Monday, June 20, 2011
Those Guys Have All The Fun - Part III, Soccer Edition
The next mention of soccer in the book on ESPN's history is on page 373, well, actually the word "soccer" isn't even mentioned, but the 1998 World Cup is, so I'm counting it.
TV exec Geoff Mason related how ABC Sports and ESPN combined for coverage of the event.
It made no sense for us to ship a prouction team from ABC to Paris and to send another production team from ESPN there as well. As long as we weren't on U.S. soil, we could combine forces because the union issues wouldn't come to bear. So they put me in charge of building a team composed of the best that we could find from both ABC Sports and ESPN. I handpicked a group of people that I knew would get along, and we were laughing the whole time. It was great.
What I find interesting, soccer-wise, about that tidbit, was that 1998 was when the USA World Cup team famously imploded, playing badly amid a ton of disharmony. Only years later did it come out that the situation was exacerbated by former captain John Harkes sleeping with star forward Eric Wynalda's wife. ESPN apparently doesn't mind all that - Harkes is now one of their main soccer announcers, which would be easier to stomach if he was good at it. He's not.