Friday, June 16, 2006

Recap This Week en el Mundo Deportivo

Rather than recap every great moment in sports this week, I want to focus more on how we're following the action in 2006 - that is, the technical advances and changes in media coverage.

Following the 2006 World Cup in Germany

Korea/Japan was a booger to follow - you had to get up at 3AM to watch matches live. It was exciting at the moment but you would really feel it about 12 hours later at work trying to stay awake. But you could watch the games in their entirety - really get into the flow of things. This time around, the time change has been a bit more "Breakfast At Wimbledon". The live broadcasts of each game here in Dallas have been at 8AM, 11AM & 2PM. You find yourself at work wondering about the game & its progress. So you keep up with it online or sneak out to the pub for lunch.

Technical Advances

Online I've been using a combination of things - Yahoo!'s Official FIFA World Cup page with video highlights, Google's Joga Bonito Companion for Firefox, & FootieFox. Here is when I would urge you - if you are still using Microsoft's Internet Explorer or Apple's Safari browser, to switch to Mozilla Firefox. The Joga Bonito Companion add-on to Firefox gives you game updates right in the browser as you work. The companion lets you know when an infraction occurs (Yellow card to Ballack! 49') or when someone scores. (It's 1/2 time now for Mexico/Angola 0-0). After a game, you can mosey on over to Yahoo!'s World Cup page & watch video highlights of all the important moments in the games with quick-loading Macromedia Flash video.

I managed to convince the office to have a TV rolled in to the common area to catch the Univision broadcasts "for the students' enjoyment". But it's torture having to keep up appearances while in the other room there's a whole world of soccer excitement going on. (I might even prefer getting up at 3AM in the morning to knowing there's a great game going on during work hours.)

Back home, Satellite TV & the DVR have really helped me follow more closely the tournament. Univision, Telefutura, ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Classic, ESPN-U aka"the Ocho" (Does ANYONE get this channel?) all show the games, interviews & highlight shows.
World Cup Live -, Eric Wynalda & Julie Foudy are semi-pro commentators doing their best to cover the game with a SportsCenter sensibility. Ideally we would have a combination of the fun that is the Spanish broadcast & the analysis that ESPN offers.

My brother Larry mentioned to me that he'd been listening to the World Cup matches on XM. I had no idea that XM was going to be broadcasting the games! XM channels 147 & 148 American Soccer Radio Call-In, Andres Cantor (Can someone tell me WHY this guy's not on the network broadcasts?!!) on the Spanish play-by-play and it's all offered 24-7. I can't recall this kind of coverage for ANY sport event - not to mention soccer. So these are good times.

I've had the XM World Cup coverage on all week in the car. It has really been terrific to hear America calling in to talk soccer with the announcers. If there's a burgeoning sport sub-culture, it's soccer. But as one of the callers said, the World Cup is a special event - and the rest of soccer pales in comparison really. So - there's always a bit of a let-down after the month-long international soccer extravaganza that is World Cup Soccer.

Univision & ESPN - The Joy of the Festival & The Sober Analysis

Spanish-language television vs. ABC/ESPN English-language coverage is not a fair comparison. We simply don't have the same caliber announcing as Spanish-language television does - and that's merely a function of the regular practice that Spanish-language announcers have. But even with practice, I wonder if ESPN/ABC could match the enthusiasm that the Argentines & Mexicans bring to the games? We get bogged down in the stats & analysis and are afraid to dance.
Nice to see that Major League Soccer is now covering World Cup too. Before they almost seemed to completely ignore it.
Kicks - Steve Davis' World Cup Blog is the Dallas Morning News' attempt to cover the travel expense for their Germany correspondents. Belo Gang - buy a vowel & put an RSS feed on the blog for cryin' out loud. How can we be expected to follow it otherwise?

Online newspapers (like the Star-Telegram & the Dallas Morning News) have a really difficult time putting together successful blogs. It's understandable that reporters with looming deadlines would be less than enthusiastic about the blogging medium and yet another writing assignment. Frontburner is a successful blog in comparison because it's maintained by writers and guest contributors that work for a MONTHLY publication - they don't have the pressure of the daily deadline. Frontburner is also refreshingly irreverent in a way that the regional newspaper of consequence can't afford to be.

The end of the 2006 World Cup won't spell the end of soccer this summer for us here stateside either. There's Major League Soccer, yes. But also coming out July 14th is the documentary on the New York Cosmos, "Once in a Lifetime". This was directed by the same guy who did the neat production work on "Dogtown & Z-Boys" and it looks like it's going to capture the same 1970's magic-in-a-bottle that Dogtown did. (Not to mention the killer soundtrack to expect from them!)

NASL, the NY Cosmos, Kenny Cooper, Kyle Rote, Jr. & The Dallas Tornado - all of this brings back really good memories of soccer spectating in the seventies/early eighties. As we were learning the Metric System AND the English System, we were also following American Football, Baseball, Soccer, Tennis - maybe it was all too much. Anyone out there remember the Metric system?

I'm not forgetting the Mavs Heat finals. It's an honor for Dallas to finally be in the NBA Finals. But the timing is difficult. I can only imagine what Dirk's going through trying to focus on the next game & knowing that his countrymen are completely rapt with the soccer right now.