Thursday, July 29, 2010

Hijinx in H-Town

(AP Photo/Mike Thomas)

Not long ago, former Cowboys wide receiver Terrell Owens told the media in advance of a Patriots-Cowboys showdown - which, coincidentally took place a few miles north of Reliant Stadium - to "get the popcorn ready." The same advice could have been given prior to last night's highly-anticipated hoedown. Yeah, that's right. I called it a hoedown.

And while Federico Macheda's brace within twenty minutes pretty much punctured any hopes of an MLS victory over Man U, I think that last night's match gave the fans exactly what they wanted: a high octane, open throttle match that saw a total of seven shots split the sticks.

Although the gaggle of goals made for great television and left us clamoring more (on the MLS side, of course), I did have a couple of minor beefs with the presentation. That's not to say that it wasn't, for the most part, a well-produced event. It was. Mostly.

My main beef is with the television production. ESPN spoiled us this summer with great views and angles for the World Cup.The production was absolutely stunning. I, personally, cannot recall a sporting event as acutely produced as South Africa '10. Single out any of the 64 matches, and then compare it to the broadcasts on ten years ago. It's almost like watching an entirely different game.

Last night, however, reminded us that MLS and ESPN still haven't quite figured out how to put out a slickly-produced match. At least not on a consistent basis, which was painfully evident when the Red Devils arrived in H-Town.

Allow me to start by asking the following: How may times did a player taking the throw-in get obscured by the ESPN's Bottomline scrawl? How many times did the player with possession fall off the screen? And what the heck was with that awkward angle - shot from the touchline about five yards before the flag - on the majority of the corners? What was that?

I get that the game was played in an NFL stadium and all, but this wasn't the Texans vs. Chiefs. This wasn't the NFL on FOX. Joe Buck and Troy Aikman weren't calling the game.* So why did it feel like they should have been?

(*No disrespect to John Harkes, but I really think that Kyle Martino, who has absolutely shined as a color commentator this year, should have been given the mike alongside J.P. Dellacamera last night. The former Galaxy midfielder has quickly morphed into the best color commentor in MLS, without question.)

I'm not going to lie and say that I have all of the answers because I don't. I do not know how much say MLS has in its ESPN broadcasts. I don't know if Don Garber himself pays attention to these things. I don't know if the production crews between ESPN's NFL and MLS games are interchangeable. However, as a regular viewer of MLS, I can say this: the league is whiffing badly on these high-profile opportunities to draw in the casual viewer.

Listen, I'm not going to tell people how to do their jobs. I barely get mine accomplished as it is. But, in my mind, the objective of every sports cast should give the viewer something to remember.

And what we always remember is the dramatic. We remember the camera closing in on the pile of navy and white players before Maurice Edu emerged to thump in what should have been the game-winning goal against Slovenia. We remember the widening angle immediately after Landon put through the winner against Algeria, and seeing the crowd's reaction. Memorable moments, no doubt, but they don't become indelible images unless the camera fully captures it.

Thanks to impeccably-produced presentations, we can recall dozens of images from World Cups past. Yet, how many moments of MLS glory are ingrained in our collective minds?

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