After a sluggish start, the 2010 World Cup has finally sparked to life in the past weeks with goals starting to fly in, and a number of shock results. But if the football itself has picked up, the coverage certainly hasn’t. Having watched a week’s worth of World Cup on ESPN during my time in the US for E3, it’s embarrassing how inept the British TV reporting has been by comparison.
The punditry has been so inept and lacking in insight I’ve taken to switching over or doing something else during half-time when ordinarily I’d have been drinking in anything and everything to do with the tournament. Studio guests don’t bother to research teams to offer anything but the most meaningless, glib observations. Yet they’re far from the worst offenders.
No, it’s been the commentators who’ve done their utmost to ruin this World Cup. Clive Tyldesley seems to get worse with every passing game, but even he pales into comparison with the godawful Peter Drury. Particularly egregious was his hysterical and clearly biased coverage of the closing fifteen minutes of the Italy-Slovakia game earlier today, an unlikely 3-2 victory for the underdogs sending the holders out in the last match of the group stages. With not-even-remotely-concealed glee, Drury delighted in Slovakia’s every move, even when it involved some disgraceful play-acting and time-wasting in the latter stages. Moreover, his ludicrous targeting of the Italian captain – “FABIO CANNAVARO, YOUR CAREER HAS BEEN TERMINATED!” Drury bellowed at lung-destroying volume – was not only embarrassing but utterly unpleasant. This was a constant theme throughout the last five minutes – to the point where it seemed Drury was suggesting that Cannavaro wouldn’t just be retiring from international football, but would be sleeping with the fishes before the night was through. He stopped short of “MUSSOLINI, PAVAROTTI, ARMANI – YOUR BOYS TOOK ONE HELL OF A BEATING!” but he wasn’t far off that level of hysteria. And that was before tonight, when a terrific Japanese free-kick was seemingly credited to Cristiano Ronaldo, commentator Guy Mowbray mentioning the Portuguese star’s surname no fewer than eight times in the aftermath.
The Americans might still call it ‘soccer’, but the excellent Steve McManaman and likeable Alexei Lalas offered some engaging half-time punditry on ESPN, while the commentary – although often using faintly absurd terms like “goal-tender” – never ventured close to being offensive, unlike the above. If the quality of the coverage had any bearing on the actual results, then we’d be going home without a point. Let’s face it: it’s not the vuvuzelas we should be given the option to mute.