I went across the street to the neighbor's house to watch the USA v. Brazil semifinal match, since ABC didn't think it was a big enough deal on the 4th of July, and let ESPN cover it. He was happy to oblige me and show off his new DirecTV system, but he started by saying, "I just don't understand this game."
So, I explained a few things as we went along, like offsides, throw-ins, a variety of fouls, how Mia Hamm took a dive to draw the penalty kick. I wasn't sure how much help I was, but afterwards, he told others at our neighborhood barbeque that he "learned a lot." And of course, we had a good time, being guys watching sports together, making animal noises.
I had a good time making animal noises today, too, watching the USA and China play to a 0-0 tie in overtime, and then settle who would win with penalty kicks. And ABC was kind enough to broadcast its second match of the 32 game tournament. Funny how they acted like they'd been behind it just all the way....
For no good reason, I'm compelled once again to write what I liked and what I didn't like about the show.
First off, what a great game! That has to be the best match with no score I've ever seen. And I think it's fantastic that the tournament set records for spectators at a women's sporting event. More than 90,000 in the Rose Bowl! And millions more watching the game on TV around the world. (Except maybe in the UK, which inexplicably didn't seem to think this World Cup was all that interesting.)
And how cool to have the two superpowers of the world vying for the title. (Now that China has the secrets of our nuclear weapons, eh? And more than a billion consumers we're dying -- figuratively -- to do business with.)
I was also pleased that the refereeing was done by women, and quite well done for the final match, I have to say. Lots of good advantage calls, no notable mistakes, and control applied where it was needed. (I note that a lot of the tricks they were doing -- like Chastain's fantastic clear after Lilly's header save on China's corner kick -- would never pass the "dangerous play" test in my league!) The absence of player complaints was the strongest endorsement.
And how 'bout those penalty kicks? You always hope for a game to be decided on the pitch, but if it has to go to PKs, this is the way to do it. The men's teams should take some friggin' lessons! Ten of ten kicks well-taken and on goal. One fantastic Scurry save, and that's the game.
Ok, now for the bad stuff, which is mostly about the lame television coverage.
- While pregame shows are generally understood to be disposable, ABC's was really bottom-fishing. They spent so much time on the goofy half-time entertainment of the last game they televised, they barely had time to flash the players pictures and talk about the lineups. And highlights? 31 games to chose from, and they couldn't find more than a dozen 5-second spots?
- I know it wasn't radio, but a little attention paid to the game would be kind of nice. Here are some suggested terms to sprinkle in occasionally: offside, obstruction, tackle, through ball, you know, stuff like that. I can see how my neighbor might be a little confused when a foul's called just before the ball goes out of bounds, the announcers say nothing about it, and they restart with a free kick. It must seem to some viewers that it's just random. (I did like the "nutmeg" comment, though. Do we need a different spice for women? Cardamom?)
- Could you keep the camera on the action when the ball's in play, please?
- And when there's an injury or other delay, could you find some good replays to show? The last scoring chance, or the foul that caused the injury would be two suggestions. Or maybe a beautiful slide tackle that stopped China's attack in the last couple minutes of regulation. Or maybe Briana Scurry's game winning stop of the 3rd penalty kick?!
- Usually, there are two teams involved in a game like this, and there are some fans for both sides. If you're going to spend so much time panning the crowd (the paint jobs were pretty entertaining), could you maybe show a few of China's fans? Or just a glimpse or two of the opposing team at the end of the game?
- I do have a couple of things for FIFA, too. First, you might, just might want to consider some things that would lead to one or two goals being scored in a championship match. (If you need a suggestion, here's one: get rid of the offside rule. Just throw it out.)
- And finally, what's up with that rule that says the keeper has to stay on the goal line until the penalty kicker touches the ball? It's never enforced, why is it still on the books? (That woulda spoiled the day for the USA, though!)
July 10, 1999