So I’ve watched a bit of the World Cup so far, and more than anything else except the actual fun of watching soccer being played, I’m impressed by the presentation of it. The broadcasts are almost the opposite of American sports broadcasts.
First of all, the commentary is relatively subdued. A John Madden is impossible to imagine, at least for this casual viewer. The great accents of the English-language announcers are just a bonus.
Second, the production is excellent, as it should be given that the World Cup is supposedly the biggest sporting event in the world. In particular, the camera work and shot selection is very reliable, with the camera almost always on the relevant action, not some crap occurring elsewhere, much less fans.
Third, the uncluttered field makes it easy to follow the players and the ball. I’m not sure if it’s fading eyesight or what, but I have to really focus to track the action on the comparatively crazy-quilt play areas of NFL or NBA games. Though players shrink to ants on the giant pitches, it’s easier to see where the ball is and how the play is evolving at and away from the ball.
Fourth, the action is almost never interrupted by replays. The only replays I’ve seen have been of fouls, shots on goal, or actual goals. Compare this to the almost non-stop replays that mar MLB and especially NFL games. I remember watching one (American) football game last fall in which the broadcasters replayed a simple, stupid incomplete pass a total of six times. Insane.
Fifth, and on a related note, I’ve seen very few graphical hijinks – crazy highlighting on the ball, that phenomenally annoying writing-on-the-screen gimmick that inevitably obscures more than it illuminates, etc. The one concession here is the use of some manipulated replays to assess offside calls (or non-calls) – which are actually pretty helpful.
Sixth, and finally, goddamn if soccer isn’t fun to watch. The continuous ebb and flow of the action is more like basketball or hockey than football or baseball, but it’s superior to all of them – if only because, as David Brooks (of all people) said, “basically it is a long series of frustrations leading up to near certain heartbreak.” I like that. It’s rather like life itself.