Dives, butts and PKs

In one of the brief content breaks between the commercial breaks during ABC's World Cup pregame show, the voiceover, in its entirety:

"The referee chosen for today's game is Argentina's Horacio Elizondo, last seen giving a red card to England's Wayne Rooney for stomping the groin of a Portugese player. Pregame festivities continue!"

Inside of 6 minutes, the first bad call, outstanding acting by the French player Florent Malouda, drawing a penalty when no foul was committed. (Or did I imagine from the replay that the defender didn't touch him?) What a horrible way to start the contest. Nice for Zidane though, to get lucky with his chip shot off the crossbar, and be the first person to put the ball in the goal against the Italian side in this Cup.

I was trying to avoid finding out how the Federer/Nadal Wimbledon final turned out, since I had it on tape, but made the mistake of surfing past my Google home page and seeing the result. That's OK, because ABC put the result on a damn crawl in the middle of the soccer match. The ads are one thing, but do you think the biggest sporting event in the world might have enough interest on its own? (Ok, never mind that I was web surfing while watching the game.) Do they have a crawl on the Super Bowl to tell you about the latest NBA scores? I switched back to Univision. Even without knowing what they're saying, I like the energy and timbre of the Latino announcers better.

And Univision was 8 or 10 seconds ahead of ABC. We need that extra time in our country, so a censor can protect us from Bad Words and the occasional Bare Breast. The American audience wouldn't recognize the bad words in French, Italian or German, but we know a bare boob when we see one.

Switching to Univision also has the salutory effect of silencing Marcus Balboa. Talking of Ribery, Balboa waxed poetic about how good he was, even though he's a "tiny little man"... someone who's 5'9"? Marcus is a giant in his own world, I guess.

And how about that Zidane swan song? Second OT trash talking from Marco Materazzi, provokes the big old head butt to the chest. See ya! (That finale didn't stop the journalists from voting him the Golden Ball award as best player of the tournament, though. Go figure.)

Balboa thinks "those are the kinds of plays they should not show in the stadium," because the officials "have to" see it for themselves, and make the split-second call based on the limits of quick perception, rather than... accurate assessment from a photographic record. Well, instant reply has a host of problems, but providing the means to fairly punish a cheap shot away from the ball is not one of them.

Maybe they'll have it figured out in another 4 years.

Then they can figure out how to reach a decision within the flow of the beautiful game, instead of the (thrilling in its own strange way, but) unrelated drama of penalty kicks.

We want something positive to remember, so picture the Italian and French goalkeepers sharing a collegial moment, an embrace, after the 1-1 draw at the end of overtime, and before the shootout. It's up to the shooters to win (or lose), but maybe a keeper could get lucky...

Tom von Alten      tva_∂t_fortboise_⋅_org

Thursday, 22-May-2008 12:58:56 MDT