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.