing experiences in the world. Fans and pundits in the United Kingdom have been complaining up and down about ITV and BBC’s coverage. Without a doubt, the top talent in terms of commentary and analysis on ESPN this summer.