Posted: Thursday July 20, 2006 8:38PM; Updated: Friday July 21, 2006 10:42AM
What he'll find when he looks at both will make him pleased. Harkes was terrific throughout the Cup: well-prepared and measured in his commentary. He and J.P. Dellacamera (also very good in Germany) found instant chemistry as a team. Initially I thought that Wynalda was merely a cocky pretty boy looking to make a name for himself. He started the tournament draped in a red-white-and-blue broadcasting cape, declaring, among other things, that Kasey Keller was the best keeper in the world. (It's safe to assume Gigi Buffon ended that debate.)
But, and I'm happy to write it, I was wrong on Wynalda. As the tournament went on, his commentary continued to have bluster and bite (see: Arena, Bruce), but it came from a place of strength. Unlike Balboa, Wynalda had a command of the teams that casual American viewers had probably never seen until that day's games. "Eric has the ability to enlighten you and agitate you," Scanlan said. "I thought he was electric."
Heading forward, Scanlan said, it is likely that ESPN will call every game from South Africa in '10 as opposed to calling some games from its studios in Bristol. Good move. "As expensive as that is, having your talent there adds to the lure," Scanlan said. ESPN will also commit to extended coverage of the national anthems. (Bravo to that.) One other suggestion: Tone down the U.S.-centric conversation and overpromotion during games not involving the U.S. team.
ESPN has a lot of money at stake in the sport, and decision-makers such as Scanlan and John Skipper, ESPN executive vice president of content, are hard-core world soccer fans. That's good news for viewers, even those who disagree with the announcer selections. The final between France and Italy attracted 16.9 million viewers between ABC (11.9 million) and Univision (five million), the top show on television for its week. "Even after the U.S. was eliminated," Scanlan said, "fans were not turning away."
Time Is on His Side
Turner Sports president David Levy said he's in no rush to name the announcing teams that will call next year's Division Series games on TBS and the 26 Sunday-afternoon regular-season national broadcasts that TBS will air, starting in 2008. "I have time, which is a good thing," Levy said. "We don't start the playoff package until 2007. I want to look into the marketplace and see what's available." When pressed on specific names -- I asked Levy how he would feel about going after an icon such as Vin Scully -- he would not budge. "I'm not going to comment on the talent that I'm going to bring in or not," he said. "I'm going to produce the best baseball broadcast of postseason baseball. And the talent that I bring in will match the production." (Asked if the current Braves announcers -- Skip Carey, Pete Van Wieren, Don Sutton, Joe Simpson and Chip Caray -- can play to a national audience, Levy was succinct: "They do now," he said.)
Levy said TBS has yet to decide whether it will create a baseball studio show to augment its new programming. He has interest in the open League Championship Series, but only at the right price. "We have interest in the LCS, but it's very simple: Can I get a financial model to work?" Levy said. "I've stated I'm interested in postseason baseball and you know we're already in postseason baseball. To add to that would be terrific."
During TNT's coverage of the British Open this week, Mike Tirico filled in for Ernie Johnson, who is undergoing treatment for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Johnson, an Emmy Award winner in his 16th year with TNT, has no set return date at this time. "He's part of our family and always has been," Levy said. "Whatever will work for Ernie will work for me. I told him he can take as much time off as he'd like. His health comes first. His job is always open when he comes back."
CBS announced this week that Pat O'Brien, currently fronting the entertainment show The Insider, has been tapped to host the U.S. Open Late Night Show. Forget all of O'Brien's personal travails or the fact that his hipster Hollywood shtick went out about the time Bill Tilden hung up his racket. Imagine the reaction among football fans if CBS named Billy Bush to host TheNFL Today. Yes, O'Brien served as an Open host back when Jimbo and Johnny Mac were slugging it out, and he's definitely got a killer résumé when it comes to sports. (He also remains tight with a number of CBS Sports executives.) But he's not exactly an insider these days when it comes to the world of Roger Federer. Here's hoping he knows his Aravane Rezai from his Alina Jidkova. Tennis fans deserve as much.