One of the best side benefits of World Cup soccer has been the chance to listen to non-American announcers cover the games. It’s not so much that the U.S. seems to have few legitimate broadcasters who can competently, unpretentiously offer their opinion, which is basically a true statement, no it’s more about the subtle nuances like terminology. Take the following examples:
1) “the smash and grab” – in the overwhelming cluster$#%k that was Switzerland’s goal against Spain the UK announcer repeatedly described it as a “smash and grab” goal. Likewise, Paraguay’s set play success against Italy received the same moniker. I swear no American announcer would ever imply both theft and violence in the purest of all things a world cup goal. No, our man would say the Swiss were “gritty”, “dogged” or “had a nose for the goal”. I’d say the “smash and grab” is all those things and more.
2) “the sucker punch” – Saturday’s match between the apparent non-defenses of Cameroon and Denmark featured a lively attack driven game. However, when Denmark equalized, it was referred to as a “sucker punch”. I know the term was used elsewhere as well. That’s tough isn’t it, “sucker punch” I mean that suggests deceit on the level of kicking Daniel Russo’s knee in the final of All Valley Championships (see Karate Kid). For shame.
3) “unlucky” – ok so you hear this around soccer games across the US but announcers rarely use it. No things are usually destined or fated. When you lose you choke. The UK broadcasters at least seem to acknowledge that sometimes you do everything right and you still get screwed.
4) “speculative ball” – I just love the idea of a ball being inquisitive or wondering. Hell, I love the idea of a professional soccer player being inquisitive or wondering. On this note, France deserves credit for sending a speculative team.
5) “pressurized” – They really like this one. I have no idea why. Compartments are pressurized as are airplanes, apparently so are soccer fixtures.
6) “cynical tackles” – All time favorite. Way smarter than malicious tackles but yet more disillusioned. Sad really.
Of course this isn’t to say that they don’t get on their occasional high horse ala Joe Buck or Tim “Captain Obvious” McCarver. During the divefest that was Brazil v. Ivory Coast, the broadcast duo castigated both sides actions as “shameful” and “pathetic”. Moreover, throughout the competition various announcers routinely categorized efforts by participants as “poor” or bluntly point out mistakes by both jugador and referee.
Does it reveal anything about us as people probably not, but it does suggest we imagine the game differently. For UK observers there seems to be a bit of malice in the game, a touch of the dark. Passes are wayward, shots unlucky, tackles cynical, efforts poor, balls are speculative; a bit of uncertainty no? Sport in America is a teleological tale of forward progress, not unlike the nation’s image. I could go on about Europe committing suicide in two world wars while we streamed to prosperity (well until ‘Nam and the ’73 oil shocks) and arguable world dominance, how we’ve never fought a war on our soil besides the Revolution and the Civil War blah blah blah. The important point here is I don’t see Joe Buck talking like this and it’s a real effin’ shame because that guy is “a sucker punch” away from Tim McCarver taking him in a brutal “smash and grab”. Thank God for the World Cup.