Media go easy on USA soccer team

With the United States out of the World Cup after drawing record-setting TV viewership and generating all kinds of social media attention, maybe we can get back to some semblance of normalcy.

That’s not a knock against hard-core soccer supporters.

It’s just time for most sports media outlets besides ESPN, which has the tournament until its conclusion, to turn to the other things. It was a quite a bandwagon while it lasted.

In fairness, it was not a friendly bandwagon (soccer types can be kind of snooty), but it was interesting.

From a sports media perspective, a return to normalcy means the return of appropriate pronouns. Yes, pronouns.

With the U.S. out of the tournament, expect on-air types to ditch the cheerleading “we” and “us” treatment they utilized the past few weeks and get back to a more even-handed treatment of what they cover.

Even worse, what passed as analysis during the World Cup was often far from fair or balanced. As a fan, it’s great to drape yourself in the red, white and blue, but that’s just not the media’s job.

Plus, the language of soccer and the mixture of sports consistently sound wrong on radio and TV. That’s because the nation’s names, which are also the team names and/or nicknames, get mixed with references to groups of players as much as the team itself.

So, listeners and viewers get things like, “the United States were out of position” or “Argentina have played exceptionally.”

While almost all U.S. sports broadcasters use “they” or “their” in reference to a team when it should be “it,” the soccer broadcasts sometimes sound even more different. Or, if you prefer and want a positive spin, they sound distinct.

Soccer standouts

Throughout the tournament, ESPN has done a strong job on World Cup coverage.

There has been some silly hype – notably Jeremy Schaap using a hand-held laser thermometer to point out the sweltering weather conditions when the temperature was only 78. But there has also been good journalism, including Schaap asking appropriate, timely questions after the U.S. loss to Portugal.

ESPN host Bob Ley has been steady, and Landon Donovan, the former U.S. team standout who was cut just before the tournament, was honest and insightful during his segments before and after U.S. games.

In a separate interview, he also admitted he was bitter immediately after being cut. It was good stuff all around.

Tuner tidbits

n The Pocono Indycar 500 airs at 1 p.m. today on NBC Sports Network. It’s the second year in a row of open-wheel racing at the big tri-oval track after a 24-year hiatus. Scott Dixon won as the track last year in the series’ return to Pocono Raceway. Races had been conducted annually from 1971 to 1989.

n Football fans missing their sport might be able to get a small fix at 3 p.m. Saturday when ESPN2 features a CFL matchup between the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Toronto Argonauts. Former Pitt DL standout Greg Romeus starts for the Argos, and former Pitt QB Tino Sunseri plays a backup role for the Roughriders. It’s the second game presented by ESPN’s family of networks as part of an agreement announced about 10 days ago.

n One of the best, most meaningful days of sports-talk radio takes place July 16 as part of an expanded “ESPY Day Benefitting the V Foundation for Cancer Research.” An auction of sports experiences and items weaves through programs like “Mike & Mike” and “SVP and Rusillo” on ESPN Radio that day, and while many listeners cannot afford to bid on big-ticket items, the overarching message matters. Plus, each show inevitably airs the brief inspirational speech made by former N.C. State coach and ESPN analyst Jim Valvano. Just hearing that alone on a given day makes it a good day.

Sampsell may be contacted at with comments and story ideas.