overthinking the idiot box

November 14, 2005

Everything you ever wanted to know about sports on TV.

At The Buzzer
MLS Cup 2005: Frustratingly Enjoyable
The LA Galaxy and New England Revolution tried their best to bore Alan and his friends, but to no avail.
by Alan Bloom


Not the most exciting of champions.
Soccer's fan base in America is admittedly smaller than the NFL, NBA, and Major League Baseball, but there is a solid foundation of support. However, concluding its tenth season today (Sunday, November 13, 2005), Major League Soccer's (MLS) penultimate contest between the Los Angeles Galaxy and New England Revolution did little to promote the beautiful game and foster any growth in popularity. Critics will point to LA's 1-0 overtime victory, though thrilling when the goal was scored, as an exercise in futility. And still more critics have no idea that the game even took place. Despite having the championship game broadcast live on ABC, MLS does not typically generate a large viewing audience -- especially when in direct competition with American football. But fans of the world's futbol who reside in the States will watch it whenever they have the chance. This is the Final, after all. I'm a futbol fan and so are the guys I invited over to watch the game.

A summary of the MLS Cup 2005 viewing experience as witnessed by Adam (Sorry ladies, he's engaged), Trumbot (That's right ladies! Boy can bust a beat like the shit was out of flavor), and yours truly.

Pre-game. ABC kindly takes fifteen minutes to clue the rest of the country (a.k.a people who haven't been following MLS this season) into who the squads are and which players to pay attention to. Spotlighted are the United States' best player, LA's Landon Donovan, and this year's MLS Most Valuable Player, New England's Taylor Twellman. That's actually a pretty attractive matchup for soccer fans and, as has been noted about a million times during this pre-game, today's game is a rematch of the 2002 contest won by LA, 1-0 in overtime. I remember watching that game, an exciting one at that, though I hope the '05 edition provides a little more goal scoring. As a soccer fanatic in the States, I always get a little nervous when the sport is given the national spotlight as I hope that it provides enough entertainment to sway some marginal fans into supporting the it. Soccer haters in the US, on the other hand, are a lost cause and shouldn't be given a second thought. To the casual observer, soccer is no less "dull" than baseball or the dreaded bore that is golf. So I urge everyone to write these stubborn fools off.

Yeah, they were giggling at him and how unapologetically boisterous he sounded, reacting to each goal of the 1-1 draw. Then again, Americans can hardly be faulted for being bigger than life. It's our way.
I like J.P. Dellacamera on the call. He possesses a smooth, even voice that endears itself to American ears while satisfying the lofty standards of European transplants who are accustomed to a higher level of soccer commentary. I think I find Dellacamera so enjoyable primarily because he's a "soccer guy." He understands the game and it's nuances. The level of excitement in his reactions to what is happening on the field is always appropriate and never over-the-top, much like most every English commentator of repute. I wish the same could be said of every American soccer announcer. Fox Soccer Channel's Max Bretos is a personality that I find grating at times. It cannot be said that Bretos is not passionate – he has flair in spades – but his call is akin to a bantering jack in the box. I don't feel I'm alone in thinking that and was rather encouraged by the reaction of the studio anchors from England's Sky Sports News (The other side of the Atlantic's answer to SportsCenter) had to Bretos' call in the United States national team's exhibition match versus Scotland last Saturday. Yeah, they were giggling at him and how unapologetically boisterous he sounded, reacting to each goal of the 1-1 draw. Then again, Americans can hardly be faulted for being bigger than life. It's our way.

First Half, 1st – 30th minute: Man, this is a championship game? I'd like to think that nerves ruled the first half given the uninspired play of both sides. Everyone is in agreement that the Galaxy appears to be outplaying New England, but they appear to be doing so without any sort of apparent plan of attack. This, of course, leads the three of us into a discussion of how much Steve Sampson blows as a coach.

Minute 35: Our 24" half green peppers, half pineapple pizza just arrived. Sucker is huge. A little Killian's Irish Red will help to wash that down (thanks Adam!).

Halftime: Woof. That first half was a dog. Now for a fun, happy, peppy halftime performance live from the sight of the game, Pizza Hut Park (ugh, I know…) in Dallas by… Click 5? Who the hell are they? I don't even care. The boys and I are in agreement that the Minnesota Vikings/New York Giants game is a far better viewing option.

Second Half, 46th-80th minute: Would someone please tell these teams that a championship is at stake here?! There is no urgency on either side. It hurts to watch. To ease our pain we all have a glass of… Sparkling Apple Cider? Uh, okay. Cool. Thanks, Trumbot. Just dudes being dudes, I guess.

81st – 90th minute: Wow, someone from the LA bench must have shouted out some instruction to the Galaxy players because all of a sudden they're creating chances with regularity. However, LA is squandering some stunning opportunities. Herculez chips a break away shot over the goal. Donovan has a wide-open gift of a shot cleared off the line by a defender. The three of us are yelling our heads as LA goes begging for a goal. We're all fired up and agitated, but I think happily so. There's been little to cheer about up until now. We're just thankful for the injection of life that this game so badly needed.

Ninety-plus minutes have run up and we're still deadlocked at zero. The clutching, jerky pace of the game is reflected on the referee's naughty list. A staggering ten yellow cards have been issued. What the hell am I watching here? Roller Derby?

Overtime, 107th minute: Pando! Guatemalan midfielder Pando Ramirez breaks the scoreless tie with a cracking rebound shot off of a corner. High fives and yelling all around. There is much merriment in my living room at this moment.

Overtime, final minutes leading up to the 120th: The game has slowed to a standstill as Los Angeles waits for the final whistle to blow. New England had one – and only one – real scoring chance, but could never muster a formidable attack. The game ends and the Galaxy rush the field. Strangely enough, my comrades and I aren't all that elated. Sure, our team won, but there is a definite feeling of, "God, it's finally over. Took long enough!" Nevertheless, we're content with the Galaxy's triumph and now focus our attention to next summer World Cup in Germany, where Team USA looks to prove the quarterfinal finish from 2002 was anything but a fluke.


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