Thanks Macca and Ian, but the US has got it now
by Dave Gardner
Jul 14, 2014 9:08 PM EDT
England at least contributed one thing to the success of the World Cup finals in Brazil – its commentators.
The national team almost sent even manager Roy Hodgson to sleep before it slipped home shamefacedly to leave every pub in the country with the quandary of what to do with all their St George’s cross flags.
But the cream of England’s commentary teams, led by the irresistible Ian Darke and Steve McManaman, stayed on right through the tournament to give American audiences the benefit of their soccer knowledge, good-mannered banter and simple common sense.
ESPN’s reliance on British broadcasters dates back to the 2006 World Cup when the network’s lead commentator Dave O’Brien - usually a baseball announcer - was panned for his lack of football nous.
Darke, part of the all-British ESPN lead commentary team in South Africa four years ago, remembers talking to former Manchester United captain Steve Bruce, then Sunderland’s manager, before a dour premiership battle with Stoke, one of England’s less glamorous clubs several years ago.
“Who are you doing it for?” Bruce asked the commentator, who replied, ”I’m doing it for ESPN in America.”
As he was leaving, Darke told Fox News, Bruce turned around and said, “Us against Stoke? In America? What are you trying to do? Put them off?”
If that was the case then, it certainly isn’t now.
The big complaint in the US against soccer was always that there wasn’t enough goals, that 0-0 was never going to win over an audience used to clear-cut winners and losers.
Well we had zero goals in the World Cup until very deep into extra time and the game was still the best watched in the tournament in the US and the third best ever of any World Cup game watched stateside.
ABC/ESPN were up an astonishing 39% in viewership over the 2010 finals and up 96% over 2006.
That should firmly put to bed any doubts over football’s ascendancy in the States.
Every new crop of youngsters coming through the US ranks brings the likelihood of a home-grown Messi or a James Rodriguez a little closer.
It’s simple math.
MLS is getting stronger every year. The players are getting technically better. The fans are more committed. It’s going to happen people.
So much as I love Darke and Macca, I’ll be looking for a new team in the commentary box for the World Cup Final in 2018.
One should certainly be the excellent Taylor Twellman, who more than showed his worth next to the EPL old boys.
And the commentator next to him should be American, too.
It was fun hanging with the Brits this summer.
But the US has got it now.
Better believe it!