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Day Three: EN VIVO!!!

August 11, 2010

For a brief spell before I decided to pursue teaching, I worked at a local television station as a specialist selling ads on the Spanish-language, Mexico-based TV Azteca affiliate.  My main focus was the Mexican Premier League to the caucasian business owners of the San Joaquin Valley.  Overall, it was an unfulfilling and unsuccessful venture (Taking the job at the onset of the economic downturn in a real estate-based local economy didn’t help, either).  During my time, I was able to take in a good number of Spanish-language broadcasts.  I was taken aback at how different the productions were from what the American viewer is accustomed to.

Tonight provided an opportunity to take in an America-based sporting event that I would otherwise watch on the ESPN Cartel.  I wanted to make note of the differences in presentation as well as observe the revised U.S. National Team line-up against a revamped Brazil squad.  (All times Pacific standard time)

4:55pm – Coverage starts at 5 minutes before the top of the hour; Univision is the Bizarro 1990s TBS schedule.  I still remember tuning in to see WCW Saturday night starting at 6:05 and wondering what the hell Family Matters had to do with the feud between Sting and the Four Horsemen…

5:02pm – Brasilian star Kaka was featured in a Gatorade spot with Lionel Messi.  That’s about all the facetime he’ll get tonight.  Kaka fell victim to the Madden curse when he was announced to appear on the cover of FIFA ‘11, then went down with a torn meniscus he apparently played through during the World Cup.

5:04pm – Crowd still looks thin above the lower bowl.  You’d figure there’d be more enthusiasm for this event with both the attention during the World Cup, combined with the novelty of being the first big sporting event to be held at New Meadowlands Stadium. (EDIT – Announced crowd: 77,223)

5:07pm – Anthem time.  It’s a sparse night for friendlies, but one of the other notable contests saw Ivory Coast subdue Italy 1-0.

5:10pm – The crowd that did make it into their seats on time is pumped.  Since the end of the World Cup, when was the last time you heard a crowd with this kind of anticipation right before an event?  No, Lollapalooza doesn’t count…

5:14pm – It’s Brazil’s first game with a new coach, and it shows as the U.S. midfield nearly capitalized on some sloppy defending just 2 minutes in.  Feilhaber follows up with an attempt on goal off the corner that sails high.

5:16pm – The MAJOR feature of New Meadowlands Stadium that is going to stand out when watching games is the low video strip that hangs directly across from the midfield camera position.  I kid you not when I say that it can’t be more than 10 feet off the ground.  When play is high along the far sideline, it is extremely distracting.  Think it was planned that way?

5:20pm – Gonzales nearly concedes a lazy goal on defense; the Brazilian midfield connects on a 40-yard pass to the striker, the shot trickled wide of Howard and the near post.

5:22pm – Landon Donovan looks SHARP; the American offensive is clicking well on one-touch passing so far.

5:24pm – Something I’ll touch upon in a later post is a feature that I’m glad Univision does NOT feature during this broadcast: a lower-screen crawl.  In fact, their graphics in-game are notably sparse.  Clock, score & thin ad in the top left, transparent network logo in the lower right.  THAT’S IT.

5:26pm – Even the sod at this place looks new.  The grass has been rolled but it doesn’t look like they’ve had time to even it out.  The patchwork of new grass looks like a green lacquer hardwood at the ends of the Michigan State home court.

5:35pm – The last ten minutes have been an eerie recall of the U.S. performance in the World Cup: solid offense, spotty defense.

5:40pm – I’m not alone in my preference of the Spanish-language networks for major soccer contests.  I don’t miss the inane side stories for the “casual fan” or the constant plugging of other events.  It’s 25 minutes in and the only promo they’ve put on-screen was for the Mexico/Spain contest tomorrow, and that’s because it’s RELEVANT TO MY SPECIFIC INTEREST as a viewer of this game.  I’d hate how they’d try to push the NBA Finals during the college hockey post-season.

5:41pm – U.S. defense sieves it up again; Brazil with the header by Neymar off the cross past Howard.  There’s the samba, there’s the GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL.  USA 0 -1 BRA

5:43pm – GOOOOOOOOOOL…..then NOOOOOOOOOO!  WHAT just happened?!  I’ve never seen a ref go THAT long before calling a non-goal, then allowing the goalie to kick it off.  Good thing this is a friendly…  Granted, the Brazil striker pretty much FLATTENED Howard before the ball rolled across the line.  Put it to you this way: if that was a play at the plate, Brazil would be safe.

5:49pm – Oguchi Onyewu didn’t start and I’m not sure if he’s on the bench from this one, likely recuperating from knee problems that hampered his World Cup performance.  Hey high school kids!  Instead of getting another concussion trying to earn a spot as the fifth-string special teams blocker in the Arena League, you could train to be a starting defender for the U.S. Men’s National Team in 2014.

5:55pm – Another former broadcaster’s nitpick about this game’s production: the natural crowd sound is ALWAYS prominent, never drowned out by the broadcasters.  I understand that it had to be done at times during the World Cup because of the vuvuzuelas, but I always felt as a play-by-play guy that the crowd does a much better job at telling the story of a game that the announcer did.

5:57pm – GOOOOOOOOOOOOL….right before halftime.  Another Brasilian striker unmarked on the far side makes mincemeat out of Howard.  Bocanegra spent more time raising his arm trying to draw an offsides call than chasing the play.

5:59pm – HALFTIME draws a share of boos from the American crowd…I’d agree if this wasn’t a truly meaningless friendly with few implications for the future. (EDIT – Final score Brazil 2, U.S. 0)

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