ESPN Faces Toughest Decision Of Its World Cup 2014 Coverage

world cup 2014 espn 600x337 ESPN Faces Toughest Decision Of Its World Cup 2014 Coverage

ESPN has already announced its TV coverage plans for World Cup 2014, and has shared details regarding how the operation will be set up, but one of the most pressing decisions the network still has to make is who will be the main commentator for the 2014 World Cup Final.

Martin Tyler is under contract with ESPN through the 2014 World Cup Final, but so too is equally accomplished commentator Ian Darke. Both gentlemen were at the top of their game for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, but it was Darke who became a cult hero in the United States after his infamous commentary of Landon Donovan scoring in the last minute against Algeria to earn a place in the Round of 16 against Ghana.

The question for ESPN is to decide who will commentate the 2014 World Cup Final.

In terms of commentating styles, Tyler and Darke are polar opposites. Darke is a commentator who is very American in his method. He likes to talk a lot. He’s charming to listen to. He exudes confidence. And his most powerful card up his sleeve is his ability to create and maintain excitement.

Tyler, meanwhile, is a typical English gentlemen, choosing his words wisely, never having a harsh word or critical opinion, but always delivering a meaningful and informative commentary. Tyler prefers to build layers in his commentary, slowly increasing his tempo to the ultimate climax of a goal being scored.

ESPN is spoiled by having two of the best English-speaking commentators in the game. Both have their faults — Darke likes to fill quiet spells in games with transfer gossip and relies too heavily on what teams footballers play for in the Premier League even when the game has nothing to do with England’s top flight. Tyler, on the other hand, can be too passive and can lull a viewer into getting drowsy, at times, if the match is uneventful.

ESPN has a difficult decision to make. My personal opinion is that I favor Martin Tyler. To me, he’s the poet laureate of English-speaking soccer commentary. He’s one of the greatest commentators the sport has ever had. I consider his commentaries as art. He takes the game to a higher level, and the World Cup is the ultimate venue for his work of art to be on display to millions.

The difference between Darke and Tyler is old school football versus modern football. Tyler is admired by purists, and has worked hard at staying at the top of his game. Darke is more appealing to mainstream sports fans in America who can relate better to him with his style and bravado. As a result, I would think he’s more appealing to advertisers, who may expect ESPN to generate higher ratings because of the “Ian Darke Effect,” especially those who still remember his commentary from World Cup 2010.

Whichever way ESPN decides, ESPN has an embarrassment of riches at their disposal with some of the best commentators and pundits on the planet. It’s a very difficult decision to make, and both men will feel that they deserve the job. Both Tyler and Darke will be commentating matches throughout World Cup 2014, but which one will announce the final? We’ll have to wait to see what ESPN decides.

Editor’s note: What’s your opinion regarding who should commentate the 2014 World Cup Final? Do you prefer Darke or Tyler? And who do you think ESPN will choose, and why? Share your insights in the comments section below.

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. View all posts by Christopher Harris →
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41 Responses to ESPN Faces Toughest Decision Of Its World Cup 2014 Coverage

  1. Ryan says:

    Martin Tyler is the best English speaking football commentator on the planet. Ian Darke calling the World Cup Final over Martin Tyler would be revolting. Darke is a muppet. The best thing about ESPN losing EPL rights is that I don’t have to listen to Darke all year.

    • Michael says:

      Darke is by far the best commentator. Tyler will lull a casual viewer to sleep or even a coma.

    • sucka99 says:

      Couldn’t agree more. Darke is so overrated. To me the beauty of Tyler and those like him is that he complements the action rather than inflating or over hyping it. For that reason I expect ESPN to pick Darke. Especially for the final and the US games when they get more people watching? Nailed on certainty. Tyler will get all the England games… unless England get put in the US’ group again.

  2. Peter Quinn says:

    It’s a no-brainer for me…it’s Tyler in the Final.

    Darke is really great, but Tyler has a tremendous track record of calling big events.

  3. BD says:

    They should both do it, but have it set up like speed chess. Whoever comes up with the first line at kickoff, they hit the little clock and then it goes to the next commentator. If time passes without a word, then that’s a foul and Steve McNanaman comes in and slaps them in the face with Gus Johnson’s scarf he wore for the Champions League final.

  4. Cantona says:

    While Darke is truly excellent… I would have to pick Tyler… Truly the best commentator out there right now in ANY sport… (Now that Sid Waddell has passed). Tyler can raise the excitement level but he truly saves it for the big moments (cue Aguero). But honestly, Tyler is getting up there… How many world cups does he have left in him? Let Darke do the USA games and let Tyler do the other marquee matches. Has to be Tyler in the final!

    Cantona—

  5. fsquid says:

    doesn’t matter to me, I watch for the game not the announcers.

  6. AtlantaPompey says:

    Ian Darke, but mainly because he supports Pompey.

    • Saints Fan says:

      Despite him being a Pompey fan I actually don’t mind Darke.

      Him and McManaman (who I hated as a player) were a good combination in the commentary box.

  7. Paul says:

    Darke should call all USA matches and maybe CONCACAF teams as well. Tyler should call the main European teams, including England. Tyler should get the final.

  8. David says:

    I’m going to go against the grain and make a case for Darke. I’ll preface it by saying that both are fantastic and that you can’t really go wrong either way.

    But being that it’s ESPN, an American network being broadcast in America, might as well go with the guy that as the article states “is very American in his methods”.

    May not be something a lot of ex-pats here in the US will prefer, but the vast majority of Americans will enjoy Darke for sure. Imagine that ESPN would want to go that route.

  9. jimsakeeper says:

    Christopher,

    Nice piece here.

    I speak enough Spanish to follow those stations. Jesus Bracamontes is to me the best “insider” to explain the play, Fernando Fiore was a tireless and witty color commentator but I don’t know what network he is at now and who has the rights.

    To the friends I tend to watch with, the gap between English and Spanish coverage is so huge that we rarely listen in English, given the option. I’ve even muted the TV and gone for Spanish radio.

    Of course a lot of this is in the audience dynamic. The Spanish-speaking audience tends to know much more about the players, their clubs, national teams, and WC history than the typical ESPN viewer. (am I going to get heat for that comment?)

    Andres Cantor’s call of the USA – Algeria game (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iKf-DqZYd9k) was in my opinion at least as good as anything on ESPN. I wrote here:
    http://broshar.wordpress.com/2010/06/23/quotes-on-todays-usa-win/ . And on TV the call was great in Spanish, Jesus Bracamontes said Donovan’s strike showed a lot of _pantalones_, rising to the big occasion.

    confession: I love Ray Hudson, I know he polarizes audiences. He always remembers it’s a game.

  10. Stephen says:

    This American much prefers the restrained style of Martin Tyler. I can only take so much of Ian Darke.

  11. Smokey Bacon says:

    I think time is starting to catch up with Martin Tyler. He’s a reassuring presence but his delivery is not that exciting. Ian Darke has an almost unique ability to capture the moment e.g. Algeria. Plus viewers in the United States have had more opportunities to get used to Darke. It’s a close one. Truth is we would be happy with either one. But on this one, I’d go with Ian Darke.

  12. lefthog says:

    I’d prefer Tyler for any Premier League or Cahampions League Game. But for the World Cup with daily matches to announce, Ian darke seemed the much sharper of the two in 2010. Darke for the Maracana.

  13. Huw Roma says:

    I’ve been listening to Tyler my entire life and he’s still the most astute, knowledgeable and intelligent commentator in the sport. Darke is good but not even close to Tyler. To have Darke commentate the final would be a major mistake.

  14. Flyvanescence says:

    Prefer Darke but care more about if its Spain v Germany. Both are excellent; the teams on the field matter to me more

  15. Proud Eurosnob says:

    How about this:

    Darke for ABC, Tyler for ESPN that way both legions wouldn’t be disenfranchised.

    Question, Doesn’t both BBC and ITV in England broadcast World Cup matches simultaneously? If so, I don’t see why the same couldn’t be done for ABC and ESPN.

    • sucka99 says:

      Because this is America. ESPN will run counter programming for the people who don’t like soccer – which is still a sizeable amount.

  16. Dean Stell says:

    Both are fine with me, but I like the compromise of Darke doing the USMNT games and Tyler doing the other marque games.

  17. Colin Young says:

    I have a better plan: After the amusing shenanigans involving Mexican commentators’ <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P1dT49UcU-g&quot; joyous explosions after the USA beat Panama 3-2, allowing Mexico another chance to qualify, maybe the two nations broadcasters should sieze the initiative and do a swap for FIFA 2014. Mexican commentators in the USA and vice-versa. Should do a whole world of good for Mexican-US relations.
    Right? That’d work, right?

  18. john marzan says:

    jon champion

  19. AJ says:

    I really like both guys. I think you sit them down and say:

    “Martin, you’re calling the Final. Ian you’re our future. If you resign with us you will call the Euro 2016 & World Cup 2018 Finals. Martin you’re welcome back but understand we need to start looking forward.”

    • Proud Eurosnob says:

      Fox has the 2018 WC as well as 2022, ESPN still has the EURO and the qualifiers are split between the networks.

  20. Robert Cottuli says:

    I’d have to say for ESPN to go with Ian Darke for the final. Unlike club football, the World Cup draws a much larger audience of casual fans in the US that tune in every 4 years just for the World Cup. As such, Darke’s style is a much better option to entertain the casual fan and keep them involved than Tyler’s more traditional and conservative play-by-play.

  21. Rob Griffin says:

    GUS MF’ing JOHNSON!

  22. Andrew says:

    Martin Tyler is my choice.

  23. Dave W says:

    As long as Darke does every USMNT game, I’ll be okay.

  24. ROCKFISHDG says:

    I’d pick JIM PROUDFOOT!

    Darke is great, but he’s not even the best Ian! For me that would be IAN CROCKER.

  25. Martin J. says:

    If England reach the final then Tyler. If the USA reach the final then Darke. Otherwise, Tyler for any other matchup.

    Football is best viewed and enjoyed when the commentator says as little as possible and allows the match to speak for itself. Tyler only starts talking more when there is a lull in the play or when the match is boring.

    • Americano & Proud says:

      England reach the final? Hahaha funny.

    • Shawn D says:

      Tyler will likely call play by play for all of England’s games, Darke all of USA’s games, probably with Tayloer Twellman as the color man. If England and US play like they did in 2010, you’ll see Tyler call the game with Taylor Twellman doing color.
      If England make the 3rd place game. Tyler will probably call that match and Darke the final. Otherwise i think Tyler is best choice unless US is in the final, either team is not likely to make it that far, but you never know.

  26. Andrew says:

    It would be great to see Gary Neville coming in as a secondary announcer!

  27. Efrain says:

    Darke is the way to go. Gaffer is right, Tyler can get a bit boring. I also had the pleasure of meeting Ian in West Hartford one night and he was a pleasure in person as well. I was happy I was able to tell him in person how much I love his commentary.

  28. Ken says:

    Americans are used to slow moving games like baseball and football where the commentators are constantly filling dead space with inane trivia and boring statistics. Darke isn’t quite as bad as that, but he does possess the ability to insert “filler” when appropriate. As stated, Tyler is a purist that which is not what Americans are used to. I often watch matches on spanish television. I have an idea what they are saying, but it doesn’t really matter because I understand the game. For that reason, Tyler would be my choice. The casual viewer might prefer Darke’s style.

  29. rory says:

    It’s a tough call. To be true to the game you gotta go w/ Tyler as long as he’s physically able to perform. But from a business standpoint Darke makes more sense as he will bring in the casual fans – heck he even made the Women’s World Cup moderately exiting!

  30. Americano & Proud says:

    Darke and Twellman will do the US games. Tyler will do all the England games. But I’ll wait to see who the color guys are before putting my vote in. Nevertheless, this is much better than that tool Dave O’Brien doing the games in 2006.

  31. Morocco Mole says:

    This is a non-story.

    One industry source told me 4 years ago that Tyler’s contract with ESPN specifies that he calls the final for ESPN US.

  32. Meg says:

    The color commentary is just as important as the lead. If Twellman is on color, the TV should be on mute, and thus the lead man becomes a moot point.

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