Unenthusiastic start to Tyler's tenure

[TELEVISION WATCH] Because many of the games will begin in the morning -- or very early morning here in California -- the first job of ESPN's World Cup announcers, as a practical matter, will be to keep us awake. But in Martin Tyler's debut as ESPN's World Cup lead broadcaster, he failed miserably. His unenthusiastic tone during Saturday's USA-Australia broadcast was shocking, given the up-beat nature of ESPN's massive buildup and the stock it has placed in its Brit voices.

Yes, it was Tyler's tuneup game. Yes, the game was played at three-quarters speed. Yes, the game was played on neutral ground with little atmosphere and no visuals in the Ruimsig Stadium's rural setting. But that's no excuse for his effort.

Tyler introduced himself by saying how happy he was to be "alongside old friends of mine like John Harkes," and they spent much of the broadcast acting like they'd never met each other before Friday.

While we'll forgive some early mistakes ("Robbie Findley from the MLS"), unusual usage  (referring at halftime to Edson Buddle's "humanitarian story") and his English soccer-dropping (referring to longtime EPL goalie Marcus Hahnemann's "recognizable features" or noting the England security man Ray Woodworth sitting next to David Beckham), Tyler's low-key manner was a disappointment.

Tyler correctly cut off Harkes just as Buddle broke free to score the opening goal in the 4th minute, but there was a painfully long pause after Australia's tying goal before Tyler interjected, "It's 1-1."

One of the dilemmas Tyler faces is whether to play Vince Scully and spend a lot of his time story-telling in the American sports broadcasting tradition or play, well, Martin Tyler, and stick to the play-by-play style we're used to from British commentators.

Tyler started out doing the former jumping in quick order in the 7th minute from Jozy Altidore (whose injury was the pre-game lead) to Haiti to Joe Gaetjens to USA-England 1950.

Tyler concentrated on play by play for much of the second half, but that's where he ran into trouble, becoming so understated as to seem disinterested in the home team.

That approach might work for Slovakia-Paraguay in a couple of weeks but not when the U-S-of-A is playing.

And it goes to to problem of the Brit approach. It might work for non-U.S. games but not when the USA is playing. Especially Saturday against England in Rustenburg.

Just pointing out ... The USA Bid Committee, seeking the 2018 or 2022 World Cup, has invested heavily in the support of Disney's corporate leadership, so it was embarrassing that the center-line signboard on the ESPN2 broadcast was promoting Australia's 2018/22 World Cup. Australia is the USA's main competitor in the 2022 race. (Clarification: U.S. Soccer and its television partners had no control over the branding of the game, which was organized by Football Australia.)

(What did you think of the ESPN2 broadcast? Martin Tyler? John Harkes? Let us know in the comments below.)

21 comments about "Unenthusiastic start to Tyler's tenure".
  1. David Bakke, June 6, 2010 at 7:50 a.m.

    Harkes is a douche. Put Lalas in the booth, he's got strong opinions, is well spoken, and doesn't butcher the Queen's English like Harkesy does.

    Lastly, Lalas can bring out the best in Tyler with leading questions...Harkes makes me want to listen to the Spanish broadcast and I don't speak Spanish.

  2. observer 23, June 6, 2010 at 7:51 a.m.

    Huh? You'd rather have the announcers droning on about something completely tangential to the game, which, to me, distracts from the action? To paraphrase Herm Edwards, "I watch the game to enjoy the action," not to hear Wynalda, or Lalas blather on about nonsense. Harkes is a great announcer closer to the British tradition and I welcome the British approach. That's one reason why it's so enjoyable to watch EPL on FSC, and so irritating to watch MLS on ESPN. My 2 cents.

  3. Mark Aegerter, June 6, 2010 at 9:45 a.m.

    I have heard Martin Tyler do many EPL games. He was not comfortable, for whatever reason. It was the worst I have ever heard him. Hopefully, whatever it was, he gets it right when the real games start.

  4. Nelson Saenz, June 6, 2010 at 10:02 a.m.

    I love soccer, but if it wasn't for those annoying horns, I would have fallen asleep during the first half of the US/Australia game. The commentators left much to be desired. Not enough enthusiasm, too many moments of listening to horns instead of listening to a play-by-play, and if you make a reference to Pele's name but can't remember that his name is Edson Arantes do Nascimento, then you don't know more than a (Latin American) 5th grader. In New York, I have heard baseball play-by-play radio commentary that has made that slow paced game seem full of excitement.

    The 300+ person team that ESPN has sent to South Africa falls short if the viewer closes his eyes for 20 seconds and only hears a sea of horns interrupted by, "Donovan with the ball...now Buddle has it." Where is Donovan on the field, and how did he happen to come up with the ball? What does it look like he is trying to do with the ball (pass, dribble, shoot)? What are his teamates doing? How about, "Donovan brings the ball down in midfield with his chest. He has got defender XYZ closing in on him fast. He dribbles around XYZ to the right, and looks up. Buddle is making a run. Donovan sends a perfect through ball to Buddle, who races down the left side of the field to catch up with the ball..."

  5. Merrill Ring, June 6, 2010 at 10:37 a.m.

    "One of the dilemmas Tyler faces is whether to play Vince Scully and spend a lot of his time story-telling in the American sports broadcasting tradition or play, well, Martin Tyler, and stick to the play-by-play style we're used to from British commentators."
    That is exactly right - Tyler was or was made to do the American style bit (think not only Vince Scully but the way the Olympics are broadcast)and it detracted from his usual intelligent account of what is happening on the field.

  6. Karl Schreiber, June 6, 2010 at 10:44 a.m.

    I liked Martin Tyler's style of broadcasting the US-Aussie game, except he should not have prompted Harkes to color-comment that often. People who want to hear a continuing stream of detailed descriptions of the action should turn to radio. Television allows me to see most of the action and hear the wonderful sounds in the stadium (unfortunately, in S. Africa that characteristic big-event, big-stadium sound is drowned out by those idiotic vuvuzuelas). The commentary should be restricted to calling out the names of the players and occasional comments, strategically placed e.g. right after a goal is scored but not during a hot game action.
    Fair play should apply to the commentators during halftime etc. One guy, say Lalas, should not dominate the commenting.
    Video: I'd like to see some sort of indication when I'm watching a replay (instant or otherwise).
    At any rate: Keep Martin Lykes, reduce Harkes' commenting. For US games, a bit more enthusiasm for our team is a must. For US vs. England, bring in a US crew with say JC Dellacamera (sp?)!!!

  7. David Sirias, June 6, 2010 at 10:58 a.m.

    In this country the best soccer announcers call the game closer to hockey. Usually they are just the local guys. For all the grief he gets JPD does a fairly decent job. Oh why the English way? Do we really want to be met by silence, or at best. "Rooney........has done it.". Americans are attuned to emotion at any score! And althouhgh some might be loathe to admit it the soccer community in the USA is heavily Latino and non English European--where a goal is always a GOAL! Disney. Please fix this for good

  8. Mike Gaynes, June 6, 2010 at 12:18 p.m.

    I could not disagree more with Kennedy's assessment. I love Tyler's low-key style and his cohesive overview of the game. No overblown exaggerations, no colorful language, just a command of his subject and the action in front of him. A true professional, and anything but a failure. Unfortunately, I won't be hearing much of Tyler's work, because he comes as a package deal with the nauseating Harkes -- an arrogant twat who simply cannot shut up -- and having to listen to Harkes is too high a price to pay to enjoy Tyler.

  9. Alex Lozano, June 6, 2010 at 1:18 p.m.

    Didn't like the broadcast & not impressed with Martin Tyler. Actually, I'd prefer JP Dellacamera & Tommy Smyth or JP & Eric Wynalda.

  10. Edward Vaughn, June 6, 2010 at 1:35 p.m.

    As an antidote to the screaming hysteria of Hispanic commentators (and a few Americans), Martin Tyler's calm, reasoned announcing was as welcome as a sea breeze on a hot summer day. More, more, more.

    Harkes could do a bit less describing of what we just saw and more explaining of how it happened.

    Opinionated announcing we DON'T need.

  11. John Hofmann, June 6, 2010 at 4:58 p.m.

    I'm not happy with the decision to use English announcers, especially for U.S. games. That is a travesty. However, anyone looking at these posts sees us all over the proverbial ballpark on styles, etc. Some want far more info. Some want far less info. Perhaps people are being too critical -- that may have gotten us in this mess to begin with...why we're here with the crazy decision to use English announcers for a U.S./England game. That is pure insanity, apparently a decision made by people who wouldn't know a soccer ball if it was pushed down their throat. Perhaps everyone can agree that it should be American announcers, whoever it is, and those not liking whoever it is can turn the sound off.

  12. Nathan Mckenzie, June 6, 2010 at 5:44 p.m.

    Tyler did just fine. The reason I say that is I wasn't negatively distracted by the commentary, which does happen with so many other commentators. The camera work continues to be ragged for me though. There are way too many closeups during the action, not allowing us to see many off the ball runs/positioning.

  13. Terence Chu, June 6, 2010 at 9:20 p.m.

    The calling wasn't at all very good, but some of your examples are just grasping for straws. First of all, many American players, even some playing in MLS call it "the mls", for example Hahnemann in his recent Studio 90 interview. as fr name dropping the English security guy, blame the techincal director of the broadcast instead of Tyler. What else is he gonna say after the 4th cutaway of beckham twiddling his thumbs? Tyler and harkes weren't the best and espn could have gone out and looked harder for talent but they are much better than anything these shores have produced.

  14. Robert Kiernan, June 7, 2010 at 5:30 a.m.

    Lets face some facts here, the problem with this broadcast WAS THE MATCH... not who was calling it. I don't know if ESPN had control of the video or was using a world feed, but there were way too many close ups, and having a play by play team just tell me what I can see with my own two eyes is not really helpful... but it certainly seems that cutting away to Rob Stone while play is on going and STAYING ON HIM is a bad idea, and I certainly hope this isn't going to be a routine part of their coverage... the same with cutting away to the English scouting party ad nauseam ...first and foremost I want to see the play!
    In past World Cups covered in English, we have seen dueling color commentators arguing how many angels can dance on the head of a pin... and TOTALLY IGNORING WHAT'S GOING ON IN THE GAME! ...Martin Tyler might not be as exciting as having J.P. Dellacamera blather on and on...but he does a hell of a lot better at actually calling the match... Harks on the other hand is very often prone to opine on things without backing it up with fact and also has a very bad habit of enjoying the sound of his own voice at the expense of actually paying attention to the match he is supposed to be calling.

    ESPN has had a habit of using announcers trained to cover Baseball...and that simply NEVER works well, you can tell that their pacing is wrong and that far too often they clearly are reading from a script that when they run out of things to say...they just start to repeat facts and figures, but have little or no feeling for the match at hand... much better to use someone who is from Hockey or Basketball who is used to doing ongoing play by play...and having a color guy doing "some" analysis on the side.
    By far the best play by play guy that does soccer for ESPN is Glenn Davis, he knows when to prime the color guy with a leading question but also will interrupt him to call the play if and when it needs to be done... most others working at ABC/ESPN tend to stick with the side chatter to such an extent that the game becomes almost irrelevant. The best team they had was Davis teamed with Marcello Balboa... but of course, Davis always was pushed aside for Dellacamera or that Baseball idiot O'Brien...and Balboa was furloughed off to work piecemeal for Fox or any other group who would use him... so now we have a bunch of cold Brits instead of a bunch of mediocre baseball hacks... but still no real first string announcing team in English... nothing really changes here!
    And for the record...if the game is going poorly...then the game is going poorly, there is nothing I hate more than pointless Rah Rahing when my own eyes tell me we are messing up... and considering that Coach Bradley only has taken seven defenders to the big dance... the chance to see Jonathan Bornstein do even more damage in the next few weeks seems to be a very good bet... don't serve me hamburger and tell me it's steak because I'm not that stupid...nor are most others!

  15. Eric Piazzoni, June 7, 2010 at 6:51 a.m.

    Tylers lack of US Soccer knowledge was shocking. Highlighted by his 'other player named Edson' commentary where he had no clue Buddle's father played soccer and named his son after the Brazilian legend. No amount of studying at this late a point is going to effectively provide commentary for a US audience. ESPNFail (again)

    Glenn Davis or Phil Schoen would have been better choices.

  16. Zukisa Qonto, June 7, 2010 at 4:21 p.m.

    Hey folks, I've never understood the American style of commentary. I must admit that being a neutral (South African), the EPL is more inviting to me than the MSL partly due to the skill of Martin Tyler and the likes of Andy Gray. American commentators tend to overshadow the game a bit & the only solution is to get specialist soccer commentators like ESPN has done. Lastly, it's quite refreshing to see team USA coming in as serious contenders, hopefully, you guys will go all the way. I'll blow a VUVUZELA TO THAT.

  17. I w Nowozeniuk, June 8, 2010 at 1:17 p.m.

    I beg to disagree on Martin Tyler's commentary critique...would anyone prefer an emotional outburst when a corner kick takes flight and nothing happens...what about the emotional hysteria from a shot that is 10 yards off the mark...who wants these hystrionics from Dellacamera, Harkes, Smythe or some other suffocaters of the game...a few words is sufficient to describe or analyze, unless some of u want Christopher Sullivan to pontificate the greatness or amazment of a well intentioned play that has no chance...try to listen to MLS games and the suffocation process begins in the first seconds of the game until the final whistle...

  18. P R, June 9, 2010 at 12:03 a.m.

    Again, I could not disagree more with an opinion piece here. Perhaps it's more desirable on the west coast, but I much prefer an announcer who gives us information, but lets the game provide the action. I can't stand announcers like Max Bretos, who feel the need to talk and talk, sometimes even ignoring the action on the field such as a scoring chance, because he's caught up in some random, pointless train of thought.

    And why is it so bad for an Englishman to talk about things Brittish, but people don't mind Americans trying to use Brit terms and phrases, like pitch (which does not mean soccer field, it's just their sporting equivalent of the American term field - also used for rugby, hockey, lacrosse, etc). Should he try to speak in an American accent too? And to everyone watching the match, Beckham is a well known celebrity, I see no problem with it being point out that England felt it necessary to send security along with coach Becks. If they have a shot of an attractive female in the crowd on Saturday, should Tyler not mention it if he notices that it's the wife of an English player?

    And I can't stand the smug, self serving Harkes. I didn't like him before it came out, but after finding out the real reason he was kicked off the team - the fact that he failed in his job as a leader of his teammates - that he wrote a book in which he derided the coach for ending his captaincy, well I've lost the last shred of respect I'd have had for the guy. That also increased my respect for Sampson.

  19. Rob Williams, June 12, 2010 at 8:11 a.m.

    I guess it depends on what you're used to. Tyler was voted EPL commentator of the decade by an independent panel so obviously the Brits think he's doing something right, and he has been the voice of the main World Cup network in Australia for over 20 years. If you don't like him, then please feel free to send him back!

  20. Joe Thompson, July 9, 2010 at 11:10 a.m.

    one vote here for Martin Tyler and the "English style"...much better suited to the unique and free flowing nature of the game....really different from all other sports on tv which have breaks all the time. also we need to know who is on the ball and the Brits give us that. I actually think Tyler's delivery enhances the drama...you know it is something important when you hear his voice.

  21. Joe Thompson, July 9, 2010 at 11:15 a.m.

    bio of Martin Tyler http://www.talkfootball.co.uk/guides/football_commentators_martin_tyler.html

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