April 14, 2010
By Michael Lewis
DEFENDING THE DECISION
ESPN EVP Skinner on why Dellacamera isn't doing TV at the World Cup
NEW YORK -- When the United States takes on England in the much anticipated opening-round encounter at the World Cup in South Africa June 12, the man handling play-by-play chores will have a distinct English accent.
|JP Dellacamera won't be seen, but heard during the World Cup from South Africa.
Legendary English announcer Martin Tyler is likely to be the leading man for the Group C clash while JP Dellacamera, regarded as the top American soccer announcer, won't. He has been relegated to the radio booth.
"JP who has done a terrific job for us, who we feel very good about and radio is important to us," ESPN executive vice president for content John Skipper said during a press gathering the Bryant Park Hotel Wednesday. "So we have JP and Tommy Smyth doing radio. They are both key guys for us. We're excited to have them in the booth."
Skinner, who attended the reception along with other ESPN officials to officially unveil their World Cup coverage, said there will be an American voice in the booth, probably former U.S. international and Red Bulls assistant coach John Harkes as a color announcer.
But why radio and not TV for Dellacamera, arguably the most respected American TV soccer announcer, especially a game that pitís the U.S. vs. England?
"Well, it's a load," Skinner said. "He's going to end up doing 60-plus games on the radio. Our sense was to keep him focused. We'll have our best possible radio broadcast. It is by no means intended as any judgment on his importance to us or how he has done. It's not."
Dellacamera, ESPN's MLS voice, is the veteran of six World Cups (five TV, one radio), four Women's World Cups and two Summer Olympics. He also was the No. 1 play-by-play man of MetroStars/Red Bulls games from 2000-2006 and currently holds that role with the Philadelphia Union.
He has forged a reputation as being a professional announcer who neither talks up or down to the viewer.
Dellacamera could not be reached for comment.
Last month Adrian Healey, Derek Rae and Ian Darke were named as the three other play-by-play announcers. They are all British.
Healey, who is English, worked the 2006 World Cup and 2007 Women's World Cup. He also has announced European Champions League, Serie A, La Liga and FA Cup broadcasts for the cable network.
Rae, who is Scottish, has announced the Champions League and other international games for ESPN since 1994.
Darke does Premier League matches on Sky Sports in England.
"The decision making process was to try to find world class announcers, the best guys we can get," Skinner said. "It is funny that we did not focus on the need to be from one place or to have a certain accent. We started with Martin Tyler, who we felt is the best in the world. If you look at the overall talent, the host and play-by-play, and analysts and sideline reporters, we have a real diversity of Latin, European, American. It turns out that our key play-by-play guys are very Anglo and we're aware of that. we feel that our viewers will respond and be fine.
"But there was no intention that 'Gee, we want to present a specific point of view or specific accent.' It turned out as we sort of built the group, that was the case."
This isnít the first time Dellacamera was moved out of the way in the World Cup. Four years ago, ESPN brought in baseball announcer Dave OíBrien to be the No. 1 play-by-play man for Germany 2006. It didnít work out as OíBrien was a soccer neophyte stumbling over facts.
That shouldnít happen at the World Cup level.
Martin Tyler and company wonít have that problem. But what does that say to the U.S. TV audience who will sure to tune in in June and July? That an announcer born and bred in the United States isnít good enough to work the World Cup?