Monday, July 11, 2011

Abby = Good; Erika = Bad

It's really hard for a series of events to conspire to make the United States the sentimental choice of the rest of the world in any competition while another country becomes the bad guys.

Yesterday's Women's World Cup quarterfinal game between the U.S. and Brazil was one of those occasions.

The two people most responsible for this were Australian referee Jacqui Melksham and Brazil player Erika, whose performance was so reprehensible that TigerBlog can't imagine anyone who might want to ever name a child "Erika" again.

In fact, TB has no memory of a player who more disgraced a game's integrity than Erika did.

Think about it. Yesterday, Erika was just another unknown Brazilian player. Today, she is listed in Wikipedia under "Poetic Justice."

If you haven't seen it yet, with time winding down in the second overtime and Brazil ahead 2-1, an obviously faking and cheating Erika walked toward the U.S. goal and with, no one around her, dropped to the ground as if she'd been shot from the stands.

Writing in imaginary pain, she was eventually taken off the field on a stretcher, only to unbuckle herself and then sprint back to the sideline and quickly back into play.

If her goal was to kill time, it didn't work, as the ref added three minutes of extra time. If her goal was to rest her defense, that didn't work either, as the U.S. scored after two minutes of that extra time.

In fact, had she just kept playing, it's likely that Brazil would have won the game.

And it's not like the ref did the U.S. any favors before adding the extra time, not with the horrific call of a red card on the penalty kick and then the even more horrific call of a re-kick after Hope Solo saved the ball.

And then there was Marta's goal in extra time, where the play was clearly offsides.

Erika should be banned from international competition for what she did. And so should Meklsham, whose last four letters of her last name pretty much tell you what she turned the game into.

By the time Erika was turning herself into an international joke, the crowd in Germany had turned completely against the Brazilians and in favor of the Americans, which is a ridiculous thought.

Still, it all seemed lost before Abby Wambach headed in the most perfect cross of all-time, off the foot of Megan Rapinoe, to get the U.S. even at 2-2 with little more than a minute left before 'Sham would've ended it.

With the game tied, it took penalty kicks to decide the outcome, and a save by Solo was the difference as the U.S. advanced to Wednesday's semifinal against France.

The game itself was a classic, maybe the greatest in the history of the Women's World Cup.

It was made even better by Ian Darke, the announcer on ESPN who really stood out to TB during last year's men's World Cup.

It's amazing what an announcer can do to enhance a telecast when he's not trying to make himself bigger than the event.

TigerBlog has written several times that the British announcers he hears on soccer broadcasts are what American baseball announcers were like in the 1940s and 1950s and so, before the announcers became multi-media stars of their own and, to get there, had to be completely self-promotional.

TB had a thought of trying to get Darke to do some Princeton broadcast this year, though he's pretty sure that won't happen.

One thing TB would like to do is a podcast with Darke at some point this year, talking about his background in broadcasting, his approach, his preparation and all.

After that, TB would love to talk to him about his perspective on American sports and American television and then ultimately about Princeton athletics and the Ivy League.

TB has no idea what a big-time announcer from England knows about Princeton, but it would be fascinating to find out.

A podcast with Ian Darke.

Coming in 2011-12.

TB hopes, at least.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I presume that TB has heard the story Bill Tierney tells about his experience coaching soccer:

As a condition to being hired as an assistant lacrosse coach at Johns Hopkins, Tierney was required to take the position of head coach for soccer, a sport with which he was unfamiliar.

Late in one of his first games, Hopkins was clinging to a one-goal lead. His assistant coach asked whether Tierney wanted to make a substitution, which he declined to do. A minute later, the assistant asked again and Tierney again said no. Finally, with the clock winding down, the assistant asked a third time and Tierney exclaimed with exasperation, "Why do you keep asking me if I want to substitute?! I don't want to substitute!"

Of course, the explanation is that, in soccer, the game clock keeps running while play is stopped for a substitution. Coaches with a late game lead routinely make superfluous substitutions to kill time.

By the way, Tierney took the soccer team to the NCAA Division III tournament, not bad for a sport whose rules he didn't even know.