From columns riddled with mistakes to chats featuring personalities equipped with resumes more suited for interning at The Yanks Are Coming, ESPN’s pre-World Cup efforts could hardly be described as “match-fit.” As the world’s attention shifts to South Africa over the coming weeks, relying on the four-letter network for myriad forms of coverage remains inevitable. Sure, it’s easy to hate on Bristol’s finest export since Bob Crane of “Hogan’s Heroes” fame, but hell, Tuesday night’s friendly took place 20 miles from HQ and ESPN still couldn’t broadcast the match in HD?
The list of damages thus far:
- Losing Jen Chang – The former Soccernet editor, educated at some of the finest schools in the world, left ESPN back in March for an opportunity to work at Sports Illustrated. Check out the archives from a few months ago and you’ll notice a remarkable drop-off in the current product. Sad. One may wonder why Chang received top billing in this list of ESPN shames. Is it because he’s an amazing talent or simply because he’s Asian? Or because Neil and I want him to buy us a round while we’re in Philly? More sad.
- Wayne Drehs Needs A Copy Editor – Apparently Wayne Drehs was completed hammered (think Lightning Cup-drunk) from too much soccer a few days ago when he sloppily posted to his ESPN blog. The crime? Dropping a “Peter Czech from England” line. Somewhere [insert good print journalist here] is rolling over in his grave.
- Wayne Drehs Need A Copy Editor (Lightning Strikes Twice) – In the aforementioned post, Drehs refers to the Jabulani soccer ball, an Adidas product that will be featured in all of the 2010 World Cup matches. Twelve words later, the Jabulani was mysteriously replaced by the Jubalani – a remarkably similarly named soccer ball that Google can’t seem to find anywhere else on the Internet. Any Adidas insiders out there?… Anywhere?… Bueller?
- Losing Ives Galarcep – Sure he’s fat and has a face that you just can’t help but hate, but when he’s not crushing a whiskey or two at a dive bar near the Meadowlands, Ives has been known to drop some knowledge on his loyal fan base. The distinguished alum of Ramapo College keeps busy these days by maintaining his Microsoft Paint-designed site, “Soccer By Ives,” as well as holding court over at Fox Soccer. A good writer – sure – but ESPN’s greatest loss (besides his formidable presence at the annual company pie-eating contest) stems from Ives’ insider information. I mean, who else could have quashed a Brian Ching Wednesday morning airport sighting with a tweet concluding he was simply there “picking up his family.” The day after the match? Nice try, Sunil. I mean, Ives.
- The Infamous Post-Roster Announcement Chat – I was minding my own business on Wednesday when I clumsily clicked on a link to an ESPN live chat discussing the USMNT roster announcement. Who happened to be the “special” guest? None other than world famous journalist, Leander Shennanigans. I wasn’t the only one befuddled by this choice as a colleague of mine condescendingly pointed out one of his previous responses. When asked about Robbie Findley, Shennanigans stated, “When he didn’t dress, I figured that was it for him.” Hey Leander, would you like a side of epic with that fail? Boom, roasted!
- 101 Features in 101 Days – Simply put, a sophomoric version of what you may find on “The Shin Guardian” or “Match Fit USA.” Or here, for that matter. A future gem to look forward to? “10 best ways to impress your friends with your faux-soccer knowledge.” I actually just made this up. Then I returned to ESPN only to discover Leander Shennanigans up to his old tricks (a banner day for that guy) with a witless piece entitled, “How to sound smart at the watercooler.” Are you friggin’ kidding me? Sweet Pimmy Tatterson, that guy is a mess!
- “The Captain and The Goalkeeper” – In an on-set interview with “The Captain and The Goalkeeper,” ESPN paired Boca Burger with Marcus Hahnemann (a backup, at best) instead of Tim “Oh, no! I might curse on television” Howard. Really, ESPN? Just because Hahnemann gave one compelling interview where he dropped a few bullshit bombs and seemed mildly interesting doesn’t make him the second coming of the scarf-loving Gigi Buffon. But as senior writer Neil W. Blackmon put it, “In Hahne’s defense, he had bad-ass aviators on today at the team announcement, and a Slipknot shirt. All third string goalies should be as cool as that guy.” Point taken.
While ESPN has proverbially “shit the bed” on more than few occasions with regard to their World Cup coverage, it would be a bit unfair to end this column without paying homage to the efforts of a few worthy souls and other brief flirtations with near-greatness. Hell, I can hear the World Cup buzz from the depths of my mom’s basement. Such a sentiment is further articulated by the good folks over at The Original Winger.
- Luke Cyphers – Not bad for a dude who’s soccer-writing career started with the statement, “Hey, Luke, know anything about soccer?” Black people like him too, as Cyphers took home first place in 2001 for best sports writing from the National Association of Black Journalists. Sadly, the world “Association” is misspelled in his bio (Was Drehs at it again?)
- Jeff Carlisle – Soccer terminology such as class, fit and form come to mind when thinking about Carlisle’s writing. Hell, I’d rather feast on his latest offering than have a double-double Animal style from In-N-Out. And that’s saying a lot coming from this rather large man (think more football than footy build).
- “This Is SportsCenter” Commercials – Jozy trading his old jersey for an Italian dress shirt was a nice start (Was that Josh Elliott’s first commercial cap?), but Donovan brought it home with the copier/yellow card spot. Well-played, four-letter, well-played.
Did I miss any other fuck-ups? Want to tip your cap to ESPN? Let’s get this party started with some comments below.