It’s pretty sad when two soccer columnists who represent what is supposedly one of the nation’s top newspapers are so incompetent and out-of-touch with reality.
Last November, I called New York Times soccer columnist Jack Bell a wanker for writing an idiotic article criticizing Fox Soccer Channel for broadcasting the Premier League, the world’s most popular sports league. Now Bell is criticizing ESPN for its Euro 2008 coverage.

Bell this time aims his criticism at ESPN’s decision to feature Euro 2008 commentators with British and Irish accents instead of those that are American. Jack Bell backs up his claims by including quotes from sometimes New York Times columnist Greg Lalas, better known as the brother of another doofus, Alexi Lalas.

Here are their inane comments:

  1. “ESPN’s decision to import the Scotsman Andy Gray as an analyst has added a whiff of authority and some good insight. But would that insight be absent, for example, if Americans like Shep Messing or John Harkes were at the microphones instead?” — Jack, the answer is a definite yes. I loved John Harkes as a player, but he’s one of the most boring football commentators I’ve ever had the displeasure of hearing. Shep Messing is okay, but Andy Gray is better than Messing by a country mile. Gray’s ability to provide listeners insight into tactics and formations is fantastic as well as his ability to be direct with his criticism, which is so refreshing to hear.
  2. “There’s nothing offensive about Derek Rae, the Scottish play-by-play guy. But is he any better than J.P. Dellacamera, the voice of M.L.S. and the U.S. national team on ESPN?” — Again Jack, the answer is yes. How incompetent can Bell be not to realize the world-class commentary that Rae provides and to suggest that Dellacamera could do better? I’m a big fan of JP, but Dellacamera has only recently returned to the game after being out for quite some time commentating hockey matches. Dellacamera, alongside Seamus Malin and Phil Schoen, are three of the best U.S. soccer commentators the country has to offer, but all of them pale in comparison compared to Derek Rae and Andy Gray. In a recent interview I conducted with Dellacamera, he himself admitted that he wasn’t on top of the latest European news since being out of the game for so long.
  3. “ESPN has made it clear to its roster of mostly competent American soccer dudes that they need not apply for any job outside broadcasting Major League Soccer games” — That’s a ridiculous and childish statement to make. Rather than to go home and cry to mommy, Bell should realize that American commentators need to improve their work so they can compete against people such as Adrian Healey, Tommy Smyth, Rae and Gray. Would Bell and Lalas be more satisfied if we brought back Marcelo Balboa and Dave O’Brien? Both of them were an abomination in World Cup 2006.And do they realize how many American viewers ESPN and ABC lost because they switched to the Spanish language network Univision for better commentary?

Obviously ESPN knows what they’re doing. ESPN’s Euro 2008, with a few exceptions, has been spectacular and the ratings have been higher than ever. Instead of being so negative in a national soccer column, Lalas and Bell should be embracing the game not ridiculing it.