Friday, February 22, 2008

A Blog about Soccer Blogs & Blowhards


I recently discoverd that the Baltimore Sun has a soccer blog by Wes Harvey (pictured left). It's called Alive and Kicking and it's not bad. Now if only the Sun would deign to cover soccer not just online but in print - and I'm talking about real soccer/football here - not that gimmicky indoor soccer nonsense the Blast play (indoor soccer was invented to make the beautiful game palatable for Americans by trading in everything that makes the game great - creating space, using tactics like overlapping runs and free/corner kicks, running great lengths for long periods that test an athelete's stamina, skillful passing and trapping - all for the score sheet's bottom line of goals.) Hey, here's a thought...maybe the Sun could arrest their sagging sales (though the hike from 50 to 75 cents a paper didn't help) by covering a sport Baltimore's ever-growing Hispanic populace might read about. Apparently Lamont "Wes" Harvey is a Sun graphic designer who just happens to know about soccer (God forbid the Sun should hire a full-time soccer reporter like the Washington Post). But I'm pulling for Wes to get a regular print byline sometime soon.

And now on to a discussion of blowhards (both good and bad), namely the soccer announcers on Fox Soccer Channel and GOL TV.


Over at Fox Soccer Channel, things are starting to get really bad. My pet peeves? First off, they've started adding annoying pop-ups and text scrolls hyping new shows during match broadcasts. But it gets worse. Namely, for some reason Max Bretos seems to be incredibly popular at the channel (he's getting more and more hosting assignments), even though this megalomaniac is guilty of blatant "homerism" anytime the USA plays a match and comes off as a complete idiot if you bother to listen to what he's actually saying. And he's a complete Company Man at Fox, where he can regularly be seen shilling for Fox Soccer Channel anniversary specials and the like.

Formerly banished to covering South America's inferior domestic leagues (there's a good reason why the European soccer leagues are bursting at the seams with Brazilian and Argentine players - they all left the bush leagues to play in the Big Show), he once hosted the Argentina League show, which was the most bizarre of all the international soccer roundup shows on Fox; it was unlike any other highlights review program and was totally devoid of play-by-play professionalism as lazy boy Max used the highlight reels to make groan-inducing quips and wince-worthy puns, often bordering on racism (like the time he commented on an Argentine striker's goal by saying, in Frito Bandito voice, "I haff somedink for yooooo!")

Worse still is his tendency to accentuate rolled R's whenever he enunciates Spanish words, trying to come off as a master linquist like those annoyingly overeducated National Public Radio types who make a big show of properly accenting "Nica-ragua"). A total know-nothing who has trouble walking by a mirror without stopping. But for some reason, boorish Bretos is in favor at Fox now; having served his time in the soccer bush leagues, the FSC brass have brought him home to roost.

Mitigating Max Factor: Max sometimes calls games with former player Chris Sullivan who, though not as foppishly articulate as the superslick Maxster, actually knows the game and makes intelligent points. Bad hair, though.

For more Max-basing, check out this rant from the MLS Underground blog.


And speaking of over-confident Fox Soccer Channel gits in love with themselves, equally annoying is Scottish mumblecore blowhard Bobby McMahon. When you can understand his Willie the Groundskeeper broque at all, the FSC analyst is prone to such smug inanities as "Eef yee lookit duh Spunish Preemeer leek dis year, its hyard to oonerstan jus whyee Reel Madreet are tup oof da taybor; Aym jus waytin fur dem tee bee shoon up!" Um, maybe they're top of the table Bobby because they're the class of the division and one of the most exciting and star-studded teams in the world. And who exactly is going to "find Real Madrid out"? Barcelona sucks this year and relies too much on Lionel Messi to save them while Ronaldinho recovers from injury/burnout and Thierry Henry is still trying to find his place in the flow of the team. My God, Real puts up 7-0 thrashings of opponents while Barca continues to have listless 0-0 draws with nobodies (goal scoring has been a real problem for them - and with that payroll I'd be expecting LOTS of goals!) and Villencia, Sevilla and even the Villareal's Yellow Submarine have pulled disappearing acts that have seen the drop from serious contention (unlike last year when La Liga was the most exciting - and hotly contested, the title coming down to the final weekend - league in the world).


Meanwhile, over at GOL TV, I can only listen to games (re)announced by the winning team of play-by-play straight man Phil Schoen and the insanely colorful color man Ray Hudson. (GOL TV originates in Florida, where for the most part they dub commentary over taped games from Europe - especially Spain's Primera Division (La Liga) - and South America.)

Some people hate Ray Hudson, but I love him. My girlfriend doesn't care much for soccer (or The Three Stooges, but that's a different matter!), but whenever she hears Ray Hudson's voice she starts laughing ("It's that crazy guy again!") and stops to watch. Ray Hudson, thank you; you made a non-believer believe!

Sure, he's often (most often, I'd say) full of hyperbole and enough hot air to fill a Bio-dome, but no one's as passionate or prosaic as this lone poet of football commentary. His stock adjectives are "heavenly" ("That was a heavenly ball, Phil!"), "magical" ("Messi's goal was magical, Phil!"), and "warrior" ("Ah, Phil, these Galacticos are warriors, man!") and anytime a striker gets a ball in the box he'll scream "He's in, Phil, he's in!!!"

And his love or certain marquee players- especially Brazilians like Ronaldinho ("Ronny") and "Little" Robinho and Argentines like "Little Lionel" Messi and Juan Roman Riquelme - is so obvious you wonder if he dreams of spending time with them in a public bath house.

Ray's cult is so pervasive that there's even a new blog dedicated to his amusing utterances, Hudsonia: The Wisdom of Ray Hudson. The blog's mission statement says it all:
Ray Hudson is a football/soccer commentator for GolTV with a unique ability to coin phrases that defy both logic and belief. This blog is inspired by the awesome enthusiasm he brings to the game and his quest to 'invent a new language in English'.

In addition to transcribing Ray's words from each week's La Liga game, Hudsonia also features audio clips of the mouth that roared. I came across this site thanks to another blog, Who Ate All the Pies. Poster Ollie Irish had perhaps the best-ever oxymoronic description of Hudson's humorous hubris when he called it "brilliant nonsense." Here's his full description:
Hudsonia is a newish blog dedicated to the wit and wisdom (more of the former and not a lot of the latter, to be honest) of Ray Hudson, cult co-commentator for GolTV. We've featured Ray a couple of times on Pies and it's no surprise that he now has his own dedicated forum. Here's a wonderful Hudson stream-of-consciousness pearl (a HudsonBall?) to tempt you over to Hudsonia:

'Said keep your eye on him, I've always loved him, man, as a player. Said, such a bread-and-butter man but what a warrior. The ball gets fed back to him, and it's a gangster goal. And here Poulsen is Al Capone. It's a great, rifled machine gun hit ...'

Nonsense, but what brilliant nonsense.

Hudson is a former player and MLS coach but his greatest achievement is that big motoring mouth of his. When he took over at D.C. United in 2002, he explained his excitable loqaciousness thusly to the Washington Post: "It's in me blood. I have very deep passions for this game and for my players. I'll let the whole world know how I feel, no holding back."

Hence he is wont to describe a goal celebration as "Robinho had an orgasm after that goal!" and throw out other bon mots such as:

"I'm higher than a hippie at Woodstock"

"He's as competitive as a hungry tiger, yet he's got the sensibility of a village priest."

"He looked like Sophia Loren walking up a flight of stairs - absolutely beautiful."

"They've just cut their own throats today and Real Madrid are just playing in their blood."

"You can hear a drop of salsa hitting a chimichanga in that Valladolid locker-room."

"Brilliant run. Timing to perfection. Swivels his hips like Marilyn Monroe as he puts it in..."

"Thierry's off to the races and that is time-warp pace. He actually folds space, Einstein-like, Thierry. And he doesn't miss these ones. And he says 'I'll buy you my dance tonight, my son.'"

"Plays it in front of him, and Bojan could put that away balancing a bottle of Newcastle Brown Ale on his head..."

"They've got more crazy rules than Blockbuster video these referees with the offside rule these days, Phil."

"There’s more flair in this team, in this club, than a nineteen-seventies high-school reunion."

"This is a cabaret goal, again. And he’s Liza Minnelli."

"Look at that! He's a defender but he's like a fish up a tree with that finish!"

"The ball’s trapped in between Raúl’s legs. Keita doesn’t matter what ball he kicks, he’s gonna get something."

"It doesn't matter if it hits him in the face, you've got to forget that, Phil. It's Hilbert, he's not a good-looking lad in the first place..."

Want to hear Ray? Just check out YouTube. Be forewarned, he has a thick Geordie accent, but it's been watered-down somewhat by his time Stateside. Here's a sample clip called Ray Hudson - Greatest Soccer Commentator Ever


Compare him to that Hispanic guy on GOL TV (Rafa something - Unsein?) who is the worst color commentator in world soccer. I wish I knew his name. He covers some games with Phil Schoen and while I know it's tough for a native Spanish speaker to sound eloquent when English isn’t your first language, it doesn't excuse the fact that he's slow, inarticulate, uninformative and often silent (someone should remind him that he's getting paid to comment on, not just watch, the games) and quite often stops and sputters like a broke-down bus.

"' a...good goal..."

Not exactly Sparkle Plenty or Mr. Excitement.

Oh, the horror. GOL TV, do yourself a favor and get him off the air!


Anonymous Youth Soccer Drills said...

I know Ray Hudson from the tv show and I totally agree when you say that he has a unique ability to coin phrases that defy both logic and belief. I don't agree with him every time but I respect.

11:17 AM  
Anonymous Bert the Soccer Coach said...

Bretos really does leave me with a bad taste in my mouth at times. Especially when it comes to his "yeeeeaaaaah" call. I find myself hoping that nobody scores when he is broadcasting. With that said, I do like his passion for the game and for his country!

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