It seems that ESPN is holding conference calls on the World Cup every few days. This one was held last week. During the call, Jed Drake, executive producer of World Cup coverage, made news saying Martin Tyler would do play-by-play for the Championship game, but the analyst has yet to be announced. Here are highlights from the call.
ESPN 2010 FIFA World Cup Conference Call Replay with Executive Producer Jed Drake and Studio Analysts Steve McManaman and Alexi Lalas
On Thursday, June 24, ESPN conducted a media conference call with executive producer Jed Drake and studio analysts Steve McManaman and Alexi Lalas to discuss its coverage of the tournament (June 11 – July 11) and other 2010 FIFA World Cup storylines from South Africa. Select comments:
On what ESPN would do differently if given full production control (vs. world feed)…Drake: “I’m not sure that I would do anything differently. I think the world feed coverage that HBS has provided us here has been arguably the best world feed that I’ve ever seen. This is the same group that did 2006 and they brought in people who really understand the sport, that being their camera people and directors…Their primary responsibility is to document the event and that means that the special shots and storylines that are more towards individual styles has to be wiped off the slate. These guys do have to document the event and I really do believe they’ve done an exceptional job.”
On the U.S. performance in the World Cup and how the drama on the field has captured the American audience…Drake: “As Ian Darke (play-by-play announcer) said at the conclusion of Wednesday’s (U.S.) game, you wouldn’t dare write this script. It’s remarkable the level of drama in each match. The calls that have been made by officials have obviously heightened that…It’s the ultimate trail ride these guys are giving us. There hasn’t been an easy match, obviously. Yesterday I said, wouldn’t it be nice if we got out to a three goal lead in the first half and coast into this thing, but in hindsight, if you can stomach the drama it is the ultimate thrill ride.”
On the most compelling storylines from the World Cup…McManaman: “The fact that France is knocked out and Italy quickly followed. Four years ago these were the finalists. These were the best teams in the world. Yet four years later, they are effectively one of the poorest nations certainly futbol wise. Likewise, when you look at the teams like New Zealand – minnows in this competition – Australia – have all done themselves proud…The futbol nations are all getting a little bit closer and that’s fantastic to see. We’ve got wonderful players out there who are always going to be the best, but put them against a well organized, well-constructed team and they can get results. That’s a credit to the smaller nations.
Lalas: “Dominance of South America – in terms of what they’ve done here and how it relates often to the incredibly arduous qualification process they have…At a time when we’re questioning what it means to players and big players to play for their national team, South American teams have shown that not only have stars but represent country and play well…Literally the only European power that’s cruised is the Netherlands. All of the big boys have had trouble through the group phase including Spain, and we just saw what happened to Italy. Before the World Cup began we pointed out the possibility with European teams coming down with climate and doing really well, so that’s been a story, and to a certain extent, a surprise.”
On the selection of play-by-play announcers and analyst for each game…Drake: Martin (Tyler) is calling the final. We look at the matches that now become actual matches on the schedule as opposed to hypotheticals. As it relates to this weekend, when Germany qualified to the knockout round and ultimately then would play England, Martin and I had a chat about it and he really wanted to do the England game and we wanted him to do it. Ian (Darke) has done a tremendous job on the U.S. games, the two that he has done. Don’t forget Martin did a fantastic job on the first game…I’m going to lack humility for a second, our strategy with these announcers has really paid off and America has really warmed up to them.”
On a moment of pride as ESPN’s executive producer for the World Cup…
Drake: “I’m very proud of the entire team…I am really proud of the camaraderie and spirit. It’s an amazing group of people with different backgrounds, countries and cultures, by design. As a result, we’ve really bonded together as a team…I always say, the mark of a really great production is that you feel really empty when it is over. More and more now, I’m quite certain that I’m going to feel empty when this one is over. We are really enjoying what we’re doing and committed to it.”
And that’s it.