Tuesday, April 15, 2008

ESPN: Where is Allen Hopkins?

Allen Hopkins used to give commentary and analysis for a wide range of matches on Fox Sports World before being recruited (affirmatively) by ESPN for the 2006 World Cup, where he has since enjoyed only a bit-part role. Instead of doing play-by-play, color, or analysis, he's relegated to the role of talking head, side-line reporting, gobbling up whatever players will give him ala Jim Gray.

Somehow Hopkins has been usurped on the pecking order by former player-jocks like Wynalda (who, Dioforce admits, have his own unique flair) or Harkes, dead-wood like Dellacamera, or the agelessness of Tommy Smythe. However, I believe I speak for most American soccer fans when I say that the novelty of the phrase "bulging the ol' onion bag" has long since worn off. So has my ability to ignore the poor analysis from a man whose vision must preclude him from seeing the game accurately. Often skewed, sometimes simply thoughtless, and usually trite analysis from these company men leave so many of us fans waiting for more.

Hopefully we won't have to wait too long.

With Hopkins, ESPN hired one of the best, young soccer match commentators in America.

The man can dissect games, and he's very perceptive about player form and the intricacy of so many deft touches that otherwise go unseen and, hence, unheard. Most importantly, he speaks with-out hyperbole, which is very rare in a broadcasting genre based largely on specious adjectives. The regrettable analysts currently on ESPN have the proclivity of prefacing every adjective with "..absolutely..", to call merely good touches "sensational", routine finishes "remarkable", and impressive, yet not incredible saves "absolutely amazing!"

Football is the thinking man's game; it's fans aren't stupid. We understand form. We understand the nuances. We don't need it spoon-fed. Certainly there is a need to attract more fans to the game here in America, but dumbing-down the analysis, or making the game production otherwise in any way similar to American football is certainly the wrong approach.

Get some intelligence in booth. Give the boy Hopkins a run-out. He's been warming up on the sidelines long enough, when he should be the first name on the team-sheet.

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