Brilliant images, shoddy commentary

[TELEVISION WATCH] The broadcast of the World Cup opener provided brilliant, efficient replays, making ESPN color commentator Efan Ekoku's blundering analysis of the first-half offside call even more puzzling.

In the 38th minute, Carlos Vela’s header into the South African goal was quickly and correctly ruled offside by referee Ravshan Irmatov. Vela had struck after a Mexico corner kick had been nodded on to him. We quickly got a perfect replay, shaded nicely so one could judge the players’ positioning.

Goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune had left his goal in a futile attempt to intercept the corner kick. The freeze frame showed us that there was only one South African, a defender, between Vela and the goal line when the ball was headed to Vela.

Yet Ekoku continued to question the call -- what he called "an awful decision" -- even after a second clear replay. In the 45th minute, he still referred to a Mexico goal called back for "an infringement we don't know about.”

The production quality of the opening game -- from camera angles to well-timed close-ups -- promises us a month's worth of delightful viewing. One hopes the ESPN commentators will start getting the rules right.

28 comments about "Brilliant images, shoddy commentary".
  1. Ian Plenderleith, June 11, 2010 at 2:14 p.m.

    Both Tyler and Ekoku were dreadful, and the prolonged inability to understand that offside call was supremely embarrassing. ESPN seemed to hush it up at half-time, choosing not to highlight the incident rather than show up their 'soccer-credible' Brit commentators as being ignorant of basic rules.

    Then they ignored the clear penalty on 70 minutes for South Africa, and even after three clear replays Ekoku decided that Rodriguez merely leaned on Modise "a bit". Should have been a red card.

    Ekoku added precisely no insight for the entire 90 minutes. Though it wasn't quite bad enough for me to ask for the recall of Tommy Smyth...

  2. Steven SIegel, June 11, 2010 at 2:25 p.m.

    I watch Univision. The ESPN announcers sound like they've taken sleeping pills. At least the Univision team is always calling the game and talking about who touches the ball, who is coming up on defense. I like to know who is doing what.

  3. Alan Manden, June 11, 2010 at 2:27 p.m.

    ESPN should ask for their money back, as should SoccerAmericaDaily, Football has LAWS not rules.

  4. Robert Waffle, June 11, 2010 at 3:03 p.m.

    THANK YOU THANK YOU for providing a space to vent on this dreadful coverage so far ! As a referee, I was outraged at the commentators reaction to what was a great, and correct, call under pressure. Many people are watching their first World Cup and many young players and parents/families are probably still unclear about "rules". Even older players and experienced coaches that I referee often display gros mis-understandings of the Laws of the Game. This was an outstanding learning opportunity that could have been used to promote a better understanding and appreciation of the "Beautiful Game". Unfortunately, an opportunity lost. Hopefully, someone at ESPN/ABC will recognize it as such and maybe address it during one of their pre-game/post-game shows. Maybe they should have an attractive, blow-dried, ex-FIFA ref on-call to step in in such situations.

  5. Charles Stamos, June 11, 2010 at 3:10 p.m.

    Excellent comments above; overall I give the Pakistani referee and linesmen an excellent grade for today's tough match, correctly called esp the disallowed goal and limited but warranted cautions. Wonderful video, lousy play by play and color, and unfortunately the Univision version is not in HD which is superb, esp on the closeup replays.

  6. Scott Baxter, June 11, 2010 at 3:54 p.m.

    What about the commentator audio level? Could it be any closer to the vavulezas? They have their own Microphones so push it up a bit so we can hear what they are saying.... even if they don't know the laws of the game.

  7. Scott Baxter, June 11, 2010 at 3:57 p.m.

    Maybe Pierluigi COlina could be the referee in the box and tell the commentators what is offside? (no 's')

  8. Kent James, June 11, 2010 at 4:23 p.m.

    I agree with the most of the comments, especially Robert Waffle's comment about the missed learning opportunity. The referee crew (from Uzbekistan, I believe) did a great job. The offside call was a very difficult one (taking away the first goal of the WC! Talk about pressure!), and the crew got it exactly right and the commentators were embarrassingly wrong. Slipping in their correction to minimize the damage was cowardly; they could have taken that opportunity to educate many people (and to give kudos to the AR for getting it right). Ian is right that the foul on the South African player probably should have been a pk and a red card (an assessment I came to on the 3rd slow-motion replay), but that is a situation where unless the ref is absolutely sure (knowing the pk and the red card will probably decide the game), he's not going to call it, and in this case, it is understandable why he didn't. I think the 1-1 result was fair, and ESPN did a wonderful job with the camera work (the slow motion HD on the SA goal and Dos Santos shot that required an amazing save were incredible). If the rest of the games are as good as this one, it should be a great tournament.

  9. Gus Keri, June 11, 2010 at 5:22 p.m.

    I thought that Ekoku who called the "offside" mistake but Tyler didn't say any thing at the time. A few minutes later, Tyler called it correctly and he recognized that the goalkeeper was also out.

    I could be wrong though because I heard it live and with all these vuvuzellas I might not have heard it clearly.

  10. gordie howe, June 11, 2010 at 5:25 p.m.

    I can't watch the ESPN broadcast with the sound on. Those horns are way to annoying. And you can't make out what the announcers are saying. Why can't they have a broadcast booth that is more soundproof.

  11. Valerie Metzler, June 11, 2010 at 5:57 p.m.

    Camera work was superb.

  12. Rick Montesino, June 11, 2010 at 6:13 p.m.

    What the heck is wrong with all of you? Did you not pay attention to the replay? Do yourselves a favor before you make yourselves look more foolish than you already do, and go look at the play again. You will CLEARLY see that there is a friggin south african defender standing on the stinking goal line, which would obviously keep EVERYONE on the field ONSIDE! The broadcasters were leaps and bounds better than anything we've had before. Your probably all mad because you have no idea what you guys are talking about! Learn the game before you criticize. You all complain waaaaaaay too much.

  13. Caroline Lambert, June 11, 2010 at 6:31 p.m.

    The commentators reminded me a bit of the Derek Rae/Tommy Smyth pairing. Smyth would stick his foot in his mouth, and Rae would be left to try to repair the damage. He was actually quite good about being diplomatic in smoothly correcting Smyth's errors, although there were occasions when you could hear some annoyance in his voice when he had to do this. I got the impression the same thing happened here with Tyler. I don't think he saw the play correctly when it happened, but realized the error when he saw the replay. He, unfortunately, seems to be not as quick as Rae in thinking up diplomatic corrections, but he did say something that let me know he knew that offside call was good. Too bad he didn't say it more loudly or more emphatically.

    The vuvuzelas are awful, but I think the sound of these barbaric horns today was more muted, to the point of being barely tolerable, than during the Confederations Cup.

    I was initially worried about the choice of referees given the experience of the 2002 World Cup when referees were chosen based on politics rather than ability. This crew was from Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgystan, and Malaysia. I thought they did as good a job as any average crew does at this level - I guess refereeing in the Asian Cup and Champions League must be just as challenging as in other confederations.

  14. Steven SIegel, June 11, 2010 at 6:38 p.m.

    Dear Misinformed Rick;

    A player is in an offside position if:
    he is nearer to his opponents' goal line than both the ball and the SECOND last opponent.

    Having the keeper come so far out (and miss the ball) is very unusual. The keeeper plus one defender will usually keep all players onside, but in this case the keeper came out.

  15. Charles Stamos, June 11, 2010 at 7:49 p.m.

    Rick - It's Law 11 - and you're in an offside position UNLESS (and one of the exceptions is) you are even with or have the NEXT TO LAST defender between you and the opponents' goal line. You should be a little more careful what you preach...

  16. Harmon Barnard, June 11, 2010 at 7:54 p.m.

    The game was exciting, and the TV prodution was very good.

    However, I think that at the end of one month we will get tired of listening to Martin Tyler and his lack of any emotion at all. Even when goals are scored.
    He sounded like he was doing a comentary at a meeting of Parliment.

  17. Brian Herbert, June 11, 2010 at 8 p.m.

    I have a quick hyperlink to the pdf of FIFA LAWS OF THE GAME, and I click on it all the time to verify stuff. It was handy today, and took me about 90 seconds to verify the call was correct. Now, why wouldn't ESPN have a production assistant doing exactly that to avoid embarrassment? Egos?
    I switched to Univision too. When a goal was scored, ESPN acted like it was against the law to show emotion, on Univision it's, "Goooooooooooooooool!!!", you can feel the excitement.

  18. Michael Wyatt, June 11, 2010 at 8:41 p.m.

    It's best not to listen to any commentary when watching the beautiful game.

  19. Kent Pothast, June 11, 2010 at 9:01 p.m.

    So much for the arguments that ESPN needs the expertise of the English commentators. I lived in England but all decisions about commentators can't be made to cater to the Anglophiles. We need to get all Americans involved if Soccer is to grow.
    By the way, the word soccer came from the English messing with words and "aSOCCiation Footbal"l became SOCCer many decades ago. You still see the word soccer all over England.

  20. Rick Montesino, June 11, 2010 at 10:05 p.m.

    I stand corrected. My apologies. What the heck do I know!

  21. Steven SIegel, June 11, 2010 at 10:52 p.m.

    It's not just after goals, but the Univsion commentators are excited about the game all the time: you should have heard the excitement for the first kickoff! it's like they are the fans, groaning and squealing at misssed shots, piquing at physical play, and literally singing every time Tsha-ba-la-la touched the ball.
    Remember that Welsh guy (Clive Charles?) that used to shout after a goal "OHHWW it's in the back of the net!!!" Or right after a miss, with that unmistakeable accent: "not fahr off tahget!"

  22. Steven SIegel, June 11, 2010 at 10:56 p.m.

    Rick, I understand why you thought he was onside. I must say in thirty years of watching soccer, I've never seen this exact situation. You'd think it would happen more often, but it seems to me to be pretty rare.

  23. Edward Vaughn, June 11, 2010 at 11:32 p.m.

    I am really fed up with this constant carping and grousing over the announcing. Mistakes are one thing, but we DON'T need Alexi Lalas and Tommy Smyth blathering and sounding even more simple minded than usual. We DO need Ruud Gullit sitting and explaining it all cogently and in calm, rational terms. Alvin Dark and Martin Tyler are great. If you want screaming hysterics go to Telemundo or Univision.

  24. Steven SIegel, June 12, 2010 at 11:57 a.m.

    By the way, just to correct what Charles Stamos said, Univision is broadcast in HD.

  25. David Huff, June 12, 2010 at 9:44 p.m.

    Yes Univision is in HD on ch. 402 for Directv, also I wouldn't trade Andres cantor's "Ggooooaaalllll!!!!" for any other announcer, the guy rocks futbol.

  26. John Shelly, June 13, 2010 at 1:34 a.m.

    This is a cool discussion! I prefer the British commentators. It seems to me that they are offering an opinion but that they assume that we spectators understand the game enough to make up our own minds as things unfold. They provide interesting facts and tidbits along the way, aren't describing every little thing that is going on and don't try to perk things up for us. If a game is exciting I can figure that out on my own. It also seems to me that ESPN is working hard to find a proper balance between how much background noise they should include and home much of the announcers we should be hearing. My opinion is that they can completely do away with the very annoying vuvuzelas.

  27. Kyr-Roger St.-Denis, June 13, 2010 at 12:33 p.m.

    I can't believe all these negative comments about the announcers on the ESPN/ABC matches. Would they rather have those horrid announcers who drone through the networks' MLS matches, commenting uninterruptedly about the cute things the players said to each other years ago? At least the current crop of announcers don't insist on injecting themselves into the content of the commentary (with the exception of John Harkes, who lets us know that he knows each and every US player personally, has them over to dinner all the time, hangs out with their families, and generally serves as their sounding board and confessor). For myself, I think Mr Tyler and Mr Darke are the best announcers we've had for the game, and I can forgive Mr Ekoku's failure to grasp the meaning of the graphics on the off-sides call. Who has not seen only what he expected to see on a replay?

  28. Charles Stamos, June 14, 2010 at 1:38 p.m.

    Steven - Univision is not in HD here on Comcast. I would love to have it.

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