The World Cup was clearly a success in the US. The final match between France and Italy drew over 17 million viewers (more than Game 6 of the NBA finals) The only downside to this is we’re still likely to be stuck with Dave O’Brien for a LONG time (2014). With John Harkes heading to New York, the one crew many enjoyed listening to (led by J.P. Dellacamera) is now split up. So rather than complain about it, we should do something about it. The coach in me says what Dave needs is an intensive training program so when the Women’s World Cup rolls around next year he’ll be ready.
To get things rolling, here are some beginning drills for Dave from On The Pitch. By all means add to it via the comments. With some creative thinking perhaps we can help Dave get in tip top shape for announcing soccer next year. After all, he does have a great announcers voice, such a horrible thing to waste due to inexperience.
Pep Talk: Dave, you’ve endured a lot of abuse out there and it shows. Even before you announced your first match, the fans wanted you traded. But we’ve got you under long term contract so we’re going to have to do the best we can. You showed some improvement over the course of 64 matches, which is great to see as a coach, but if you want to succeed, your going to have to do a whole lot more. Are you ready?
- Watch Premiership and GolTV as much as you can. Even if you can’t understand the announcers on GolTV, they have passion. You really need to get some. The announcers for Premiership can give you some insight into the types of topics announcers should touch on. Droning on may work with the slow pace of baseball but with soccer, not so much.
- Find a new partner. Balboa knew his stuff, but the two of you just didn’t click. I think after the ‘Michael Beckham’ moment, he lost all respect for you and once that happens, well, there’s no getting it back. Perhaps he’ll work with JP.
- There are 17 Laws of the Game. Learn Them. Live Them. Love Them. Read the supplemental materials. Read up on soccer strategy. It is clear you did not understand the finer points of the game. You need too.
- Don’t try to create controversy where there is none. When Iran was on the pitch, all they (and we) cared about was one thing. The match. Nobody really cared if the Iranian president was going to show up and if he did, what the political implications would be. In order to see if you’ve stifled your inner wonk, try to imagine calling a match between Iraq and the US. Could you do it without being a pundit?
- When 50,000 people sing in unison – shut up. Soccer fans are amazing creatures. Unlike the U.S. where we might be able to sustain a cheer for 20 seconds among fans, soccer fans have an amazing ability to sing, chant, etc. in unison. When it happens, those of us watching want to hear. As a British friend noted to you before: "I like O’Brien’s voice, but can he just shut the blank up when the English fans are singing? I just want to hear ‘God Save the Queen.’" We’ve seen some improvement here and that’s good!
- Comment on real controversy, not ones you come up with. Yes, we had a record number of yellow cards during this Cup. But you did NOT have to say that, multiple. times. every. match. For example, Sepp Blatter throwing head referee Ivanov under the bus after Portugal v Holland. That was controversial. Most red card ejections are controversial. Tell us why (and saying ‘we’ve had a LOT of red cards’ is NOT the correct answer)
- Don’t apologize about other announcers in the background. Soccer is the most popular game in the world being announced in dozens of languages. You should be prepared to announce from crowded press areas. You’re a tiny fish in a VERY big pond. Your apology because your viewers might hear some faint background announcing in a different language only shows how arrogant you assume Americans are – like our announcers should have their own private booth or something. I’ll pass on a little something for reflection. People watched the games in languages they couldn’t understand because of your announcing (this is the tough love part of coaching here). Just sayin.
- Research, research, research. Demand ESPN hire more researchers for you. It was clear that you had limited material on the players beyond the likes of Ronaldo, Beckham (DAVID Beckham), etc. You really need to mind meld with your research team before each match as every team has a unique group of characters. Some fans may not be that into soccer and would love to hear more about the players professional lives. PLEASE leave the fluffy human interest stuff on the cutting room floor. Nobody cared that Buffon made a rap album except his most fanatical fans and, well, they already knew that.
- Americans aren’t as dumb as you think. 17 million Americans watched the final. We know the game. It’s OK to do some basic refresher stuff in the opening round, but afterward, drop it. And learn the proper ‘use of misnomer‘
- Learn to accept criticism. Calling US soccer fans complaining about your announcing a petulant little clique isn’t really a smart move. We’ve suffered through worse in the love of our sport. Insulting us instead of listening to us only means we’ll suggest Univision to the many people who come to us asking for insights about the World Cup. Don’t let us down and don’t forget that there are alternatives. More of us need to learn Spanish anyway.
- Know your place. Unlike a slow paced (some might say boring) sport like baseball, soccer doesn’t need an announcer to entertain the viewers. There are few breaks in the action. The entertainment IS the match. Don’t buy into the US ‘soccer is boring’ bunk. It’s not. You should know that by now. Learn from it. You are not the main attraction.
- Get better glasses. Missing Beckham’s freekick goal was a cardinal sin. Now maybe your tech’s had the wrong angle on your screen (I can’t imagine anything but a couple of feeds from the net cams) You need to react as SOON as it happens. An extended GOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL is not necessary but show SOME excitement. Also work out a system with your partner where he’ll kick you in the shin every time the ball crosses the goal line just in case you miss another.
- Soccer Is Exciting. Soccer Is Exciting. I know you cut your teeth on baseball where the pace of the game is glacial. Soccer is completely different ballgame. Repeat this mantra daily until 2007. Soccer is exciting. Soccer is exciting.
I know it seems like you’ve got a long road ahead of you, and you do. But with a lot of effort and no complaining to the coaches (i.e. U.S. soccer fans) you can be in tip top shape for the next round and we’ll be singing your praises. Don’t forget that sports is a rough business and there’s always someone else wanting to take your place. You’ll need to check back in with us often regarding your progress as some of your other coaches will be leaving extra drills for you in the comments.