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ESPN World Cup Coverage Off To Slow Start

ESPN2’s World Cup coverage did not take long to tick off this long-time soccer fan. Granted, having worked in soccer domestically and internationally for over a decade, I am a tough audience, but already for today’s Germany-Costa Rica opener, I was glad to have access to coverage on Univision and Setanta Sports on DirecTV.

With today’s match set to kick off shortly after noon Eastern time, ESPN2 decided to stay with its Cold Pizza morning show until 11:55 for some reason. So while that show had some silly sumo wrestling segment going on, I had to switch channels to see the teams taking the field, listen to the anthems, and soak in the wonderful atmosphere that sets up the electricity of the host nation playing its first home game. It was great television, and ESPN2 missed it.

By 11:57, I already had the starting lineups from Univision, while ESPN2 was still in taped pieces and a U2 video. ESPN2 finally got to the field just before kick off, and then had to give the lineups during the run of play. And it did so with a graphic that took up enough of the screen that you couldn’t see the ball.

The graphic-happy telecast also has that damned crawl on the bottom (thank god, or I wouldn’t have known that some Brewers pitcher is 0-1 in night games), and has another bar stretching all the way across the top of the screen with the score, time, a sponsor and a second on-screen reminder the game is on ESPN2. Too much of the screen is taken up.

As for rookie soccer commentator Dave O’Brien, about whom I wrote about in this week’s issue, after one cringe-worthy mispronunciation of an English team’s name early on he settled in and made it through without any more major gaffes, and was supported by a very strong showing from analyst Marcelo Balboa.

By Ben Grossman