I guess I understand why ESPN execs tapped rookie soccer announcer Dave O’Brien for the World Cup – they wanted someone they thought could appeal to the masses.While soccer fans surely would not approve, ESPN knew that if it just catered to the small but passionate soccer fan base, the potential for big ratings would suffer.
But it is viewers who now are suffering as the event hits the later rounds. O’Brien is clearly not up to the task and ESPN should replace him.His lack of an understanding of what is taking place in front of him, especially in crucial and fast-moving situations, is completely below ESPN’s standards.
There is no better example than O’Brien’s inability to realize a David Beckham freekick on Sunday went into the goal. His excruciating delay in realizing the ball was in would be like an announcer in the World Series waiting way too many seconds before realizing a home run cleared the fence, when every baseball fan watching knew it was gone.O’Brien’s delay actually made me second-guess my eyes after I knew the ball was in immediately and took away from my enjoyment of a wonderful sporting moment.
But that play doesn’t stand alone, as O’Brien continues to misinterpret plays, often blaming forwards for missing when in reality their shots have been blocked by a defender or a goalkeeper.It seems the game is moving too fast for him, and this is the world’s biggest stage, no place for on-the-job training.
O’Brien has been (justifiably) brutalized in the media and by soccer fans, so much so that he lashed out in a newspaper interview already. But it was ESPN who put O’Brien in this spot in the first place, and it should be ESPN who saves him from further damaging his reputation.
BY BEN GROSSMAN