My World Cup: ESPN's Brits Lack Respect for American Soccer

By Paul Gardner

It seemed to me likely that ESPN, having taken the decision to slap American soccer in the face by employing a virtually all-Brit army of commentators for its World Cup telecasts, would then soften the blow by having those guys make a concession or two to American sensibilities or American viewpoints, or, at the very least, to the American language.

Wrong again. Having delivered the original insult (quite possibly without even being aware of the faux pas), ESPN proceeded to allow its Brits to give us hour after hour after hour of solidly Brit-oriented broadcasts without the slightest attempt that I could discover, on the part of anyone, to modify matters for an American audience.

Talking of hours and hours: everything that I am going to say in this column is based on my own viewing of these ESPN broadcasts. A total of 48 full games, plus two half-games, which means about 75 hours of listening. This was strictly live commentary - I watched very little of the studio stuff. So, 75 hours with seven Brits - Martin Tyler, Ian Darke, Adrian Healey, Derek Rae, Robbie Mustoe, Ally McCoist, Efran Ekoku and the lone American, John Harkes.

Actually, Harkes makes a good starting point. Because he managed something that none of the Brits could pull off: he uttered the word soccer! This historic moment occurred 11 minutes into the Argentina vs. South Korea game on June 17. A moment to relish, because it didn’t happen again. Apart from that one use, it was football all the way.

Well, now. I live in a country where the sport is controlled by the United States Soccer Federation, where the pro league is named Major League Soccer, where the sport in the high schools and the colleges is, always, called soccer. And so on. But these guys can’t even bring themselves to mention the word. Not quite true -- they managed it when talking of the Australian Socceroos, and of Soccer City in Johannesburg (hey, how come that didn’t get translated into Football City?), and Tyler once mentioned the Premier Soccer League -- but that’s South African, so I guess that’s OK.

But how can this be? It is inconceivable to me that ESPN would have required the announcers to ban the word -- firstly because I cannot imagine that ESPN works that way, and secondly because it doesn’t know enough to even have an opinion on the matter.

Which means that the announcers themselves just plowed on as though they were talking to a Brit audience. Nice, very nice. A snotty “just shut up and listen the masters” approach that certainly put the Americans in their place. You could even think that the Brits had quite forgotten that they weren’t talking to a Brit audience -- yet how could that be when each telecast featured a greeting in British accents to American soldiers and sailors watching on AFN?

At times it was downright insulting. When the South African crowds did the wave, Rae, Darke and Tyler referred to it as “the Mexican Wave.” That is pure Brit usage, based on ignorance -- Brit journalists first saw the wave during the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, and presumed it to be a Mexican invention.

But wouldn’t you think that someone at ESPN would have told these guys about its American origin?

And what are we to make of phrases like “under the cosh” (did he say “under the coach?” I was asked), “at sixes and sevens,” “break his duck,” “argie-bargie,” “keepy-uppy,” “punter,” “came up trumps” and no doubt others. No explanation was offered for these curiosities, yet occasionally -- very occasionally -- some sort of sensitivity did force it’s way to the surface.

At one point Tyler spoke, with feeling, of his admiration for the American game and all that was being done to promote its growth. A genuine tribute, but one that never featured the word “soccer”!

When Tyler used the word “draw,” he then said to Harkes “or ‘tie,’ as you would say.” Well, there are various other things that “we would say.” Take the word “assist” for instance. This is a familiar word to all American sports fans, and is widely used in soccer, with MLS dishing out assists on virtually every goal scored in the league. It is also a concept that has been adopted by FIFA, which includes assists in its official World Cup statistics.

The Italians and the Spanish use the term, too. But not the Brits. No sir, not them. I have discussed this with a number of Brit journalists over the years and it is quite clear that their objection to the concept and the word is that they are Americanisms. Nothing deeper than that. It’s not even that the Brits have a better word -- they don’t have a word at all.

They have to talk, as Tyler did, of a player “making” a goal for a teammate; Rae preferred “setting up” a goal. Hardly the Queen’s English at its best.

Did any of the ESPN commentators use the word “assist”? I never heard it -- and I was listening for it. The only time I heard it was from Chris Fowler -- an American -- in the studio. To lean over backward to avoid using an American term -- and a useful one, at that -- is surely just about as childish as you can get.

Worse, because it caused confusion, was the Brits’ insistence on using, without any explanation that I heard, the array of Brit terms used to denote time: thus we got injury time and stoppage time and normal time and added time and extra time. What we did not get was the American terms regulation time and overtime.

What I have detailed above is clear evidence that ESPN either doesn’t care about the American soccer audience, or is convinced that there is no such audience. Enter the Brits as the experts to teach us what’s what in soccer, though we’ll have to use the word football from now on, I guess.

That last sentence raises the question: just how expert were these experts? I’ll take a look into that next time.

56 comments about "My World Cup: ESPN's Brits Lack Respect for American Soccer".
  1. Cristian Deseanu, July 7, 2010 at 1:08 a.m.

    I fell the same! I hope ESPN is gonna change this ideea for the future!

  2. Paul Sheirich, July 7, 2010 at 1:12 a.m.

    The problem is that there are very few good American announcers. I have not only listened & watched every game, but I've watched the studio stuff as well. I am frankly grateful Harkes was the only US broadcaster live, though I find him mostly blubbering nothing of value to fill the airtime. Things like "I said a while back ..." or "He's got great pace ..." or so & so is "screaming for the ball". He also loves to tell us what the teams SHOULD do, and not what they ARE doing. I'd like more analysis from the sidekick and less speculation about what the players are saying, or the coach is saying, or whatever. ESPN had done a fantastic job, and having the English broadcasters do a better job. Thank you ESPN!

  3. Andy Brown, July 7, 2010 at 1:17 a.m.

    Thank you ESPN.

    At least it meant they were not able to commentate on our channels and meant that the BBC and ITV had to add to their English based team Clarence Seedorf and Edgar Davids - obviously both Dutch but far more able to give tactical insight than the likes of Hansen, Shearer and Lawrenson.

  4. USA Soccer Stud . com, July 7, 2010 at 1:18 a.m.

    If ESPN didn't require an American style guide for the British announcers, shame on the former. If the announcers turned their nose at said style guide, they should have been fired. Either way, the persistent soccer/football dichotomy is confusing and only hurts the reach of the sport in this country.

  5. Shawn Wash, July 7, 2010 at 1:28 a.m.


    With all due respect if you have read any articles regarding ESPN's decisions to bring on the "Brits" you would know the answer to your questions

    1. ESPN received numerous complaints about the broadcast team for WC 2006, especially in regards to Dave O Brien and Marcelo Balboa due to the fact that they "Dumbed" down the analysis for the casual fans. If you do a internet search you will find a number of articles about this very topic.

    2. Many "hardcore" soccer fans asked ESPN to look at British announcers for the 2010 WC and they had test with various different teams. They specific asked these announcers not to "dumb" down the commentary for the casual bandwagon fans that only watch every four years. I agree with this sentiment, they only regret I had is to not have JP Dellacamera as part of the announce team.

  6. Gregg Johnson, July 7, 2010 at 1:39 a.m.

    WOW..I agree with the greater majority of what you have said. Let me add on to the fact that most of their commentary felt as boring as a grey rainy day in London. I have always like John Harkes and I think he was able to draw some emotion out of the others...a little. We (ESPN) need homegrown talent that is quality and will bring our game to the forefront and not to hide it behind some stoogy forefather.

  7. Christopher Moore, July 7, 2010 at 1:42 a.m.

    Maybe the Brits should stop being hypocritical here, considering the fact that the origin of the word "Soccer" is a purely British (English) term. They invented the damn word, but because America chose to adopt and use the term it has a bad connotation. I love the Brits but they constantly need to be reminded of history.

  8. Jogo Bonito, July 7, 2010 at 2:36 a.m.

    Great stuff Paul ... it doesn't surprise me that the self-hating US soccer fans that flood the internet would beg for Brits to call the game. They got what they wanted I guess. ESPN now has everyone (I mean everyone) saying "nil" and "pitch" and "extra time" ... it's embarrassing really. ESPN obviously understands the power this game has in this country. They brought us the most complete coverage ever, but I hope in the future they will be educated by someone that knows soccer well AND feels secure enough to use normal American terms.

  9. Will Bouma, July 7, 2010 at 4:28 a.m.

    As a 'Brit' I would like to make one or two points.

    In an article discussing lack of respect, I think it is quite unforgiveable to spell Efan Ekoku's name wrong. It would have been easy to double check, and is insulting to the guy. It demonstrates lazy article research and implementation.

    In additon, you cannot expect people to change their whole way of talking, if they did, it would mean the commentry would end up rather disjointed as they would have to think carefully before everything they said. These guys have grown up using these phrases, and they will come naturally to them.

    However, I take the point that ESPN perhaps should have used US commentators.

  10. Paul Sheirich, July 7, 2010 at 4:52 a.m.

    To add on to Will's note - these guys use the terms the whole world uses. It's not so bad for us to learn to use them as well. Whose got their nose in the air here?

  11. predrag borna, July 7, 2010 at 5:13 a.m.

    Although is English my third language I find it rather funny that Americans with typical English names are kind of pissed because someone from England "teach" them how to speak.I suppose that those broadcasters are some schooled persons and they speak impeccable.What actually they should do?Adapt their vocabulary to common people with pour verbal fund? I remember one dialog from "CHEERS".Sam explains to Woody that Americans won the war for independence."Oh yeah?How come we speak English then?" asks Woody.Pretty good point.Ha?

  12. David Mont, July 7, 2010 at 6:40 a.m.

    I'm sorry, but this is a bit of a silly article. The bottom line is that there are no good American soccer commentators (the only one I really enjoyed was Seamus Malin), and it's really silly to expect (and demand) people to change the way they've been talking all their lives. I, for one, enjoy listening to broadcasts without having to hear explanations that there are no timeouts in soccer, only three substitutions are allowed, the clock doesn't stop every time a whistle blows, without constant analogies with American football, etc.

  13. Mark Pearson, July 7, 2010 at 6:46 a.m.

    A really, reall poor article with an obvious ongoing agenda.

    1. The British announcers have had outstanding feedback from Americans, don't believe me? Read twitter, Ian Darke in particular has had incredibly positive reviews with loads of people asking for him to call other American sports.

    2. The 'Wave' originated in Mexico and is known throughout the World as the 'Mexican Wave', the announcers aren't wrong when they call use the word Mexican first and if the author of this piece knew his history he wouldn't be as quick to use the word ignorance(unless writing about himself of course).

    3. The announcers were given strict orders to just be themselves, don't dumb down the audience with constant explanations, and its worked a treat. Phrases that an American audience hasn't heard before has added to the charm.

    The casual fan, vast majority, have felt that the whole approach taken by ESPN has added a sense of professionalism that previous World Cup broadcasts didn't have.

  14. Brent Crossland, July 7, 2010 at 6:49 a.m.

    Unbelievable! I just know that some day I'm going to pull up this page and read that Paul actually liked something. What would your reaction have been 4 or 8 years ago if someone had told you that ESPN was going to heavily promote the World Cup in the US, dedicate hours of pre & post game programing, and broadcast all 64 games in high def? I'll leave aside the question of whether the Brit announcers "should" have more respect for US soccer . . . but how is that any different from the constantly disparaging remarks that you make about the EPL? I have to assume that you're just one of those people who isn't happy unless he's got something to complain about.

  15. Mark Edge, July 7, 2010 at 7:55 a.m.

    What a pointless journalistic rant.

  16. Tony Molledo, July 7, 2010 at 8:11 a.m.

    I second Brent's post

  17. Jeffrey c Tufts, July 7, 2010 at 8:15 a.m.

    If the English announcers' style is so offensive, why is the English Premier League so popular in the United States? And if you feel inclined to be negative in your analysis of the ESPN announcers, why not spend more time on John (loves the first person singular pronoun) Harkes. He talks too much, makes too many references to his personal career, and has an annoying habit of breaking ..... up his commentary ..... into disjointed sections .... that makes him sound .... as if he's just stepped ... into the announcers' .... booth after climbing five flights of stairs. I enjoy J. P. Dellacamera, but I think that Derick Rae, Ian Darke, Martin Tyler and John Champion (the latter is not part of the ESPN WC team) are far superior to any American soccer/football announcer.

  18. Loren C. Klein, July 7, 2010 at 8:58 a.m.

    Wah, wah, wah. Perhaps ESPN brought in British announcers (Just as an aside, half of the British announcers you mentioned actually work for ESPN International as announcers, and used to do Champions League matches here in the States when they had the rights) because American ones are, well, rubbish, apart from Glen Davis who, ironically, attempts to commentate on the game the way the rest of the world does it. As for the rest of the sniveling in this article, you seem to not like their choice in vocabulary. Quite sincerely, the only way to solve that would be to pick up a book and start reading. Anyone with a half an ounce of literary sense can pick up on every phrase the ESPN team used, and even find the humour in a lot of them. The best, of course, was when in the Brazil-North Korea match, Martin Tyler quipped that perhaps it was time that the North Koreans began to man the barricades. Sublime brilliance--unlike this slop of an article.

  19. Joe Hosack, July 7, 2010 at 9:02 a.m.

    My unit has a MUTE button - check your TV's instruction manual.
    Thank you ESPN for showing soo much of the World Cup!

  20. Katherine Meyer, July 7, 2010 at 9:23 a.m.

    This is silly. I just took an informal poll of World-Cup-watching coworkers and asked if the British commentators bothered them, or if anyone is having trouble understanding the word choices of the British commentators. These are some of the responses I got...."The commentators are all British? I didn't even notice", "No, why would it?", "No, it's the WORLD Cup, I would expect that the announcers will come from different parts of the world".
    Oh, and by the way -- I'm American and I grew up hearing/saying the phrase "at sixes and sevens". Summary: This is a non-issue, Paul. Give it up.

  21. Brian Something, July 7, 2010 at 9:29 a.m.

    I don't give a crap that Rae says football and draw but Harkes says soccer and tie.

    What is annoying though is that the Brit analysts (color guys) they got are just as bad as the American analysts they rejected. Ally McCoist? Efan Ekoku? Sorry, I'd rather have Greg Lalas or Kyle Martino anyday.

  22. David Mont, July 7, 2010 at 9:31 a.m.

    To Mark Pearson: The "wave" originated at the University of Washington in 1981, at their football games, and it was seen at many American stadiums in the early 80s. However, the rest of the world (except for Canada and Mexico) was paying no attention to US sports at the time, so no one but those two countries had ever heard of the wave until WC-86 in Mexico. Hence, the incorrect name "Mexican wave", whereas the Mexicans just copied it from their northern neighbors.

  23. David Laing, July 7, 2010 at 9:32 a.m.

    Do you ever get tired of bashing ESPN. You should thank them for their great coverage. I for one really like the announcers from England.

  24. . Lev, July 7, 2010 at 9:42 a.m.

    If you want (world) top level American soccer, watch the WOMEN'S soccer!! they have been (among) the best for the past 20 years...

    MLS is the official final resting place for former top-level players. Given this, the US men's team did a good job, and
    ESPN did an amazing job!

  25. BILL MOORE, July 7, 2010 at 10:03 a.m.


  26. Kirsten Allen, July 7, 2010 at 10:12 a.m.

    I think the coverage has been fantastic. The American announcers think they are getting paid by the word and have to talk ALL THE TIME! The Brits expect you to watch the game and they comment on what is taking place and not telling you what is taking place. Big difference!! Also, I like the Brits using slang that they have grown up with. It makes the broadcast even more entertaining. Get the chip off your shoulder. Just because the Americans played like they were still in the MLS rather than the World Cup is no reason to kill the messenger.

  27. beautiful game, July 7, 2010 at 10:15 a.m.

    Paul, you're off the mark on this one...just about all, and I mean 99% of the American soccer commentators are windmills of too much talk about everything axcept the pich..they overanalyze and they suffocate the game with nonsense...the game speaks for itself while John Harkes et al speak for the game...Harkes providd zilch in his WC commentary; listeing to him is painful. PS: MLS cmmentators are apostles of Dick Vitale, lots of hystrionics about nothing and lots of praise for's simply horrific.

  28. Mike Gaire, July 7, 2010 at 10:26 a.m.

    For God's sake Paul you are clearly one of those Brits who "suffers" from the passion of the converted!

    So they said "Football" instead of "Soccer" so let me turn on that side of my brain that gives a damn!! And just be thankful we didn't have to listen to that Tommy Smith with an accent like broken glass!!! I think ESPN are a breath of fresh air compared to the crap we have had to tolerate for way too long from Fox Soccer Channel and their low definition broadcasts!!

  29. Austin Gomez, July 7, 2010 at 10:36 a.m.

    Paul "Shakespeare" Gardner's above-article should be renamed in its Title to: "Much Ado About Nothing!"
    Yes, 3 + 2 = 5 AND 4 + 1 = what?

    The 'Brits' (excuse me, British Announcers), are merely trying to educate us Americans to their 'orignated' sport (Football --- which by the way is completely/veritably accurate, because this Game is PRIMARILY played with the 'FOOT' (this part of the body, rather than the 'HAND' or other parts, as 'American Gridiron Football' is!), along with its other most essential Element in the Game: the BALL ('Jabulani" or whatever): hence, the England-term: FOOT & BALL....FOOTBALL!
    Also the Origin of the word "Soccer" is just an Abreviation of the British term, "AsSOCiation" (as in 'Football Association,' the governing body of the sport in England). why 'quibble'? I hope that this Word is acceptable in the King's English (England) and/or in the American English (United States).
    Hence, both Terms (Football/Soccer) are acceptably the same!

    For your information also, the Football terms are all in the LawBook: FULL TIME, HALF-TIME, EXTRA TIME, EXTENDED TIME, and STOPPAGE TIME (the antiquated term, "Injury time" no longer applies since the Referees give MORE time at the end of each Half due to a plethora of reasons, other than just to
    "injuries"!). SO BE IT! ! !
    The astute, interesting, engaging, exciting, meaningful British Announcers (the 'Brits') are just quoting these Terms, that are part & parcel of the FIFA LawBook --- remembering, of course, this Number One Sport's ORIGIN is from England! Therefore, let us look/listen/learn from the Masters (ORIGNators) of the Sport!

    Very simple! End of Story!
    P A X V O B I S C U M!

    ADDENDUM: In this article, Paul G. is completely WRONG! --- write about the more important Tactical, Technical aspects/implications of the Game with its Players' and Coaches' "foibles" (I hope "foible" is a proper Word that people will not get offended by) because you, Paul, are a very intelligent & honest in your thoughtful Commentaries concerning these aspects of Football!.........'gracias a Pablo'

  30. Patrick Rusk, July 7, 2010 at 10:36 a.m.

    Why do the author and the various commentors on this thread not even Google a bit when wondering about the origin of the Wave? From Wikipedia: "The origin of the wave can be traced back to Santander, Spain where Moises Garcia invented the cheer at the bullfighting arena Plaza de Toros de Santander in the 1930's." Kind of trumps everyone else.
    It is entirely possibly that it was independently invented in a few other places, but it's origin outside the United States is pretty solid.

  31. Harmon Barnard, July 7, 2010 at 10:53 a.m.

    Thank goodness for John Harkes. He made watching and listening somewhat tolerable.

  32. David Mont, July 7, 2010 at 10:57 a.m.

    I'm sorry, but much of the information about the wave in the wikipedia is bogus. For example, this bit: "There are claims that the wave was created in the early 1960s, in Monterrey, Mexico, during a football match between Tigres UANL and C.F. Monterrey Rayados. During the half time, the players were taking longer than expected to return to the field, the crowd grew anxious, and the organizers were trying to entertain the crowd and throwing match balls as presents. People were getting more and more creative with their cheer.." is clearly bogus. Throwing what match balls? At the time there was only one match ball and the ref always had it in his possession during halftime. Not to mention ... how much time could the team be taking to return to the field to the half time for the organizers to start entertaining them? There was no wave at the Montreal Olympics, nor was there anything like that at the NHL games in the late 70s. And there is no mention of one Moises Garcia anywhere other than wiki (which, btw, has no reference to back up its claim).

  33. Kenneth Elliott, July 7, 2010 at 11:06 a.m.

    Even more egregious to me is the poor understanding by these so called experts of what unfolds in front of them. They consistently miscall what has transpired on the field, even after looking at the up close and slow motion replays. In the Holland / Uruguay game the ultimate offense occurred on Holland's second goal, when Van Persie looked initially as though he could've been offside when the play occurred. We all were waiting for the replay in order to see how close it was, which it was to be sure, but he was just level at the time the ball was deliverd. In fact, the point at which the replay techs stopped the film to show the offside line shows the ball already had left Schneider's foot by several inches. Van Persie was no more offside than Dempsey was against Slovenia, but Darkie-Harkie went on a rant about how it was miscalled and would be a major point of discussion. Good grief.

    I get very tired of game announcers, whether it be soccer, football, basketball, or what have you. They have to be the most overpaid group in the world, making millions for doing what routinely is a mediocre, or even sub-par job of announcing games.

  34. Joshua Delano, July 7, 2010 at 11:43 a.m.

    You are the worst writer in America. Your idiocy is boundless. The fact that you are somehow employed in an industry that requires logic and reason is a mystery of the universe.

    I hope your punishment in hell is listening to Marcelo Balboa and Dave O'Brien on an infinite loop. You are a philistine at best, a xenophobic moron at worst.

  35. M Holthaus, July 7, 2010 at 12:29 p.m.

    I have found the coverage adequate, and certainly a step up from the '06 WC. ABC/ESPN have commentators - regardless of nationality and use of English - that know the sport and the players. I think we Americans must accept that soccer/football is an international sport, where it is played at its highest level in Europe and South America. Today's young players - at least here in Virginia - are hearing a broader vocabulary through foreign coaches and global media. Certainly more diverse than perhaps Mr. Gardner was brought up on.

  36. Angie Wallace, July 7, 2010 at 12:47 p.m.

    Absolute nonsense.
    It's unfortunate that you think that a) the American sports fan (who's fan enough to still be watching though the US is out) can't figure out these phrases - we're not idiots - and b)that the rest of the world should dumb down ("use American terms") an INTERNATIONAL sport during the WORLD Cup. I agree with Paul Seirich that there just aren't that many great American soccer announcers. American announcers have a way of adding nonsensical stories during announcing. Which is normally fine. But in soccer, we just don't have as strong of a history here with the sport to have really interesting nonsensical stories to interject. Like Jeffrey pointed out above, this leads to Harkes' doing an overview of his resume during games.
    I'm a little bummed to read a sports writer's blog that is completely upholding the stereotype of the arrogant American soccer fan and whining about everything, even the terms used in the game.
    Get over it and actually love the game or go find Madden and have him announce the games for you: "Now, if we're going to win this one, our guys are going to have to score more goals than the other guys. And to do that, they gotta get the ball in the net." Sounds like a nice time.

  37. Dick Burns, July 7, 2010 at 12:50 p.m.

    As somebody pointed out, soccer/football is the world game and in many countries it is called soccer to avoid conflict with other sports such as Austrailian Rules Football, etc. And because it is the worlds sport, maybe ESPN should have had announcers from other countries. There are many who speak very good American English. I can not let this issue stop me from enjoying the ESPN coverage of this World Cup. I go back to the days when the only soccer coverage we got was Soccer Made in Germany with Toby Charles. Thank you ESPN for taking the World Cup to new heights in the USA. By the way, the US Soccer Federation originally used the word football in it's name.

  38. Kevin McInroy, July 7, 2010 at 1:29 p.m.

    Could not disagree w/ you more, Paul. I am a 55 yr old American who played in HS, college and post-college, and I am a life-long SOCCER fan (who is not the least offended when the rest of the world calls it FOOTBALL). I was delighted when ESPN decided not to use the lame American announcers I occasionally have to suffer thru, and decided instead to use the terrific British announcers we know and love from FOX soccer and Champions League. So much so I wrote ESPN a thank you note! My only complaint about the announcing for the current World Cup is: John Harkes. Forgive me, but he is really little more than an inarticulate bag of cliches stolen from the Brits. It is actually painful for me to have to hear his comments. Like a lot of American announcers he brings very little insight, and instead drones on w/ meaningless generalizations, cliches, and a report of what we are seeing for ourselves or is so elementary that it is insulting to have to hear him say it. I thought Harkes was a terrific American player, and I hold nothing but respect for his accomplishments on the field, but until he moves drastically in the direction of the interesting, intelligent and informed type of commentary brought forth by the Brits, I say keep him and the other Americans on the sidelines.

  39. Corey Hopkins, July 7, 2010 at 4:05 p.m.

    I have watched every world cup game so far and the "Brits" don't bother me, I like John Harkes but he uses the word deception about 6 times a game and it drives me crazy, but I wonder where is J.P Dellecamera (sorry if it's misspelled) he has had the call for a few WC games hasn't he? Other than that and the vuvusuelas I've enjoyed this world cup and can't wait for 2014.

  40. Jim Murphy, July 7, 2010 at 4:38 p.m.

    It's time to put Paul Gardner out to pasture. Television-wise, this has been the most enjoyable WC ever, by a mile. I hope ESPN carbon copies everything they've done here in four years. Speaking of which, does anyone know if the Brazilian WC will pander to the Europeans by not scheduling matches at night? Primetime in Brazil = middle of the night in Europe, which won't sit well with oh, a billion or so people. Primetime games in Brazil would be spectacular, they'd be primetime here in the East Coast and very manageable on the West Coast.

  41. Richard Kline, July 7, 2010 at 5:08 p.m.

    I love having the brits call the games. I get so tired of American color men who feel that if they don't talk every five seconds they aren't doing their jobs.

    I watched one USMNT game this year where the two play-by-play guys spent over a minute joking about something that had nothing to do with the game, while the action was going on. Give me a break, you aren't at a bar, you are working.

    I heard soccer used many times.

    I watch the EPL every week, so I am used to the non-US phrases and enjoy the difference.

    Mexican wave, I will give you that, but that is it.

  42. Charles O'Cain, July 7, 2010 at 5:27 p.m.

    The Brits have done a wonderful job, as noted by many. MLS ratings would improve if they followed ESPN's lead and hired these experienced and articulate commentators to replace the babble currently on offer.

    For that matter, Soccer America might look to Four Four Two for a replacement columnist or two.

  43. Bertrand Hamilton, July 7, 2010 at 6:03 p.m.

    Paul you a too critical, I rather listen to Derek Rae than any one you can come up.

  44. Chris Morris, July 7, 2010 at 8:22 p.m.

    An interesting discussion for me because my work is lexicography (making dictionaries), where the issue of American vs. British English comes up all the time. I realize that British influence on our domestic game is an ongoing sore point with Paul Gardner, but even so I think he’s overreacting to be offended by expressions such as “under the cosh.” And the confused person who thought it was “under the coach” was obviously not following the action of the game, because that would give you the context to understand the term. Curious too that Paul objects to British announcers, but without telling us which Americans he would choose instead. The fans I know approve of ESPN’s coverage, especially those like me who remember when World Cup games in the U.S. could only be heard in Spanish. Back then we would have settled for any English-language announcer, even an arrogant Brit calling it “football” instead of “soccer.”

  45. Joe d. Shaw, July 7, 2010 at 9:24 p.m.

    I'm a Yank but the "Brits" have done a good, no stellar job in bringing the game to a savy audience. This is a big moment in U.S. soccer and ESPN have got it right. We are two countries[US and England]divided by a common language. But we are being brought together by a love for football or soccer if you prefer.Paul Gardner is a great writer but on this he is wrong.The Brits have done the game and the U.S. proud. Thank you. They were good to carry the one person on the team who did not always know what he was talking about - Harkes.

  46. Ronnie j Salvador, July 7, 2010 at 10:05 p.m.

    Must be a slow day at the Soccer America offices.
    The Brit announcers have been very good. On the other hand, I and many others cannot stand John Harkes. Comments like 'they need to get in the game' [for a team that is leading] and '90 minutes to get back in the game' [said at halftime] are truly silly. The brit announcers have insight and interesting choice of words. Seamus Malin would have been good, what was ESPN thinking about using Harkes.
    As pointed out, EPL is popular in the USA, so only correct that ESPN choose mostly EPL announcers.

  47. Karl Schreiber, July 7, 2010 at 10:17 p.m.

    In my opinion, ESPN did a very good job overall. Luckily, I had worked with people from Scotland and could handle most of Ally McHoist's comment, but in the future I recommend we get commentators who speak a "clean" English. JP would have fit in there well! Harkes talks too much but was okay in most assignments. For someone who remembers the times without TV coverage, or who is exposed to the garbage commenting on the Fox Soccer Channel, or the continually mispronounced names of players in the golTV coverage of the Bundesliga or the Spanish La Liga, ESPNs presentation was just fine, the international video feed was very good.

  48. James Madison, July 7, 2010 at 10:35 p.m.

    Harkes was banality incarnate. The English were terrific. On the front foot all the way. If Gardner wanted to rant about something, how about the ads. Those on Univision were so much more entertaining than those on ESPN---even for the same product, such as Miller Lite---that I turned to Univision for the first five minutes of medio tiempo just to enjoy them.

  49. Stevie G, July 8, 2010 at 12:56 a.m.

    What DRIVEL.

    I remember World Cups past where the commentary was so painful that I watched the Spanish channel instead, and I don't speak a word of Spanish.

    ESPN has done a FANTASTIC job this year.

    And btw, I just saw the legendary Andy Gray utter the S-word.

  50. john richardson, July 8, 2010 at 1:05 a.m.

    Having read some of the comments already made, i have never seen so many people be so unanimous. Paul gardner you are the weakest link, and football (soccer for your benefit, because your obviously not intelligent enough to figure out what im talking about) is not for you sir. You clearly know nothing about the sport, and your complaints show that you are an arrogant stupid man. First of all Harkes has been by far the worst commentator, I will concede he is better than Tommy Smyth.

    Alexi Lalas has been awful, you just know you are getting drivel with him. I dont know what you have against English or British people, but you need to get over it. I would say that nearly everyone would say that espn did a good job getting these commentators. You are an embarrassment and should never write again, i would love for you to explain how you came to your conclusions. You clearly dont really know anything about football, and you probably only got involved because you couldnt hack it at other sports. You should stay away from the world cup, and watch how the big boys do it. I hope you retract your article, because you are ridiculous.

  51. Mike Gaynes, July 8, 2010 at 9:58 a.m.

    This is classic Paul Gardner... useless, empty comment from a pompous pundit who, ironically, has built a 35-year career based entirely on having had the first "authoritative" British accent when he arrived on the nascent US soccer scene in the '70s. I have complained to SA's editors multiple times over the years that it was long past time to put the old garbageman out to pasture and replace him with one of the many intelligent, informed US soccer columnists currently writing for American newspapers. Why this fossil is still permitted to vend his obsolete idiocy is beyond me.

  52. Carl Mann, July 8, 2010 at 11:25 a.m.

    Couldn't disagree more with Mr. Gardner (actually I bet I can, I'll just wait for his next article). Why not use the common phrases of the games that the rest of the world uses? If I'm watching basketball in Europe for instance, I want to hear the phrases in commentary that fit the sport, that are commonplace in the sport - probably most of which originated in the US. Just because they are phrases that may not be generally used in my country to date, it doesn't matter, they fit the sport. So kudos to ESPN for allowing the commentators and summarizers use the language of the game, even if it may have been somewhat unfamiliar to the audience in some cases....(although I seriously doubt many people actually couldn't understand what was being discussed). It seems that many people were NOT put off by the amount of non-Americans ESPNs set, judging by the ESPN figures which they themselves appear delighted with.
    This is, after all, the "World" Cup, so doesn't it make sense to have people from different parts of the world in the commentating and summarizing team (German, US, South Africa, English, Dutch, Spanish, Nigerian etc.) to bring differing views of the World game and allow them to use the language of the world game? I would suggest that you stop being so insular Mr. Gardner and if around 19/20ths of the world population call the game football.....maybe it isn't such a crime to use that "F" word.

  53. beautiful game, July 8, 2010 at 6:18 p.m.

    Bravo!!!! Joshua Delano...listening to Balboa and O'Brien et al is indeed beng in hell...these guys have nothing to say and what they say has nothiong to do with the game at hand.

  54. Michael Mccarthy, July 8, 2010 at 8:50 p.m.

    I did not have a big problem with the commentary per se, but there were a cou-ple of those Brits, (Scots?) that had such thick accents that I had trouble understanding them. As for the language, yes there ARE differences. From my visits to Britain, I know many British are simply unaware that there are very real differences, particularly in idioms.

  55. Robert Lisiewski, July 9, 2010 at 5:30 a.m.

    No Paul, what you have documented is that you hate everything British and you went out of your way to moan about everything you imagined you heard.
    "Soccer" is an English word, yes, the Queen's English, which the British announcers use every so often even when commenting on their own leagues. Yes. Shocking, I know.
    And so sorry, the Queen also authorize the use of the word "assist" and her subjects use it quite often. Though not often enough to please you apparently.
    The soccer world first found out about the wave during the 1986 WC, and while most know its an American invention, the name Mexican Wave, when performed by soccer fans, just stuck. Get over it.
    Instead of writing xenophobic rants perhaps you could expand your horizons.
    And no, I am not British, in case you were wondering whether to hate me or not.

  56. Michael Albers, July 11, 2010 at 5:45 p.m.


    You are spot on with this one. Thank you for writing this. When the Brits learn how to play soccer (again) maybe we will let them annouce a match or two.

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