Hello, Hot Time in Old Town readers, it's your friendly soccer literature "expert" checking in with a mini-review. The next book review is on a 1000 page behemoth, so as an appetizer, I tracked down a MLS-centric academic paper and wrote a short, casual review on it. Join me!
With "Transforming Soccer Talk in the United States: The Misapplication of a Formulaic Announcing Methodology", what the author - Aaron DeNu - proposes is that every sport deserves a different commentating format. What works for gridiron football shouldn't work for soccer since the two sports are so dissimilar. American television tries to make it work, though, and DeNu gives the example of a panel of statistics being pulled up on the screen during a NYRB-Sounders game with the overall view of the game panned out. As the two commentators chattered away about Drew Carey, the first goal was both visually and verbally missed. In comparison, according to the article, there is an enjoyable ebb and flow to the commentary for Premier League games (I would assume he means on BBC and SkySports etc, though it wasn't specified). Not every single play is announced and the occasional silence gives room for ambient crowd noise.
Keep in mind that the format of commentary differs from the content. The majority of the time, I don't listen to commentary because of the content, but I'm perfectly fine with the two commentator format (play-by-play and "color" commentator). The other portion of the thesis states that the format also doesn't work, which I disagree with, because it's completely functional within the PL. It's also contradictory on an article level. What would have been more appropriate than the speech genre theory DeNu used is linguistic theory. What are the commentators saying in the different leagues? How are they phrasing it and what words are they using? What aspects of the game are they focusing on? How can US broadcasters change the terminology/content/people involved so that the commentary given more accurately reflects the sport as well as the league? These are my own questions, but I have never met a soccer fan who is satisfied with all commentary.
It was a good, solid paper, but it's even better for provoking conversation. What's covered in commentary in different languages? Complaints - or compliments - on MLS commentary? Is Ray Hudson such a popular commentator because he's free-flowing, elaborate at times/simple at other times, and poetic - much like the game? ...How great is Ray Hudson? Any especially bad commentators that come to mind?
I spoke with one of my friends who is a hockey fan and she says that the style of commentary changes drastically, though on a national level they tend to do more play-by-play, game-oriented calls while on a local level, there are more stories and local color. Overall, she doesn't seem too disappointed with the commentary, so maybe hockey is one sport that has it figured out.