Those who tuned into SportsCenter throughout Monday were treated to a useless and awkward preview of Team USA’s first World Cup match against North Korea. While ESPN is pouring similar resources into the Women’s World Cup as they did for South Africa 2010, this event has a serious lack of juice . The 22-day tournament isn’t capable of giving me a goose pimple on my pinky. But, I was given some nausea as I watched Bob Ley, Brandi Chastain and Tony DiCicco provide this 160-second dose of nonsense from Germany…
Ley is a pro. I’m rarely ever critical of him. He’s typically smooth, well spoken, knowledgeable and prepared. He is, without a doubt, a top shelf host, especially during events like the World Cup that require a point guard who is well rounded and good at storytelling. However, it’s quite clear that he’d rather be rolling strikes and downing a few cold ones at some seedy bowling alley than be swapping soccer stories with Chastain and DiCicco. I thought the way Ley introduced the two analysts was a little phony. His excitement just didn’t come across as all that natural when he belted, “1999! We all remember that day at the Rose Bowl.” Did he really believe what he said? No, he didn’t, but I did appreciate his effort. I can’t be too hard on him for not sounding genuinely enthused. Hosting a Women’s World Cup isn’t something that’s on the wish lists of America’s premier sports broadcasters, which, make no mistake, Ley is. If the Worldwide Leader had gotten the rights to the Olympics, he’d do for ESPN what Bob Costas does for NBC.
As for Chastain and DiCicco, they were chock full of clichés. I cringed when Chastain declared, “the most important thing for a team to win a world cup is togetherness.” Great insight! Clearly, the Bristol bosses only hired her because she ripped off her jersey after scoring the cup-clinching goal in 1999. On that note, how many times is ESPN going to show the highlight of Chastain’s “liberation” of women athletes during this World Cup? It’s a fine moment, but I don’t need to see it or have it mentioned every time Chastain is in the mix. Sure, she’s recognizable, but she didn’t show me that she could be a quality analyst. Keep an eye on her during these next two weeks, her future as a soccer analyst may swerve off the highway, flip over the divide and smash into a tree.
DiCicco had nice energy, a fantastic tan, a sharp gold watch and seemed like a great guy to have a slice of Sicilian pizza with, but, other than that, he was weak. Like Chastain, he didn’t provide useful analysis. According to DiCicco, Team USA has to take it “one game at a time and North Korea isn’t going to be easy, they’re young.” If I were his producer, I’d ask him to try and give the viewers something more than the triteness he displayed throughout the segment.
ESPN’s coverage of the USA North Korea match starts at 11:45 AM ET and will air on ESPN and ESPN3. I don’t know about you, but I won’t be tuning in. I don’t like women’s soccer, I don’t like hollow analysts and I don’t like that tame sports bra Chastain was donning when she netted that goal in ’99.