A Tradition Unlike Any Other (Apparently)
It’s that time of year again again. Leaves, Leafs, candy apples, Candy Samples, light wraps (including but not limited to shawls, tunics, neo-wimples, and jumpers), used Type O Negative CDs, Dane Cook, the farthest time from when employees of the PAAS corporation have to think about going back to work again, and best of all, gratuitous use of the suffix “-tober”.
The newest entry to the list (which previously included Z104.3 The Edge‘s Rock-tober, Martin Yan‘s Wok-tober, Bushwick Bill‘s Glock-tober, The Dukes of Hazzard Appreciation Society‘s Catherine Bach-tober, etc) comes to us from ESPN’s MLS Primetime Thursday. Yup, it’s “Socc-tober” according to Rob Stone (guy who used to play soccer and now just talks about it on the TV).
After proclaiming this newly crowned “–tober”, Rob went on the show us WHY the prefix “Socc-” is so apt. Apparently, this is when the MLS playoffs happen. And before the DC United v. ,b>Chicago Fire 1st leg match, we got the obligatory “Let’s try to rope in the folks who flipped to ESPN instinctively during a World Series commercial break” feature, which consisted of a comparative baseball/soccer montage: “We’ve got strikes, steals, and slides too!” No lie, that was an actually quote. Now the potential viewer is bored because he realizes it’s soccer (because there’s not that much scoring in soccer and excitement and intrigue only come with scoring and LOTS of it, see the NHL) on the other end of the spectrum, the dedicated soccer fan is insulted and embarrassed at the overt pandering to Joe Nascar.
Add this to the litany of poor marketing strategies the MLS/EPSN has rolled out in an attempt to snag new fans. Instead of marketing to the core audience who knows and faithfully follows the game, they continually choose to alienate that demographic with constant attempts to draw parallels to American sports (“They’re in the red zone!”, “We’re coming up on the 2 minute warning.”, “The attacking midfielder is like the quarterback of the team.”), and the continuous explanations of the rules and practices, made famous by Dave O’Brien and his “This is an example of the spirit of the game!”, uttered every time a ball is purposefully played into touch while an opposing player is injured. That’s American soccer coverage: plenty of dumbin’ it down, hypin’ it up, and Sierra Mist.
The ESPN Thursday night MLS team had previously injected some insta-cred by including international soccer mainstay, the leprechaunish Tommy Smyth, whose catch phrase “bulge in the ol’ onion sack” is the comedy gold at the end of a dreary American soccer commentator rainbow. Instead, we get the Alex P. Keaton of the soccer world, the surly, snarky Eric Wynalda who is best known as Landon Donovan‘s less-talented predecessor.
Last night, Eric thought it acceptable to liken the red flames of the road flares fans had set off in the crowd to the wildfires destroying homes and lives in Southern California. Yes. And aside from making light-hearted references to a continuing tragedy, Eric wouldn’t shut up about how “hated” Cuauhtémoc Blanco is despite every other spectator in the crowd wearing his #10 jersey.
This collective hatred that we are supposed to hold can be traced back to Blanco’s Mexican national team consistently dominating Wynalda’s US national team during the 90s. A lack of commentator objectivity due to unresolved issues and past failures (Tony Kornheiser) or blatant homerism (the Redskins radio broadcast team) is usually a recipe for unintentional hilarity, but Wynalda’s agenda is much too pitiful.
Not even the silky, lovable Valium that is Julie Foudy could save this embarrassing production. Instead of letting her do color commentary, which she has done more than competently in the past, they shove her into the Keyshawn Johnson/Shannon Sharpe novelty corner of the coverage desk. “Hey look everybody! It’s a girl! How crazy is THAT?” Julie is too dignified and sleepy to be up that late and not have a major speaking role. ESPN, please for the love of the game soccer and the people who watch it, put Julie Foudy up front where she belongs and give her a new Sierra Mist X with invigorating Ginkgo Biloba and other botanical extracts and sugar. We’re sure she can hit it out of the park, take it to the house, drive the lane for an and-one, and maybe even put the bulge in the ol’ onion sack.
“One Julie Fooooudy!! There’s only ONE Julie Foooooooudy!!!”