Michael Bradley, writing for the National Sports Journalism Center at Indiana University, brings up an interesting point in praising the coverage. He writes:
With four games remaining (two semifinals, the third-place contest and the final), it’s virtually impossible for ESPN to mess this up. It will expand its pre-game coverage to a full hour, but it won’t ruin the games themselves. The great thing is that because the World Cup means so much to the nations involved, ESPN doesn’t have to manufacture hype, as it does in so many other instances. By letting the soccer stand alone, the hysteria is evident. The constant chanting and singing by the fans stands in stark contrast to so much of the manufactured excitement that characterizes other ESPN efforts, when it works hard to convince viewers that what they are watching is indeed important. Give ESPN credit for recognizing that soccer’s biggest tournament requires no artificial flavoring.
The question now is whether ESPN can apply what it has learned from the World Cup to its other broadcast properties. Can it understand that trying to make a regular-season NBA game into some sort of hardwood Armageddon is not only ludicrous but also irresponsible? Can it tone down its cross-promotional excess in its NFL broadcasts, the better to present the actual winning and losing as more important than the dramatic storylines it and the league want us to consume so hungrily?
The answer to both is probably no. ESPN has done a fabulous job with the World Cup, but it is a stand-alone, and Fox had better be ready to hit the upper 90 in four years when it takes over the telecasts. The standard has been set with this tournament, and ESPN has shown what it can do when it cares more about the competition and less about creating “compelling” storylines and manufacturing stars. This has been a great respite for fans, but there is less than a week remaining before the oasis evaporates.
And we go back to worrying about what LeBron James had for breakfast.
Coming soon to ESPN: LeBron breakfast cam.