What did you do when the screen went black?
The extended blackouts during ESPN’s coverage of the Euro semifinal between Germany and Turkey provided plenty of time for reflection.
Among my first thoughts: ‘I wouldn’t want to be stuffed into a small-sized Bristol, Connecticut, video booth with an angry Andy Gray right now.’
Then, as Tommy Smyth droned on and on and it became apparent that we had missed not one, but two–make that three–goals, my mind wandered back to another age.
It was a late August afternoon in 1977 and, unable to get even a single standing room ticket in Portland, I was home watching my beloved Sounders face the Cosmos in Soccer Bowl. Back in those days, the NASL matches were syndicated on a network known as TVS, and to pay the bills there were commercial interruptions.
Play didn’t stop, but back at home your picture did. If the ball went out for a goal kick, there was a seemingly interminable cutaway to a commercial. Absurd, I know.
Turns out that Shep Messing, the Cosmos keeper, must have scuffed his goal kick. Fortunately, I was covered. By none other than Wayne Cody.
Cody, the local KIRO radio play-by-play announcer, stayed with the game when TV did not, and he called Tommy Ord’s equalizer. So when TVS returned to the game, showing the euphoric Seattle fans and Ord being mobbed by his mates, at least I knew why.
Back to the future. During the storm-induced, 18-minute blackout for Germany-Turkey, we were truly in the dark. Three talking heads in a studio and a live shot of the fan zone in Switzerland. Not exactly a substitute for one of the most compelling matches of a quite compelling tournament.
My thought: If we can see the fan zone, why not actually turn the camera so we can see the big outdoor screen ourselves? But no.
Plan B, in this case, must rate as an embarrassment for everyone, not just for ESPN but for every broadcast rights holder. It’s estimated that as many as 100 million TV viewers were left wanting. Can you say ‘lawsuit?’
As ESPN studio host Rece Davis mentioned, everyone around the world also lost the feed from the broadcast center in Vienna, where the thunderstorm struck. Only the venerable BBC effectively improvised, airing the audio play-by-play from their on-site radio team.
Britain, the birthplace of the game, couldn’t qualify any of its four teams for the Euro finals, yet its citizens were the only ones who knew what was going on in Basel. Go figure.
Cup Tie in Tukwila
For the USL Sounders, it’s on to the next round of the U.S. Open Cup; the Round of 16 home date next Tuesday night at 7 promises to fill the house at Starfire.
The foe is Chivas USA, currently fourth in the MLS West and promising to be exponentially stronger than Seattle’s last cup victim, amateur side Hollywood United.
There’s also some history to this matchup. Last season, the Sounders beat Chivas, the "other" L.A. team, 3-1, in the same round of the cup.
Preki, voted league coach of the year following a division title in his first season at Chivas, is well known in these parts. Preki is synonymous with the Tacoma Stars’ best days, having played in the woodshed from 1985-90. His wife Trisha is a Puget Sound native.
As for Maykel Galindo, the star forward for Chivas USA, he will not make the trip. Galindo, who played for the Sounders in 2005-06 following his defection from Cuba, is out six more weeks following hernia surgery.
Tickets for Tuesday’s game are $17 in advance and $20 on the day of game. Seattle hosts Montreal in a USL match Saturday at 8.
Should the Sounders prevail, next up is either Carolina (USL 1) or Kansas City (MLS). That quarterfinal match would be July 8 at Qwest Field.
Can someone explain why it was necessary for the likes of the USA and Mexico to play the recent CONCACAF quarterfinal stage of World Cup qualifying?
All that rigorous U.S. preparation of playing England, Spain and Argentina, only to be followed by beating Barbados in a canter. Mexico warmed-up with Peru and Argentina, then blew apart Belize.
A team known as Bye might have had a better chance of getting past the region’s two superpowers. As it was, the Barbadian players, many of them amateurs, were humiliated by the record-setting 8-0 rout in the first leg. Bob Bradley used a B team in the second leg in Bridgetown, negating any chance of a moral victory for Barbados.
Given the number of MLS players who were called up and away from their clubs for two weekends, this round made for lots of losers. [NOTE: The Belizean federation did win big by hosting its home leg in Houston, thereby getting a gate of 50,000, albeit pro-Mexico, fans.]
Call it arrogance, mercy or just plain common sense, but CONCACAF should strongly consider giving the USA and Mexico a free pass to the semifinals of 2014 World Cup qualifying. It’s for the good of the game.
Turn On, Tune In
Imagine five–count ‘em, five!–hours of solid soccer on a major American network. Must be pretty special, right?
Sunday on ABC there is such a veritable marathon. Beginning at 9 a.m., it’s Becks, Landon and the L.A. Galaxy at D.C. United, followed by the Germany-Spain Euro final at 11:30.
The former features the top three goal scorers in MLS (Donovan, Edson Buddle and Emilio). The latter is the biggest match this side of a World Cup final. Let’s just hope the weather in Vienna improves to allow for proper footing (and viewing).
Please, afterward, can someone convince Andy Gray to stay here indefinitely? He’s such a breath of fresh air in the booth and he’s the rare Scotsman, not requiring subtitles or a translator for the audience to comprehend.
For the Sounders faithful with expanded cable, join Brian Schmetzer in watching HDNet Saturday (7:30 p.m.) as he scouts Chivas USA against the Red Bulls.
On Friday night (5 p.m.), Coach Schmetzer’s TV will be tuned to Fox Soccer Channel. Our neighbors to the south, the Portland Timbers, visit Carolina, as do the Sounders on July 3. The Saturday MLS fare on FSC is Colorado at Columbus (4:30).
Washington alum and Richland native Hope Solo is good to go for the Beijing Olympics, and there’s an enlightening feature on her difficult past year in Sports Illustrated this week…Another young woman with local ties, Washington State’s Kiersten Dallstream, starts for the U.S. team bound for the U20 World Cup, to be held later this fall in Chile…The Sounders women host Vancouver on Monday night at 7…It seems like the English season just finished and already the summer vacation is winding down. Former Sounder and Seattle Pacific keeper Marcus Hahnemann is back home here, recovering from an operation to remove 14 pins from his hand. Those pins were used in a surgery a year ago to repair bones fractured by Hahnemann in the final EPL game of 2006-07. His club, relegated Reading, opens preseason training July 3…Those of you experienced in voting all things soccer should weigh-in on the MLS All-Star selections. Online balloting ends Wednesday, July 2, at MLSnet.com…Ecuador’s LDU are halfway home to the Copa Libertadores title, having beaten Fluminense, 4-2, in the first leg. The decisive second leg for South America’s club championship is Wednesday in Rio…More than 10,000 Spanish fans have signed a common pledge to shave their heads if Spain prevails Sunday against Germany. Barcelona meets Buhner Buzzcut Night.