Talking A Load Of Balls

I stayed up to the early hours of the morning to watch the MLS Play-Off match between the Seattle Sounders and Real Salt Lake (RSL). It was never my intention to do so but when the game kicked off I started to sense it was going to be a good match. RSL were three nil up after the first leg but were nervous in Seattle and they were playing deep, committing a lot of crude challenges and in turn the Sounders were attacking, going for it and were two up with twenty minutes to go. The Seattle fans were great but unfortunately the teams hard work was not enough to stop them from being eliminated 3-2 on aggregate. Surely with a game like that you can’t help but have good commentary right? Wrong!

Step forward Mr John Harkes (on the right), former US international now co-commentator for ESPN in America. The man just doesn’t shut up! He tells the obvious over and over again and only breaks that up with bad gaffes and utter nonsense. He never told me anything that I didn’t already know. I really couldn’t believe he was doing such a bad job. His colleague Adrian Healy was trying his best to keep the viewers entertained with actual facts.

In the first half a free kick was whipped into the box by Seattle, it was flicked on and at the back post striker Fredy Montero fired wide from close range. The insightful comment we got from Harkes was ‘You should always score those!’. What is the viewer learning from that comment? Nothing, fact is after the free-kick the flick on generated greater pace it missed the last defender and fell on a skiddy surface at pace to a surprised Montero. Could he have done better? Possibly but those were all factors that made the chance difficult to take, I have never played professionally but played football almost every week since I was six and instead of telling you a statement any laymen would come away with I have explained the factors that helped contribute to the miss surely what an ex-pro current co-commentator should be able to do.

Then after twenty-five minutes when Seattle had to make their second substitution because a player got injured after yet another heavy tackle we never got Harkes explaining that RSL might be implementing this rough strategy to knock their opponents off their game. Nor did we hear him say it was a risky strategy in terms of RSL sitting back and getting cards. He never went on to explain what these injuries meant to the Sounders tactics instead what we got from Harkes was ”If he could rewind & press play again he would do it’. He was talking about Seattle’s coach Sigi Schmid. The comment makes no sense, why would the coach want to see his two players get injured again and live through twenty minutes that offered no goals for his team?

At one moment he totally forgot who it was he was watching and at another point he couldn’t get a sentence out, it was beyond embarrassing. After the penalty he said ‘That wasn’t the best penalty!’. The guy scored the penalty which was low, straight down the middle and so hard the keeper couldn’t get down to it! If a penalty goes in then its a good penalty, you don’t get any extra goals for the shot being pretty or sending the keeper the wrong way.

Another favourite of mine was when John explained to the audience that ‘I think the keeper had that covered’. Eh John the keeper clearly!!! I mean clearly put it behind thats why we have a corner. He covered it, no need for thinking he might have it covered.

Both commentators were guilty of going very Hollywood when talking about Sounders keeper Kasey Keller. I must have heard the phrase ‘Keller playing for his career here’ at least ten times. Yes it was his last game and the guy is a fantastic professional and top keeper but he only needed to make one huge save. No need to go on and on when there is a great game being played. Mention it at the start of the match, when he made his save and then at the end. Plus have a wee tribute during the Full Time analysis. In fairness to the commentators the person editing the game would have been cutting to Keller a lot so they have to take the blame too.

Now Harkes didn’t get it all wrong, he spotted the wonderful pass by the impressive Montero for Sounders second goal and he also pointed out why Seattle had a goal disallowed after their forward clearly fouled the RSL keeper. But he was not good enough for the American public. It was fun and frustrating for me but I would be pulling my hair out if I were to hear him week in week out.

The role of the co-commentator is to give insightful comments that the viewer can learn from. Not to just speak constantly, its TV the viewers can see the pictures they do not need to be told things that are obvious and that they have already noticed themselves. I am not a huge fan of Ray Wilkins he seems to have one or five different catchphrases and he can be too friendly but you learn from him. He can tell you why a pass was made or what a coach might be thinking.

The job of co-commentator should never overshadow a great game and last night I seen a great advert for the MLS on the pitch but I heard so much nonsense that my viewing wasn’t as enjoyable as it should have been!

5 Responses to “Talking A Load Of Balls”

  1. “I would be pulling my hair out if I were to hear him week in week out.”

    I do have to hear him week in, week out, and it hurts my soul.

  2. I feel for you Kevin, I really do.

  3. His voice is annoying, too.

  4. Harkes is horrible! And a condescending prick to boot!

  5. Glad you finally understand what we are dealing with here in the US. Between Harkes and Wynalda, we have the two worst announcers/commentators/hosts anywhere in the world. Lalas used to be on that list, but he has gotten much better in the last 2 years.

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