Transcript of ESPN World Cup Media Conference Call with Taylor Twellman

FIFA-World-Cup-2014_Logo-espnTaylor Twellman, ESPN’s match and studio analyst for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, participated in a media conference call earlier today to discuss the month-long quadrennial tournament. Full details of 2014 FIFA World Cup on ESPN networks HERE.

A transcript of the conference call follows:

Q.         There has been a lot of discussion, we’re getting radio shows and phone calls about the whole notion of stoppage time, because there were five minutes added on, and the team had no idea how much time was really left in the game after Brooks scored.  Can you talk about how a player deals with that uncertainty and the excitement that comes when the guy walks out and holds up the knee on board to show how much extra time is going to be added, and whether the vagueness of it is fair?

TAYLOR TWELLMAN:  I don’t think there’s any problem with it whatsoever. I will say this:  Eight out of ten times, a player, you know, you’re involved in the game, so you don’t necessarily see when the sign is held up.  You don’t see the number.  You’re playing the game.  I mean, the game can be going on when the fourth official lets you know on that.

So I don’t think it’s that big of a deal, and I think the players deal with it as you go … You had Jozy Altidore’s injury and Clint Dempsey’s injury, and you had Matt Besler go down, and you had a couple challenges for Ghana. So it is what it is.  It’s part of the game, and I don’t think players think about it too much.

Q.  I know you’ve been calling the United States games, but I wonder if you’ve been able to pay any attention, or how much attention have you been able to pay to Costa Rica and their defense, and specifically the play of a guy like Giancarlo González?  Have you taken much note of what they have done as a team and what Giancarlo has been able to do?

TAYLOR TWELLMAN: Yeah, I think when you look at the first round of games, Costa Rica is, if not 1A the surprise of the tournament, 1B; the way they reacted going down early.

Giancarlo is very good.  I think he has been a great addition to the Columbus Crew.  But I think when you talk about Costa Rica and you are guy, that opening game, you have to marvel at how they broke, and they broke in transition very well against Uruguay.  They made Uruguay look extremely slow on the back.

Giancarlo González, the back four in Costa Rica did very well.  But I think what was very impressive to me was how anemic in the back Costa Rica made Uruguay seem, particularly in the second half.  Joel Campbell, obviously special player in the books at Arsenal, and they were very good and a surprise of this tournament, and I think they are going to have something to say about getting out of the group.

Q.  Could you give us a couple of the keys to the U.S. and Portugal match?  What does the United States have to do to be successful in that one?

TAYLOR TWELLMAN:  A couple things.  One, forget about the Ghana game.  You put so much into three and one-half (3½) years of preparation. You put so much into playing their nemesis in the last two World Cups, and there’s this sense of jubilation, and there’s this sense of yes, we have achieved three points.

But the real goal is to get out of the group and advance as far as you can.  As quickly as you celebrate it, it has to be even quicker that you forget it.  And I think that’s one … Two, the game is in Manaus.  We are going to see a game in a little bit here, Cameroon‑Croatia.  Manaus is very humid — very much like playing in July and August in Houston — and I think it’s going to be very interesting to see what kind of pace, what kind of tempo this game is played at.

The number one thing you cannot do against Portugal is when you lose possession is leave Cristiano Ronaldo open.  We saw in the UEFA playoff qualifier against Sweden, tactically they were very naïve, almost to a point where they looked like they didn’t even prepare. The three in the middle for Portugal, Moutinho, Veloso, Carvalho, Varela, William — it depends on who it is — but particularly Moutinho, will cause problems. Because immediately when that ball turns over, almost to a fault, they are looking for Cristiano Ronaldo.

Now, the question is:  How fit is Ronaldo?  Obviously he’s dealing with knee issues, leaving training almost consistently with an ice pack on his knee.  But if you control the counterattack immediately when that ball turns over, the United States will have a very good opportunity of getting a result.

Q.  Following up on Portugal on the Sunday match‑up, I’m just thinking about watching Spain go down two‑nil, because of the Champions League, a lot of pressure and a lot of intensity, and just wondering if maybe the Iberian players are a little bit worn out too much.

TAYLOR TWELLMAN:  I think it’s a good observation.  I think there’s no doubt that the Champions League wore out some big players, whether from Atlético Madrid or Real Madrid.  Yes, it’s a good observation, and yes, I think it’s a huge part of it.

Now, in saying that, I think Spain, that is part of their equation.  The other part is, they have won three major tournaments in a row.  If they were going to make a run at this, you’re still in the conversation of arguably the best generation to ever have played a national team.  It’s just one of those things that it’s happened too soon.

I think what’s interesting, to go on that same topic, I don’t think I’ve ever seen in the first round of games, this amount of cramping, this amount of injuries, this amount of fatigue.  And some of the analysts here disagree with me but I think the humidity is playing a huge factor in this.

I’ve been at two of the stadiums.  It’s humid.  We’ve seen comebacks.  We’ve already seen six comebacks in games already, where in 2010 we only saw three, and we are only through the first round of games.

So weather is playing a factor in this.  So I don’t know if it’s necessarily just Iberia.  I do think it’s a product of the situation.  However, you can’t not say that there’s too many games being played and there wasn’t a long enough break for some of these Champions League and the high‑quality teams.

Q.  Who do you think starts up front Sunday for the United States?  And as you watch the hype and tension build, there’s a very real possibility that Sunday’s game might be the most‑watched soccer game in U.S. history.  What do you make of the growth of attention all of a sudden the last couple days?

TAYLOR TWELLMAN:  I think the ascension of the sport was inevitable.  Does it help that the United States won their opening game against Ghana?  Of course.  But is Portugal going to be the most‑watched game?  Probably.  But guess what, Germany is going to outdo that, and if they get out of the group, you’re looking at some huge numbers. The sport is growing no matter what.  The access we have to every league in the world:  It’s 2014 – ESPN is doing a wonderful job.  It’s just the sport is growing.  It’s factual and you see statistics that back it up.

Up front for the United States, there’s still time to figure this out.  I think Jürgen Klinsmann will have to address: One, what’s the state of Clint Dempsey – will he wear a mask, won’t he?  I think, what do you get from Aron Jóhannsson, what do you get from Chris Wondolowski? Do you just play one up front and allow Michael Bradley free reign, so you clog up the midfield which makes life difficult for a Ronaldo in transition.

So I’m not sure what Jürgen does, he has a couple decisions to make but I think first and foremost he has to find out what he gets from Clint Dempsey.  Because, again, everyone is talking Jozy out the door, Matt Besler and those injuries.  Clint Dempsey has a broken nose.  I’ve played with those.  It’s a difficult situation.

So Clint and Jürgen need to figure out how much he can give, and in what spot does he need help up front.

Q.  I wanted to get your thoughts on what the experience has been like so far broadcasting from Brazil.  We think about this as the home for soccer and soccer fans nowadays, and compared to other things you’ve broadcast and other experiences you’ve had, I’m curious what it’s like — if there’s any emotion for you in the broadcasters booth and just being around that kind of environment.

TAYLOR TWELLMAN:  It’s no different than playing.  I think it’s an interesting question, because it’s no different than playing.  It’s a World Cup.  We are all fans of it. Put it this way:  I slept, I think, four-and-a-half hours over the last two to three days.  My travel from Natal back to Rio with (play-by-play commentator) Ian Darke is the same distance as St. Louis to Milwaukee.  It took me 15-and-a-half hours; delays, strikes … whatever is going on here in Brazil.  And yet there’s partying, and it’s like, yeah, I’m tired; yes, I’m exhausted; yes, I’m starving.  And oh, by the way, there’s another game on.  Let’s go watch the game, let’s go analyze it and let’s put some makeup on and do television.

It’s been a great experience so far.  There’s so much left, and I’m really looking ready to go be a part of the broadcast and just being a part of enhancing the experience for the fans back home.

Q.  When you talk about how it’s no different from being a player, I was just curious if you could expand on that a little bit, how in particular you’re bringing your experience from recently being on the field or how you’re bringing that to people back home and how you’re trying to do that?

TAYLOR TWELLMAN:  I think it comes from energy, excitement.  Obviously calling the U.S. World Cup games, I’m going to give my professional, unbiased opinion.  However, it’s difficult to remember that I’ve got a microphone in front of me and I’m not a fan.  I’ve played 30 times for my country, so it’s very exciting to call those games.

I think it’s just talking about, you know, we are sitting here with a bunch of great analysts, players from all over the world, that know the game and we all look at the game very differently.  You’ve got someone in Roberto Martinez, and then you have a Michael Ballack and an Alexi Lalas.  So you have so many different angles in just talking about it, and then giving my opinion.

One thing that I’ll do is I’ll do my homework, and then the other thing is, I’m not going to hold back on opinion. And I’ll give an opinion and hopefully spark debate as fans and viewers watch at home.

Q.  I was just thinking about Kyle Beckerman the other night was arguably one of the best players on the field; just was wondering as a former player, how you feel about the MLS guys are doing in Brazil?

TAYLOR TWELLMAN:  Well, I think you look at it, obviously the U.S. win, big for the United States, and also big for your domestic league, Major League Soccer.  I think it’s a huge part of it.

Tim Cahill, for me, so far, goal of the tournament.  To hit a ball that’s over your shoulder that way with that technique, great finish.  Obviously that’s a feather in the cap of Major League Soccer.  It’s part of the sport growing.

You know, I think, at times, we want the sport to grow so quickly here in the country.  Yet, what are we, 19, 20 years in Major League soccer.  There has to be a little patience.  There has to be some evolution.  You know, 2002, we had two teams fold and now we are growing with soccer stadiums and all that.  There has to be a little patience. I think you’re starting to see some of that growth in the World Cup when you have a player like Tim Cahill, who everybody thought was done when he went to the Red Bulls.  What has he done?  He’s come in and scored two good goals in the World Cup.  It’s all part of the process.

But to go back to my earlier comments, three points against Ghana is great.  Getting out of the group with a huge contingent of your roster being from Major League Soccer is more important.

Q.  How important do you think it is, then, for the other side of Klinsmann’s mandate to help the technical development of the game; that there’s at least significant progress at this group stage?

TAYLOR TWELLMAN:  I think it’s important because I think it’s positive reinforcement.  I think three points against Ghana has already signified that.

Now, I want to remind everyone, the United States beat Ghana the old‑fashioned way.  There was nothing new about how they won.  They scored an early goal, defended like crazy and then won the game on a set piece. So there’s nothing new about what the United States under Klinsmann did against Ghana.  There’s a time and place for it.  You play the games now to win.  You play the games the best way possible that you can to get out of the group.  Then you assess it afterwards, and then you come together, and you then work on your technical plan to develop players at a younger age, and I think that discussion will be had here.

You know, we will have that discussion at ESPN during this World Cup at some point, but it’s hard to assess that now.  Now Jürgen Klinsmann is only thinking about getting a result against Portugal and then you evaluate at the right time and hopefully make adjustments.

Q.  You clearly laid this out about the growth of the sport and the interest that we are seeing back home in this particular tournament.  It’s leading us to write about soccer in all kind of ways, including sort of the next generation.  Do you see some guys in the pipeline you want to identify?

TAYLOR TWELLMAN:  Can you explain to me the question?

Q.  I’m just really asking about the next generation of guys coming through and just wondering if there’s some of those folks that you’re seeing that potentially could be playing in the World Cup in Qatar or Russia?

TAYLOR TWELLMAN:  Well, to be quite honest, Russia or Qatar, it’s so far down the road.  If you would have told me four years ago in 2010 that John Brooks would score the game‑winning goal against Ghana, I would have told you you were nuts. Or DeMarcus Beasley being the starting left back in the World Cup — for the first time, an American plays in four World Cups.

It’s one of those where you never know.  As much as Julian Green is on this roster, there’s no guarantee he’ll be part of the roster four years from now.

So it’s such a long, tedious process.  I’d be naïve if I gave you a couple names now that are on the bubble.  I will say this: that DeAndre Yedlin being on the roster has been the carrot for a lot of those homegrown players, a lot of these academy systems within Major League Soccer, and quite frankly any American club team. You look at it, you get a young kid that comes through and now makes a World Cup roster at a very young age, now there are plenty of kids where that didn’t happen in 2002 when I was growing up watching in ’94 and ’98 and all that.

So there is that carrot at the end.  There is that golden ticket, so to speak, of saying, listen, that could be me in the next four, eight years.  But you know, whether I single a player out here or there, who knows around a month from now, let alone four years.

Q.  If you look at Portugal, what do you think their mental state is right now?  Is it, they are going to come in on Sunday really fired up or do you think they are going to come in nervous and the U.S. can take advantage of that?

TAYLOR TWELLMAN:  They are not nervous.  They are a wounded animal with arguably the greatest player in the world, 1A, 1B – however you want to look at it if you’re a Messi guy or a Ronaldo guy.  Very dangerous if you’re the United States against Portugal in the first 25 to 30 minutes, because they are wounded, and they have Cristiano Ronaldo.

In saying all of that, you can get inside of a player’s head and you can make life very difficult.  What I saw in World Cup qualifying from Portugal is simply this – Israel, Northern Ireland got results against them … Making life very difficult to get Ronaldo on the break. When Ronaldo gets on the break, then you have any of the players running off of him, they are dangerous and they can kill you.  When they have to try to break you down, and it’s very congested in the midfield and very crowded, they struggle.

Again, Israel, Northern Ireland got results against Portugal.  To say the United States can’t would be extremely stupid.  They can get a result, but you have to be careful.  You want to be very careful of a wounded animal with a player like Ronaldo, which is why I think 25, 30 minutes, they have to be ‑‑ the United States has to be just smart, be very smart defensively, don’t sit in deep.

When you do play in Portugal’s end, push forward, and you know, let those thoughts creep in the back of the Portuguese mind that, wow, there’s potential here.  We might only have one point after two games.

Q.  How will Pepe and Coentrão being out, how will that affect?

TAYLOR TWELLMAN:  It’s huge.  Obviously it’s a huge impact.  Now in saying that, they have quality players to fill in behind.  Pepe, to me, it’s so out of character for him to headbutt a player when the ball is away, right?  It’s kind of comical to me. But I don’t know, I mean, I think it will be very interesting to see.  Jozy Altidore being out is much bigger than Pepe or Coentrão for Portugal if you ask me.

FastScripts by ASAP Sports

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USA-Ghana: ESPN’s Highest-Rated Men’s Soccer Match Ever and WatchESPN’s Largest Audience

FIFA-World-Cup-2014_Logo-espnUSA-Ghana: ESPN’s Highest-Rated Men’s Soccer Match Ever and WatchESPN’s Largest Audience
  • ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC Ratings Up 19 Percent Over 2010 to Date with Increases in Key Demos
  • WatchESPN Shows Significant Audience Increases
  • Second Highest-Rated Telecast on ESPN in 2014
  • Rating Record for World Cup in 16 Metered Markets, including Washington DC, Boston and New York
 
The United States’ thrilling 2-1 victory over Ghana in the 2014 FIFA World Cup on Monday, June 16, set numerous audience records for ESPN and WatchESPN.
 
  • ESPN’s telecast averaged a 6.3 US HH rating and 11,093,000 viewers, making it the highest-rated and most-viewed men’s soccer match – including 265 from the FIFA World Cup – on ESPN or ESPN2 on record, according to Nielsen.
  • The match also garnered a 469,000 average minute audience on WatchESPN, which set a product record for an event which had a total of 1,400,000 viewers and 62,400,000 minutes viewed for the contest.
  • USA vs. Ghana is ESPN’s highest-rated and most-viewed telecast since January 6 when its BCS National Championship coverage averaged a 14.4 US HH rating and 25,572,000 viewers (the third largest audience in cable history).
  • In addition to its record audience for USA vs. Ghana, WatchESPN generated its second best event ever in unique viewers for Monday’s Germany vs. Portugal contest with 1,100,000 viewers.
  • Washington, D.C., led all markets for ESPN’s USA vs. Ghana telecast with an 11.8 rating, followed by New York (10.2), Hartford-New Haven (10.1) and Boston (10.0) at a 10.0 rating or higher. The remaining top 10: Columbus, Ohio (8.9), Baltimore (8.7), Providence (8.4), Orlando (8.3), San Francisco (8.0) and Norfolk (7.8).
  • Boston’s 10.0 is the highest overnight ever in the market (on ESPN, ESPN2 or ABC) for the men’s World Cup. An additional 15 markets recorded their highest overnight ever for a World Cup group-round match (on any network), including Washington, New York, Hartford, Baltimore, Providence and Orlando in the Top-10, and Buffalo, Charlotte, Dayton, Greensboro, Greenville, Jacksonville, Minnesota, Nashville, Portland and Richmond.
 
Audience Highlights Tournament to Date
  • ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC have combined to average a 2.5 US HH rating and 4,112,000 viewers through the first 14 matches, marking increases of 19 percent (vs. 2.1) and 23 percent (vs. 3,346,000), respectively, over the 2010 World Cup.
  • In addition, ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC have posted significant increases in the key people and male demographics (18-34, 18-49 and 25-54) where the networks lead all networks in the United States that televises the World Cup action.
  • WatchESPN has averaged 247,000 viewers in the average minute across 14 World Cup matches, which represents a seven percent lift over the ESPN Networks’ English language TV audience for a total of 4,359,000 viewers across TV and WatchESPN.
  • In addition to Monday’s record telecast, 2014 World Cup coverage has delivered ESPN and ESPN2’s four highest-rated and most-viewed Group Play matches not involving a United States team on record.
  • In addition, WatchESPN has posted a 170 percent increase in viewers and 180 percent in minutes through the first 14 games, averaging 736,000 viewers and 31,900,000 minutes viewed per match.
  • Driven by the three World Cup matches on Monday, WatchESPN, posted its best day ever with 2,700,000 devices and 191,000,000 minutes viewed. It marks the third time since the World Cup began on Thursday, June 12, that WatchESPN has set a record for its best day.
  • Washington, D.C., continues to lead all markets for matches on ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC through the first 14 games with a 5.0 average rating. San Francisco is second with a 4.4 followed by New York (4.1), Boston (3.8), Orlando (3.7), Los Angeles (3.7), Miami (3.7), Hartford (3.7), Atlanta (3.6) and (all tied) Seattle, West Palm Beach and San Diego (3.4).
 
Upcoming ESPN World Cup Coverage
ESPN’s FIFA World Cup coverage continues today with three matches: Belgium vs. Algeria (11:30 a.m. ET, ESPN), host nation Brazil vs. Mexico (2:30 p.m., ESPN) and Russia vs. South Korea (5:30 p.m., ESPN). ESPN will also televise the next match for the United States (against Portugal) on Sunday, June 22, at 5:30 p.m.
 
ESPN’s comprehensive coverage of the tournament includes all 64 matches televised live on ESPN, ESPN2, ABC, ESPN3 and WatchESPN, as well as 54 matches on ESPN Deportes and another 10 on ESPN Deportes+.  ABC’s matches will also available on WATCH ABC. Schedule.
 
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ESPN Presents “Countdown to Brazil” on June 11-12

FIFA-World-Cup-2014_Logo-espn2014 FIFA World Cup Preview Featuring Former World Cup Stars Michael Ballack, Gilberto Silva, Alexi Lalas, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Steve McManaman; MLS Match; and More

ESPN will kick off its month long coverage of the 2014 FIFA World Cup with 24 hours of “Countdown to Brazil” programming focusing on the quadrennial tournament. The “Countdown to Brazil” (#CountdownToBrazil) will begin Wednesday, June 11, at 3 p.m. ET on ESPN with a two-hour 2014 FIFA World Cup Preview and conclude on Thursday, June 12, at 3 p.m. on ESPN with the 2014 FIFA World Cup Match Day, the live pregame show leading into the tournament-opening match: Brazil vs. Croatia from Arena de Sao Paulo.

A majority of the 24 hours will be on ESPN2 beginning at 5 p.m. with There Is No Tomorrow, an inside look at the five-time World Cup Champion Brazilian National Team. The programming will include re-airs of all episodes in the ESPN Films documentary on the U.S. Men’s National Team – Inside: U.S. Soccer’s March to Brazil – beginning at 5:30 p.m. on ESPN2 and concluding at 9:30 p.m. with an original, 30-minute epilogue of the series.

At 2 a.m. on ESPN2, the 24-hour soccer programming will continue with ESPN FC: Most Memorable World Cup Moments, and from 3 – 5 a.m. overnight, the network will feature four of the 30 for 30: Soccer Stories documentary series – Mysteries of the Juliet Rimet Trophy, Barbosa, Ceasefire Massacre and the Myth of Garrincha. “Soccer Stories” will be followed at 5 a.m. on ESPN2 by I Scored A Goal, ESPN’s ambitious 2010 FIFA World Cup project that featured interviews with most of the living men who scored a goal in the World Cup title match.

ESPN “Countdown to Brazil” schedule:

Date Time (ET) Programming Network
Wed, Jun 11 3 p.m. 2014 FIFA World Cup Preview ESPN / WatchESPN
  5 p.m. There Is No Tomorrow ESPN2 / WatchESPN
  5:30 p.m. Inside: U.S. Soccer’s March to Brazil ESPN2 / WatchESPN
  9:30 p.m. Epilogue: Inside: U.S. Soccer’s March to Brazil ESPN2 / WatchESPN
  10 p.m. Major League Soccer: Portland Timbers vs. FC Dallas ESPN2 / WatchESPN
  12 a.m. Re-air — 2014 FIFA World Cup Preview ESPN2 / WatchESPN
  2 a.m. ESPN FC: Most Memorable World Cup Moments ESPN2 / WatchESPN
  3 a.m. 30 for 30: Soccer Stories “Mysteries of The Juliet Rimet Trophy” and “Barbosa” ESPN2 / WatchESPN
  4 a.m. 30 for 30: Soccer Stories“Ceasefire Massacre” and “Myth of Garrincha” ESPN2 / WatchESPN
  5 a.m. I Scored A Goal ESPN2 / WatchESPN
Thu, Jun 12 6 a.m. 2010 FIFA World Cup: United States vs. Algeria ESPN2 / WatchESPN
  8 a.m. E:60: World Cup Special ESPN2 / WatchESPN
  9 a.m. SportsCenter ESPN2 / WatchESPN

2014 FIFA World Cup Preview Special (3 p.m. on ESPN):

On the eve of the opening match, Mike Tirico, Bob Ley and Lynsey Hipgrave will host a two-hour live preview of Brazil 2014 from ESPN’s World Cup host set location at Clube dos Marimbas, a members-only sailing club overlooking the famous Copacabana Beach. The program will feature mostly all of ESPN’s FIFA World Cup analysts: Alexi Lalas and Roberto Martinez.

Steve McManaman, Alexi Lalas, Taylor Twellman, Michael Ballack, Gilberto Silva, Santiago Solari, Roberto Martinez and Ruud van Nistelrooy.

Other elements:

  • Reports from ESPN correspondents covering team camps – Jeremy Schaap (U.S.A.), John Sutcliffe (Mexico), and Rubens Pozzi (Brazil);
  • General assignment reporters Julie Foudy and Bob Woodruff will offer features and their perspective on the tournament;
  • Comprehensive previews of all the FIFA World Cup groups and key matchups;
  • A look at Brazil and how the nation is addressing the challenges of hosting the World Cup.

MLS – Portland Timbers vs. FC Dallas at 10 p.m.:

As part of the 24-hour soccer programming, ESPN2 will present live coverage of Major League Soccer Western Conference matchup – Portland Timbers vs. FC Dallas – live from Providence Park in Portland, Ore., at 10 p.m. The Portland Timbers vs. Dallas FC will be the last match before the league takes a two-week break for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

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ESPN TV and Radio Commentators for 2014 FIFA World Cup, Week 1 (Through June 19)

FIFA-World-Cup-2014_Logo-espnespn-logoLead play-by-play commentator Ian Darke and analyst Steve McManaman will call the opening match of the 2014 FIFA World Cup – Brazil vs. Croatia – from Sao Paulo on Thursday, June 11, at 3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN, ESPN3 and WatchESPN, while JP Dellacamera and Tommy Smyth will provide commentary on ESPN Radio’s broadcast of the match.  ESPN’s comprehensive coverage of the tournament will include all 64 matches televised live on ESPN, ESPN2, ABC, ESPN3 and WatchESPN, as well as 54 matches on ESPN Deportes and another 10 on ESPN Deportes+.  ESPN Radio will also broadcast all 64 matches. Additional highlights:

  • Darke and Taylor Twellman will call Ghana vs. USA, the U.S. team’s first match of the tournament, on Monday, June 16, at 5:30 p.m. on ESPN;
  • Fernando Palomo and Alejandro Moreno, ESPN’s English-language commentating team for Mexican National Team matches, will team to describe the action from Mexico vs. Cameroon on Friday, June 13, at 11:30 a.m. on ESPN2;
  • Jon Champion and Stewart Robson will make their ESPN FIFA World Cup debuts with Spain vs. Netherlands, a rematch of the 2010 FIFA World Cup final, on Friday, June 13, at 2:30 p.m. on ESPN;

ESPN’s 2014 FIFA World Cup match commentators include: play-by-play voices – Champion, Darke, Adrian Healey, Palomo, Derek Rae and Daniel Mann; and analysts –  Efan Ekoku, Kasey Keller, Roberto Martinez, McManaman, Moreno, Stewart Robson and Twellman. ESPN Radio’s commentators include: Dellacamera, Mark Donaldson and Ross Dyer; and analystsShaka Hislop, Paul Mariner, Shep Messing, Janusz Michallik and Smyth. Assignments for subsequent matches will be announced as the tournament progresses.

ESPN 2014 FIFA World Cup Media Kit

2014 WORLD CUP TV SCHEDULE – ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC (All matches also airing on ESPN Radio)

u  All times EASTERN  u  Schedule is subject to change  u  ABC Sports broadcasts in italics

Date Time (ET) Network Match Group Site Match #
Thu 6/12 3:30 p.m. ESPN Brazil vs. Croatia

TV: Ian Darke, Steve McManaman
Radio: JP Dellacamera, Tommy Smyth

A Sao Paulo 1
Fri 6/13 11:30 a.m. ESPN2 Mexico vs. Cameroon

TV: Fernando Palomo, Alejandro Moreno
Radio: Ross Dyer, Shep Messing

A Natal 2
  2:30 p.m. ESPN Spain vs. Netherlands

TV: Jon Champion, Stewart Robson
Radio: Dellacamera, Smyth

B Salvador 3
  5:30 p.m. ESPN2 Chile vs. Australia

TV: Daniel Mann, Kasey Keller
Radio: Dyer, Paul Mariner

B Cuiaba 4
Sat 6/14 11:30 a.m. ABC Colombia vs. Greece

TV: Adrian Healey, Taylor Twellman
Radio: Dellacamera, Janusz Michallik

C Belo Horizonte 5
  2:30 p.m. ABC Uruguay vs. Costa Rica

TV: Champion, Robson
Radio: Dyer, Mariner

D Fortaleza 7
  5:30 p.m. ESPN England vs. Italy

TV: Darke, McManaman
Radio: Dellacamera, Smyth

D Manaus 8
  8:30 p.m. ESPN Ivory Coast vs. Japan

TV: Derek Rae, Efan Ekoku
Radio: Dyer, Mariner

C Recife 6
Sun 6/15 11:30 a.m. ABC Switzerland vs. Ecuador

TV: Healey, Moreno
Radio: Dyer, Messing

E Brasilia 9
  2:30 p.m. ABC France vs. Honduras

TV: Mann, Keller
Radio: Dyer, Hislop

E Porto Alegre 10
  5:30 p.m. ESPN Argentina vs. Bosnia-Herzegovina

TV: Rae, Roberto Martinez
Radio: Dellacamera, Smyth

F Rio de Janeiro 11
Mon 6/16 11:30 a.m. ESPN Germany vs. Portugal

TV: Champion, Robson
Radio: Dyer, Messing

G Salvador 13
  2:30 p.m. ESPN Iran vs. Nigeria

TV: Rae, Ekoku
Radio: Mark Donaldson, Mariner

F Curitiba 12
  5:30 p.m. ESPN Ghana vs. United States

TV: Darke, Twellman
Radio: Dellacamera, Smyth

G Natal 14
Tue 6/17 11:30 a.m. ESPN Belgium vs. Algeria

TV: Healey, Ekoku
Radio: Donaldson, Michallik

H Belo Horizonte 15
  2:30 p.m. ESPN Brazil vs. Mexico

TV: Palomo, Moreno
Radio: Dellacamera, Smyth

A Fortaleza 17
  5:30 p.m. ESPN Russia vs. South Korea

TV: Mann, Keller
Radio: Dyer, Messing

H Cuiaba 16
Wed 6/18 11:30 a.m. ESPN Australia vs. Netherlands

TV: Champion, Robson
Radio: Donaldson, Michallik

B Porto Alegre 20
  2:30 p.m. ESPN Spain vs. Chile

TV: Darke, McManaman
Radio: Dellacamera, Smyth

B Rio de Janeiro 19
  5:30 p.m. ESPN Cameroon vs. Croatia

TV: Rae, Keller
Radio: Dyer, Messing

A Manaus 18
Thu 6/19 11:30 a.m. ESPN Colombia vs. Ivory Coast

TV: Healey, Moreno
Radio: Donaldson, Messing

C Brasilia 21
  2:30 p.m. ESPN Uruguay vs. England

TV: Darke, McManaman
Radio: Dellacamera, Smyth

D Sao Paulo 23
  5:30 p.m. ESPN Japan vs. Greece

TV: Mann, Ekoku
Radio: Dyer, Mariner

C Natal 22

ESPN Inc.’s 2014 FIFA World Cup in the United States

The 2014 FIFA World Cup will be ESPN’s eighth World Cup and most comprehensive presentation to date.  ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC will combine to air all 64 matches live and in high definition (June 12July 13). All ESPN and ESPN2 games will be available on WatchESPN, while ABC matches will be available on WATCH ABC. ESPN3, ESPN’s live multi-screen sports network available in more than 85 million homes, will present matches live in multiple languages (other than English and Spanish).

ESPN’s presentation of the 2014 FIFA World Cup will include comprehensive news and information coverage of the month-long soccer showcase with renowned journalists reporting on the tournament and the host country of Brazil. Additional English-language coverage of the quadrennial event will total more than 90 hours of original programming and will include SportsCenter at the World Cup,anightly World Cup Tonight program, ESPN FC World Cup Encore, a 30-minute pre-match show, halftime and post-match segments, as well as a World Cup-branded ESPN Films 30 for 30: Soccer Stories series, E:60 shows, and access-driven long-form storytelling features.

ESPN garnered more than 40 industry awards, including three Sports Emmys, for its presentation of 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa – more accolades than any single event in the company’s history.

ESPN and Past FIFA World Cup Tournaments (Men’s):

South Africa 2010 – All 64 matches live and in high definition. All studio programming originated from South Africa

Germany ’06 – All 64 matches live and in high definition

Korea/Japan ’02 – 58 ESPN and ESPN2 matches live (six tape-delayed broadcasts on ABC)

France ’98 – ESPN 27, ESPN2 23 and ABC Sports 14 (all 64 matches live)

USA ’94 – ESPN, 41, and ABC, 11 (all 52 matches)

Mexico ’86 – ESPN, 15 matches (U.S. cable television rights)

Spain ’82 – ESPN, 7 matches

– 30 –

Transcript of ESPN 2014 FIFA World Cup Media Conference Call

FIFA-World-Cup-2014_Logo-espnESPN’s executive producer for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Jed Drake, lead play-by-play commentator Ian Darke, and match and studio analyst Steve McManaman participated in a media conference call to preview the month-long quadrennial tournament. Full details of 2014 FIFA World Cup on ESPN networks HERE.

In addition ESPN President John Skipper was interviewed by Bob Ley at the company’s FIFA World Cup media event in New York City recently. Click HERE.

A transcript of the conference call follows:

JED DRAKE:  Thank you so much and thanks to all of you for taking the time to get with us on the call today.  I am calling from our host set location and main control room here in Rio.  I’m pleased to report that things have gone exceptionally well in terms of our set‑up and our preparation, which, when you see it on the air, you’ll see, I believe, an overall presentation that really is going to be tremendous and worthy of the event itself.  That’s always been our target to live up to those kind comments that were made in 2010 by many of you, and to the accolades that we got in terms of awards.

It’s not an easy thing to do, but we’ve been working at this for a long time.  I was actually thinking back to the first time that I came to this location, and I think it was the fall of 2011 when we decided this was going to be where we would host our coverage from.  It is magnificent.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  In fact, the water on a couple of occasions has come up so far it actually came in under our three‑story scaffolding on a couple of nights, so we are that close to the water.  We’re almost literally on it.

In terms of the overall event itself, we are in good shape.  Mac (ESPN PR) is going to be releasing match assignments, commentator assignments coming up in the next few days for the first week, and we are in really good shape.  Of course the question that I always get asked is will the country be ready?  My answer is that, look, the World Cup is going to be held here in very good fashion.  It’s clear that some of the stadiums are not at the level of completion that the country would like to have seen them be at this point in time, and the logistics are going to be a bit of a challenge getting around because the infrastructure is not what it should have been.  But that said, in the end, it’s the World Cup.  It will be glorious, to use the word that Ian has used on occasion about other things, and we will, in the end, I think be able to focus on the World Cup itself for the matches and the spectacle.  We will also, as we have done in the past, focus on the cultural aspects of the host country.  Some of those aspects are magical in terms of the diverse culture of this country and its geography and its history and we will cover all of that.

Inevitably and importantly we will also cover the news of the day as it warrants, whether that be the protests or anything that goes to any higher level.  We have that commitment.  We made that commitment to ourselves, we’ll make it to our viewers.  By extension, we’ll be working even more closely this time around with ABC News.  They have a large contingent of people coming down here, and we have said to them that we’ll be not only your host, but your provider of facilities should we be called upon to shift gears and go into news coverage in and around covering the World Cup itself.

We have a very large staff here candidly, several hundred, and we’ll be ready for the news aspects of this tournament outside of football should that be required.  With that, we are just absolutely ecstatic in terms of being ready for this event.

Bob Ley actually came on to the set yesterday, and after he got up from his chair and was looking around and marveling at what we’ve achieved here, he said, let’s go to work.  I said, Bob, we’re not on the air until Saturday.  In deference to Bob, we are ready to go, so we’re going to light up a segment that will air on SportsCenter tomorrow, and then we’re on Good Morning America on Saturday with Julie Foudy.  Then we have a preview show on ABC that we are recording and sending down, then we’re also going to host our coverage of the final USA friendly against Nigeria 5:30 p.m. Eastern on Saturday.  We’ll host that coverage from here as Ian calls that last USA match prior to the World Cup with Taylor Twellman.

So we’re all in, we’re ready to go, and I’m sure you have a lot of questions, and I’m happy to take as many of those as you’d like or if you’d care to direct those towards Ian and Macca, all yours.

Q.         Jed Drake, how are you breaking down the host assignments between Bob, Mike, and Lindsey? 

JED DRAKE:  We look at each match and decide based upon a variety of different criteria.  In other words, Bob has a long history with the USA and he’ll host those matches.  Other matches there might be more of a European angle and Lindsay obviously has a good handle on or great handle on teams that are generally from the European area or have a heavy European influence in terms of club teams.  And Mike is one of the best hosts in sports television, one of the very best, I might add, so he’ll do a number of the big matches early on.

We’ve only made assignments through the first week.  I want to see how chemistry develops between our hosts and our commentators, because, again, that is one of the things that we really look to as part of this complex fabric of production.  It’s that wonderful chemistry and camaraderie that exists.  We emphasize clarity in terms of information and making sure that we are getting the most out of our analysts, but we also enjoy the camaraderie that comes from putting different groups together, and we will definitely evaluate those assignments as we go.  Plus we’ve got now the luxury, if I may, of a 90‑minute program nightly.  World Cup Tonight, and within that show, as you may have heard, we’ve got the last call sort of sub‑show that will live within the body of that show at the end.  We’ll move people around.  It’s going to be an ensemble cast.  Mike, and Lindsey, and Bob will host that show at various times.  Others may host it, Julie may host it, Jerry may host it, who knows who is going to host it.

But we like the opportunity to have a real variety of personnel.  That’s one of the strengths that you need for over 300 hours of coverage, and we’re happy to have those people available to us.  We’ll see how things play out as they go.

Q.         As of today, you’ve made no decision as to who will be the host of the final? 

JED DRAKE:  No, that decision has been made.  We’ve given that to Mike, if that’s the focus point 31 days out, yeah.  Mike is going to host the final.  Other than that, in the first week’s assignments there’s a ton of hours in between the first week and the final match.

Q.         … within ESPN, what kind of sense or what kind of ratings do you think, what is the potential for this as far as America getting into this World Cup and the ratings potential?  How do you view that? 

JED DRAKE:  Well, I think there is obviously a couple of key factors there.  One of them is as good as our ratings were in 2010, now we’ve got the opportunity with a time zone that is virtually identical to the East Coast of the U.S., and while the start times of the matches have been moved up slightly to accommodate what is obviously a huge audience in Europe with the other world broadcasters here, it works out well for the group stage.  The matches on the East Coast are at 12:00, 3:00, and 6:00 primarily on those days that there are three matches.  That’s great.  That means the third match of the day is going to end up in the primetime on the East Coast.  So I mean, just from that perspective, we should have ratings candidly that will improve over 2010.  It’s a foregone conclusion that the ratings should improve because of the time zones.

Now, there are all kinds of factors that go into ratings as you know.  Some of that is going to depend inevitably upon the US Team.  As we say at every turn, we are not hanging our hopes on the success of the US Team.  We did not do so in 2010, and the ratings, even when the U.S. went out, proved that the event itself is much bigger than just the success or lack thereof for the US Team.

We televise the whole tournament.  I think the ratings are going to be better than 2010.  I see no other outcome.  How much better they are remains to be seen.  I think a lot of that is going to be determined by the stories that unfold.  I do think if Brazil, as people, the pundits seem to think is quite possible, win this thing, it will be a fascinating journey and ride for not just those in Brazil, but I think for everybody that is a fan of football and certainly of this event.

Q.         Just a follow‑up for all the guys, what is your sense as far as, obviously, this Cup has a much higher sense of awareness among American sports fans, not just football fans than ever before.  What is causing that?  How much of that is due to ESPN really promoting the heck out of this thing, and how much is it the growing popularity of soccer? 

IAN DRAKE:  Hard to say, really.  I think it is the growing popularity of the game and the growing understanding of the game in the United States.  I actually think that was something of a breakthrough moment four years ago when Landon Donovan scored that goal against Algeria to save the USA’s World Cup life.  Maybe a penny dropped there because it was quite a dull game, and suddenly there was this huge moment at the end of it.  This huge release of tension which seemed to spark, judging by some of the scenes we saw, a huge national celebration.

So, yeah, I think that was part of it.  The fact that the kids all played the game in the United States or a lot of them do now, and I think they understand the rhythms of it, and I think everybody’s got the general idea now that the World Cup is a very, very big deal.

STEVE McMANAMAN:  I go along with what Ian said.  I’m in England at this moment in time, and all anybody’s talking about is the World Cup.  I’m not just talking about the people in America and USA.  I’m speaking for people in England.  All anybody is concentrating on.  Now the prospective leagues have finished across Europe.  Now the Champions League finished.  The day after the Champions League people focused their attention to when is the World Cup starting.  When are the teams travelling over?  Who is traveling over to Brazil first?  Where are they staying?  What friendly matches have you got?  And all the newspapers in England and across Europe are all focusing on who is fit?  Who is going to be ready?  Falcao is not playing in Colombia.  He’s missed the cutoff point.

Everybody is saturated with talk of the World Cup, and the fact that there is no other footballing event going on across the world apart from the World Cup, the football match fans and non‑football fans are focused on watching the World Cup because it is a hugely, hugely enjoyable tournament.

JED DRAKE:  One thing that I’ve said and for those of you that were with us in New York last month when we did that press deal at the Paley Center, look, I think what we did in 2010 is rather remarkable in that you could make the argument that the United States was really the last hold out, if you will, for somewhat of a level of indifference in the World Cup.  Certainly not in terms of devoted soccer fans, and certainly not in some of the more urban areas.  But by and large as a country, I think there was ‑‑ I’ve not used the term before, but I think it was appropriate that there was some indifference to the World Cup.  We changed that.

We fundamentally changed that in 2010.  We did so through I think a production approach and marketing approach that made people understand how important this event is on the rest of the planet.  By doing that, we created this understanding of just how important this event is.  Now, I think, that has certainly carried through from 2010 in terms of soccer in general in the United States.  But for this event, it does transcend soccer.  This is a global event that people, I believe now, even in the United States, will tune into because of the sheer scope and magnitude of it.  For now, 31 days, it is my hope that people truly do alter their lifestyle just to be able to watch this event in whatever form they can watch it on, whether it’s on television, on a tablet, whether it’s on the phone, whether it’s on the radio, that they do that because that is the beauty of this event.  That for four years, people can, in essence, put their lives aside and focus on the event for the sheer spectacle and enjoyment of it.  That’s what we did in 2010, and that is certainly our goal in 2014.

Q.         Jed, you said before that the broadcast will be directed at the most sophisticated of soccer fans and everybody else will catch up.  If you could sort of talk a little bit about how that will be reflected in the broadcast, what we’ll see?  And for Ian and Steve, if it makes any difference for you all that you are talking to a more sophisticated fan as each World Cup passes?

JED DARKE:  Ratings are always two things.  How much people watch and for how long.  What we decided going into 2010 is we would reset our coverage to focus on that knowledgeable sports soccer fan, the soccer fan that understood when we were talking about lineups and changes and nuances and styles of individual players and teams and countries.  That we’d not be starting from square one.  We adopted that approach.  So right when we came out of the blocks, our announcers, our commentators were speaking from the mindset that they were speaking to an audience that understood those nuances.

Again, you just have to look at time marching on here.  We’re four years later now, and it’s arguable that that knowledgeable soccer audience has not only grown, but that soccer is now a better understood sport in the United States.

So we’ll continue down this path because we do believe that for the soccer fan, we have that responsibility.  But we also recognize, and 2010 bore this out, that the casual viewer will come to this event just for the sheer spectacle of it, and when they do, they will become enamored with it, and they’ll begin to understand what is being said by our commentators.

It may not make total sense right out of the block, but I do believe that because the event lasts a month, that even the casual viewer will be a far more knowledgeable soccer fan on the back side of this tournament based upon our coverage than they were going into it, and that’s our plan.

IAN DARKE:  I can only endorse really what Jed has said there.  I remember covering the World Cup for ESPN way back in 1994, which was my first involvement with the company.  Back then it was different.  Producers were asking me to explain what the offside law was, and I understood that at that time.  But I think the sophistication of the American audience has grown, and I would almost regard it as an insult, really, to their intelligence now to be asked to explain the basics of the game.  Having said that, I think Jed’s spot on.  There is a new casual audience that is watching and maybe we’ll be looking to tell personalized stories about some of the players to bring them to life.

So we’re not giving you a list of names of players who have the ball.  If there isn’t a heart-warming, personalized story about a particular player who happens to be in the limelight in a game.  I wouldn’t hesitate to do that.  I think it adds to the color and fabric of the commentary.

STEVE McMANAMAN:  Yeah, I’m the same really.  It’s important to sell individual stories or if you know individual players, you can maybe spend a little more of what they do outside the field.  If you know anybody personally, which we do, of course, in England and across Europe there are a huge amount of football players.  Though I know a lot personally and professionally as well.  So if you can add a little bit more color, as Ian rightly said, to the story to make the people who are watching a bit more familiar with the players, and they can maybe follow them for future reference, but I think that helps.  Whether you change the style of commentating towards particular people, I don’t think so.  As Ian and Jed rightly said, the majority of people who watch will totally understand what myself, what Ian, what Taylor, what the rest of the boys are talking about, and hopefully we’ll make it as enjoyable as feasibly possible.

Q.         I have two questions, first, if Ian and Steve could talk about the passion for soccer in Brazil.  I know there is that passion in basically most countries in the world, but what makes the Brazilian passion and love for the game different?  What will be palpable in Brazil and in the stadiums and on the streets that maybe we don’t see in even some of the soccer‑crazy European countries.  That’s one.  The second one is if you could each comment on the US Team and what you’re expecting from the US Team?

IAN DARKE:  I’ll start for the passion of the game in Brazil.  It isn’t just a game in Brazil.  It is a religion.  Every kid plays on the beach.  I think they have something like 6,000 professional footballers not just playing in Brazil but all over the world.  We’re talking about the five‑time winners at the competition.  Probably the country that produced the greatest team ever to play at the World Cup in 1970, and the names still resonate down the years of Pelé and Rivelino, Dede, and I could share some ‑‑ I could go on.  It’s a long list.  The place will just simply come to a standstill with every game.  It’s going to be the wildest night imaginable, even when they win their first game against Croatia, if they win it, of course.  It’s just going to be the most enormous happening.  I can only imagine what it would be like if Brazil were playing in the final against Argentina.  Bigger than big, that’s football in Brazil.

STEVE McMANAMAN:  All England, Ian, of course.

 

IAN DARKE:  Yeah, same applies.

Q.         Steve, could you talk about Brazil also, and if you could each comment on the US Team, that would be great.  Thank you so much, Ian. 

STEVE McMANAMAN:  I think as Ian said, I know a lot of Brazilian players, Brazilian football players.  Everybody, every child growing up aspires to be a Brazilian football player.  Every child growing up aspires to be a Brazilian No. 10 footballer because they’re normally the most skillful.  The most mythical number is the No. 10 worn by the likes of the players Ian just mentioned.

Of course.  in England, in lots of countries like America, we have film stars, we have entertainment stars.  In Brazil, the number one rising star is the football player, and that’s why they’re idolized so much.  People see it as a way of getting out of the slums, playing for their team, moving onto Europe and becoming the superstars that they become.  So it’s literally everything to become a footballer.  The Brazilian players I know have always held to the end.  They’ve always sent money home.  They’ve always looked up to families and cousins and generations and friends, and everything that goes back to Brazil to look after other people.

IAN DARKE:  Just to add to that again, I think the only rider to it, of course, is there is a tremendous weight of expectation on the players because of all of that as well.  They are playing under big pressure.  They played under that kind of pressure or something like it in the Confederations Cup last year and were brilliant and won the tournament.  And young Neymar, who is going to be the poster boy of Brazil, of course, wearing the No. 10 shirt, he responded very well.  But this will be cranked up ten‑fold.

But to go into your question about the USA, I think at the moment, like a lot of the teams, they don’t look quite ready for the tournament.  They’re not the only team.  Italy drew with Luxembourg yesterday, and there are questions about them, one of the favorites of the competition.

But Jurgen Klinsmann has a bold way of going about things.  He’s made a huge decision to leave out Landon Donovan.  He will either look like a genius about that or face a big inquest over it in about a month’s time.  They’ve got a mighty tough draw, probably the toughest draw USA have ever had after World Cup.  It will be a big, big achievement, and they’ll have to play way above themselves to get out of a group, including Ghana, Portugal, and of course, Germany, who they play in the last game.

It’s obviously a massive game as far as Jurgen Klinsmann, playing against his home country, a country for whom he won the World Cup.

I think the big problem with USA, judged on the other day against Turkey, they looked inventive, the attacking work was good, they looked as though they had goals in them.  They were too expansive and the defense because of that looked shaky.  So we’re looking to see them tighten up.  Still look good in attack, but look much, much more compact when they play Nigeria in the final prep game coming up from Florida.  We’ll have that live on the weekend.  I think that is a big and important game for the USA to try to get everything right going in.

STEVE McMANAMAN:  I agree really.  I think USA like a lot of teams, England’s performance yesterday wasn’t fantastic, but they changed the team around a bit, and they’re just building up, trying to peak at the right time for a couple of weeks.  There are a lot of teams out there who were winning threes and fours and five nils and we’ve got a pair.  After a long, arduous campaign in Europe, a lot of the players have a little bit of rest and a little holiday, so they’re finally finding their feet.  You have to remember ten days, with two weeks away from the first game, so the players will be peaking nicely.

Like everybody can say, it’s not just me and Ian, and it’s every fan you speak to, USA has got a really difficult group.  They’re underdogs actually in their group, as much as Jurgen’s doesn’t like to say that, but they are underdogs in the group.  They’ve got a really good chance.  Everybody expects Germany and Portugal to qualify even though Portugal only just qualified for the World Cup, so it’s a very tight group.  I actually think USA video have got a really good challenge of qualifying, I really do.

Q.         I have a question just going back.  Looking back at Euro 2012, you all had record ratings in the States.  Part of that, we have Spain as defending champions of the World Cup defending champions of the Euro Cup.  How important is the Spanish speaking in the States, which is probably slightly more familiar with football now? 

JED DARKE:  They’re a very important component to our overall rating.  I can’t give you an exact number.  But look, we’ve invested in the English language right through the Mexican National Team in the United States.  So we are very cognizant of the Hispanic audience, and we are going to make sure that our coverage of the Mexican National Team is significant, in fact, with our ESPN international operation here.  We’ll take advantage of the resources that they have, and, in fact, John Sutcliffe, who you may know well from our coverage, is going to be with the Mexico team throughout just as Jeremy Schaap will be with the US Team throughout.  We’ll bring full measure of our coverage as it relates to the Mexico team.

As far as Spain goes, Spain, my gosh, they are a team that everybody has focused on.  We all have talked about.  If they were to win this event, case closed on the discussions as to whether the greatest team of all time.  That’s not me saying that, that’s any number of our key commentators.

So, Spain, they’re a fascinating team from everybody’s perspective, but especially, the Hispanic audience, of course.  Then the Mexico National Team, we obviously will be focusing on as well.  In terms of our overall coverage, we’ll be focusing on the US Team with great significance.  The Mexico team, Brazil, and then we’ll see where the stories start developing and move resources.  I think one of the things, if I may, that’s really important about this time around for us is when we went to South Africa, we were in there ostensibly on our own.  ESPN International had a small group there.  ESPN Brazil had a small group there.  Now here in this country, we’re taking advantage of the fact that we have ESPN Brazil as a major, major part of ESPN.  They have been absolutely phenomenal in terms of helping us create the production, plan, and executing everything that we’ve done to date.  We’ll be taking full advantage of that relationship, and they’ll be taking full advantage of working with us.  It’s an opportunity that’s completely different than what we had in 2010, and it’s worth mentioning, because it’s going to make us that much better and that much deeper in terms of our resource capability as we share it with them and our ESPN International colleagues.

IAN DARKE:  With Spain, I think the question with them is they’re obviously a fabulous, fabulous football team and have been for the last five or six years, is this a tournament too far for some of them?  Is he keeping up the belief in those players for too long?  I think that is the question we’ll get answered in Brazil.

Q.         Jed, could you elaborate on the infrastructure difficulties that you noticed in Brazil?  Are there specific stadiums that you believe you’ll have some problems with? 

JED DARKE:  Some of the stadiums that have been written about at length, São Paulo being one of them.  Yeah, São Paulo, it is ironic, because it is obviously the stadium of the first match and a key focal point for Brazil.  We were there in March at nine other stadiums as well, some of them are in perfect shape.  Some of them, in particular those that were part of the Confederations Cup, and others are just not what they would have wanted these to be to start the World Cup, Curitiba, Porto Alegre, São Paulo.  The challenges to the infrastructure will be that it’s going to be difficult to operate there.  It’s not impossible.  Things are not at a state of readiness that you would have wanted them to be.

I think the infrastructure issue just sort of in general as it relates to these World Cup crowds that will be going to these stadiums, I think it’s going to be a big challenge at virtually every stadium.  I think the traffic to these stadiums is going to be a real challenge.  I’ve said to our commentators and our producers, time and patience are going to be your two biggest allies because you’re going to need large measures of both.

But in the end, the event on television will be all the spectacle that people expect it to be.  The matches will be the matches.  They’ll be magnificent to the extent that they can.  They’ll be unencumbered by the logistics completely.  It’s clear from a television perspective that we’re going to be fine.  If you were attending a match in person, that would be a far bigger challenge, I think, at this point in time.

Q.         If you can give me your thoughts on Group D?  We found statistical analysis that show England, Italy and Uruguay with all virtually the same chance to advance.  I’m wondering if you can give me your thoughts on the group? 

STEVE McMANAMAN:  I’m thinking England has a real good job to be very honest.  If we look at the two teams playing, and we look at the recent form Ian mentioned yesterday, Italy’s poor performance against Luxembourg.  If you look at Uruguay, their very poor performance against Ireland the other day.  Of course Luis Suarez, whether he will be fit for the opening game is another question.  But I think going forward, everybody seems to focused on and everybody seems to be obsessed certainly in England with the force of Suarez and Edinson Cavani because they’ve got really good seasons.  Likewise with their performance in Euro 2012 when Italy knocked England out of the tournament, and England was very poor.

But the positive things for me is that Hutchens has gone with a very different squad for England.  He’s gone with a lot of young players, a lot of enthusiastic players, a lot of quick, dynamic players.  I really like the shape and feel of his squad.  I think if we analyzed the two sides, you don’t disrespect the Costa Rica squad.

Italy is still very reliant on the likes of Andrea Pirlo, Chiellini in defense, even the goalkeeper, Gianluigi Buffon.  The mad man, that is Mario Balotelli up front.  There are going to be no surprises for England.  England know those players inside and out.  They’ve played against them many, many times.  Question is whether the heat and humidity of Manaus will help England.  They have a more youthful side, a speedier side.

So I think Hutchens’ squad, the squad he’s chosen, I think it’s a breath of fresh air really for me.  Looking at the squads, and looking at the subsequent squads of their arrivals in Uruguay and Italy and Costa Rica, I don’t see why England can’t qualify or qualify top of the group.  The fact that there is no pressure on them this year for the first time in history nobody expect them to qualify or to go anywhere near winning the World Cup.  I’m one of them.  I don’t think England has a chance of winning the World Cup, but I think they’ll qualify out of the group.  As long as they lose their knockout phase with a bit of fight and a little passion, and a little excitement and attack minded players, I’ll be more than happy with that.

IAN DARKE:  It’s a fascinating group.  You can say the USA group is a group of death to use the cliché.  I think this one is as well.  The conditions favor Uruguay because it’s South America.  You can’t understatement that factor in a South American World Cup.  They’re a battle‑hardened side.  They all know each other.  They’re very good tournament players.  It is a big problem if Suarez isn’t fit.  I think he might end up missing the first game but will take a part at some point in the tournament.  The danger is they’re trying to rush him back and he is key.  So if they do that, it could be that he breaks down and ends up missing the whole tournament.  So they have to be careful with that.

But Cavani’s fantastic as well.  So good that the guy that won the award as the best player in the tournament last time will probably only be on the bench this time as well.  So I quite like Uruguay from that.  They’ll be mighty tough to beat.  They’ve got no pretensions.  Only a little country of 3.3 million.

As for Italy, their form going in is horrible.  Won one with Luxembourg which is frankly embarrassing for the prep game for them.  But Prandelli has done well in the big tournaments, the coach, they’ve gotten to the final there.  They surprised people.  I thought they looked good at the Confederations Cup.  They’ll be quite attacking, and again, they’ve got a lot of players that know about playing big tournament football.  So they, too, will be a threat when it comes to it.  They’ve had bad preparations before and ended up winning World Cups.

As for England, I think Macca is right.  It is a fresh looking squad with plenty of pace and youth about it.  Ross Barkley may be the best England player since Paul Gascoigne …  That is the question.  He was super yesterday in his game, and then Roy ended up criticizing him after the game.  Makes you wonder whether he’s preparing everybody to actually pick him.  Sterling who got sent off yesterday will be okay for the tournament.  They’re all really good young players.  So I think England will either take the thing by storm and be a bit of a sensation for once in the big tournament, or they won’t have quite enough tournament nails.  So as with everything else here, we can’t wait to find out.

Q.         Do you think they’ll qualify, Ian? 

IAN DARKE:  Yes, I do.  I think it will be very ‑‑ I’ve got a feeling that Costa Rica, who looked like the chopping block in the group, I think they’ll get a point or two off the others.  Who they get them off might end up deciding it.

Q.         Thank you.  That’s helpful.  One quick follow‑up, do you agree with the odd makers and prognosticators that Brazil deserves to be favored? 

IAN DARKE:  Absolutely, yes.  They haven’t lost a home competitive game, I stress home competitive game, since 1975.  They’re very together.  It’s a nice blend.  I think they’re worthy favorites, yes.

STEVE McMANAMAN:  I agree.  After the Confederations Cup performance last year, and the fact that the crowds were behind them 100%.  The spine-tingling anthems they sung before games.  I think it will be the Confederations Cup times ten, the noise, the passion, I think the fans will galvanize behind them and help them, so I think the worthy favorites are home without a shadow of a doubt.

IAN DARKE:  They’re haunted by 1950 when they hosted the tournament and ended up losing what was effectively the final against Uruguay.

Q.         From what you’ve seen there, what is the mood of Brazilians in terms of their reaction to the logistical problems that there have been, and the fact that some of the stadiums aren’t ready, and how do you think that’s going to balance for the passion for the Brazilian team? 

JED DRAKE:  So as far as their passion for the Brazilian team, you really can’t even measure it.  As Ian said, it’s a religion.  I would say it’s part of the very fabric of life here.  It’s everything to this country, this team and this opportunity in particular.  They are just so fixated on that.  But there is a lot of pressure on the team too, that sort of expectation that everybody talks about brings a lot of pressure to the team.  They really need to deliver on this.

We’d not like to see them get out of Group A only to finish in a loss.  But that’s why this is fascinating.  In the knockout round, if you go with the chalk, as we’d say, they’re going to face either Spain or the Dutch or maybe Chile in the knockout round.  None other than Gilberto Silva, a member of the 2002 championship team, and ’06 and ’10 as well, has gone on record on Sportscenter, in a piece that we did with Macca (Steve McManaman) and Ian, actually, at different times in London, has said that he does not think ‑‑ he does not think that Spain will get through.

Brazil, they will get through, obviously.  I think that’s a foregone conclusion.  Can they just keep pounding away and get to July 13th.  The expectation here is that they will.  In terms of the logistics and how people are reacting to the stayed of preparedness, I think that by and large people here are very sort of upbeat about the World Cup.  There is a whole lot of the country that’s not directly involved with the staging of this event.  That’s a whole different group there.

But I don’t think that the people here in Brazil are terribly troubled with the perception that things have not gone exactly as they should have.  I think they are much more focused on the tournament itself and the chances and the aspirations for their National Team, which is just remarkable.

Q.         I was wondering if you could shed some light on Taylor’s development as a commentator, and how that partnership with Ian came about, and what he’s been like to work with, and what you thought of his performance? 

JED DRAKE:  Well, I was going to say Ian first, because Ian’s the one that sits next to him in the broadcast booth.

IAN DARKE:  I think Taylor’s a terrific professional, and obviously, he puts his heart and soul into the job.  He’s never frightened to ask questions.  His contacts in the US Team are fantastic.  He’s the guy that broke the story about Landon Donovan’s omission in the first place through those contacts, so that part of it is important as well.  So he speaks with great insight about that.

He was at the White House with the President.  He runs a charity connected with concussive injuries in sport, which he suffered from himself, so I think it’s fantastic.

What I’d like to say about Taylor, is he had some terrible luck in his first profession as a player, he should have gone to the 2006 World Cup, and Bruce Arena who coached him admitted as much to him since that tournament.  He was in the squad and scoring goals and kind of mysteriously got left out.  But it’s all led to his early retirement from playing the game to this fantastic second career that he’s got.

He’s a fine man to work with in the box, and I’d like to think it’s a developing chemistry and I hope people enjoy it.

JED DRAKE:  There are many great attributes about Taylor, and they’re all developing rapidly.  We’re very pleased to have him with us, and to bring him to his first World Cup as a commentator.  He’s got a great personality that’s inquisitive.  He’s bright, and when I say bright, I’m not just talking about his level of intelligence, but I’m talking about that personality that he has.  He challenges his colleagues, and we’d like to see that.

He’s got an interesting relationship with Michael Ballack who will be here.  Taylor having played in Germany for a bit, and he’s a wonderfully engaging guy.  I think that television captures that personality.  Now that said, he’s also, as Ian has said, he’s incredibly hard at working at research, and we give them high props for nailing the Landon story before anybody else did.  And that is just sort of who he is.  He’s growing and developing rapidly, and we’re very pleased to have him with us.

I think as we say at every turn when we look at this presentation, we are aiming very specifically to do better at every aspect of our coverage than we did in 2010, no matter how well we did then.  I think bringing Taylor among many others to our presentation will help us do that.  The other thing about Taylor, to Nick’s metaphors, he hits from both sides of the plate very well.  He can do a match with Ian at a very high level, and we really had to make some tough decisions this time about who was going to be in the studio and who was going to do matches.

Interesting, Macca, with you on the phone too, let the record reflect that you’ll be doing as Taylor will, you’ll be doing matches and being in our studio as the schedule will allow, given the logistics of moving people back and forth around this country.  So high marks to Taylor.  He’s got a really good growth curve going, and his abilities to hit from both sides of the plate like Macca makes him that much more valuable to us.  That was a baseball reference, by the way.

STEVE McMANAMAN:  Yeah, I know all the things about sport, you know that.  Quickly for me about Taylor, as much as I’m really looking forward to seeing him really and working with him in the studio if we’re both on the road at the same time at different locations.  I’ve met him numerous times before, and I call him.  I’d like to think that he’s a good friend of mine.

What I like to say about people is regardless what they’re like on television and away from the TV screen in private, he’s a gentleman.  He’s a really good friend of mine, and everybody gets on very well with him.  I think that’s all credit to him.  I’m really looking forward to getting over to Brazil and see him, like all the rest of the boys.

Q.         There have been a couple mentions of Jurgen Klinsmann decision to cut Landon Donovan.  That decision and some other decisions of Klinsmann’s in terms of his personality and training have made it clear that he’s going to do things his way with this team.  How large are some of the professional risks that Klinsmann is taking?  How important is this World Cup for his career?  I’d love to hear from Steve and Ian on this?

STEVE McMANAMAN:  Personally, my opinion of Jurgen Klinsmann is it has to be the manager’s way.  It’s his decision.  The fact that he hasn’t chosen Donovan Landon is not a big story for me.  If a player’s not in form, he doesn’t get chosen.  That is the way it’s always been for me.  Whether it’s the greatest player in the world or an average player.  If his form is not good enough and somebody else who is in the position, his form is excellent, the person who is in form deserves to go.  You need to be playing well for your club.  You need to be playing well week‑in and week‑out to have the chance to play for your country.  So just because somebody has a very good reputation in the past, that doesn’t mean anything nowadays.

Landon had a great tournament four years ago.  He played very well in the CONCACAF Gold Cup this year after going on sabbatical.  But as far as I’m concerned, that is just part and parcel of football.  If he doesn’t deserve to be in the squad, he doesn’t get chosen to be in the squad.  As for Jurgen, and if he has many rifts with many people, I can’t necessarily comment on rifts he’s having with any American players.

It’s not necessarily, when you go into the World Cup, it’s not necessarily about the manager.  It’s about two years before going through hell and high water to qualify for the greatest tournament in the world.  There is one tournament every four years the World Cup, and you’re representing your country.  You’re not necessarily representing your manager.  It’s the team he puts on the pitch, those individuals to cross that white line, perform to the best of your ability, and in a one‑on‑one situation with your opposition to be the best man out of your personal battle.  If you do that, and if the majority of the team does that, you win the game.

So it’s not necessarily down to the manager, because you want to win it personally yourself.  You’re doing it for your country.  As I said, there are many, many countries who didn’t qualify for this wonderful tournament.  The fact that the USA and England to a sense are there, you have to do it for yourselves and the shirt that you’re wearing on your back.  So even if you’ve got a sure manager, it doesn’t matter.  There is a greater prize and greater cause that you’re playing for.

But if Jurgen does very well personally in this tournament, he will probably get any job in Europe anyway at this moment in time, but he seems to be very happy living in the USA.  But of course, it’s always great if you do very well in a World Cup to have that on your C.V., especially in the group USA event.  If USA qualify from the group and go forward to the knockout stages and do well, then Jurgen will be treated at some sort of hero, no doubt.

IAN DARKE:  I think first thing to say about Jurgen Klinsmann is his place in the history of the game is already cemented as a wonderful player who won the World Cup, and great goal scorer for Germany.  Remember, he took his home country to the semifinals as a coach in 2006.  I think his reputation as a coach is being put on the line here.  All coaches are paid big money, and he is on big money in U.S. soccer terms to produce results.

When he got the job, he was saying a lot that the USA cut the gap between themselves and the elite of world football.  Well, here’s his chance, because he’s in a group with the elite of world football there, certainly in the case of Germany and Portugal, who I think at the moment are ranked two and three by FIFA, not that we should take too much notice of the FIFA World Rankings, and Ghana are a very decent team as well.

So how this team has progressed, this is the acid test.  The degree course of what he’s done in the three years he’s been in charge.  Now as for the Landon Donovan decision, I come at this from a slightly different angle to Macca, because he was saying if you don’t really produce the form, you don’t deserve to be in.  My hassle is I slightly agree with Bruce Arena, if the USA has 23 players better than Landon Donovan, they better go pretty close to winning this World Cup.  He isn’t the player he was.  There is no question about that.  Maybe he’s lost a little bit of speed, but players do evolve as they go on.  Since he’s been left out he’s come up with a flurry of goals, you might have noticed for L.A. Galaxy.  So he’s hurting and he’s expressing that on the pitch.

I still think, and it’s only my personal opinion, Jurgen Klinsmann knows 20 times more about the game than any of us.  I still think that he could have done the job even if it was only for 20 minutes from the bench.  And there are one or two, I’m not going to name names because it’s time to move forward and you wish these guys well, but there are one or two players there who do not have his pedigree and his craft that he could have brought to it with all his big tournament experience.  It’s just my feeling that he should have been in.

Q.         Just to elaborate on a previous subject, could you please talk about which teams are your overall favorites, perhaps potential dark horses or any foreseeable qualifiers that can surprise? 

STEVE McMANAMAN:  My overall favorites are quite easy.  We mentioned it before.  Brazil is certainly the favorite.  A lot of the teams that I thought would go well in the tournament, might meet each other very early on in the tournament, which is a bit of a blow.  I sat with Ian commentating on the Spain‑Chile game in Geneva about six months ago.  And both teams, Spain had an excellent team, and we know that, but I was really impressed by Chile as well.  I thought they may go far.  Subsequently the draw happens.  Spain are going to play Chile in the group stages.

Of course, whoever finishes first or second in the group may meet Brazil.  So straightaway, a couple of the favorites are going to be out there.  But I like Brazil and Spain.  That’s an easy decision to make.

But dark horses, a team like Colombia, even though Falcao is not making a tournament is a huge miss.  I just think they’ll be suited by conditions.  They qualified very impressively in their qualifying campaign, and they really impressed me.  If they meet their top group, they could meet somebody in England’s group, and I don’t want England to get knocked out as early as that.  I like Colombia.  People talk about Argentina because they have a comfortable group, a quite comfortable passage until later on in the tournament where they’re not a big surprise.  So I think Spain and Brazil have been my favorites.  And the dark horses would be the South American countries, especially, Colombia.

IAN DARKE:  I agree with Steve about Chile.  I think they might qualify for that group B at the expense of the Netherlands who find this four years ago.  I think they could go through.  I like the look of them.  They’ve got a ruthless side as well as being bright and adventurous when they beat England at Wembley, and they were very good recently as well against Germany.  They would have won the game away from home.

The other team to maybe keep a little look out on is France, surprisingly.  It’s a team that will either make the final or go home early, sometimes in disgrace.  But you look at their draw with Switzerland, Ecuador, Honduras, they’re going to qualify, no question from that group.  And in the round of 16, they’re liable to be playing somebody like Bosnia‑Herzegovina or Nigeria.  So I could see them having quite a soft run through to the quarterfinals, at least.  Then with Didier Deschamps, I think they won’t have all the temper tantrums they had four years ago.  They’ll have them pretty much together.  Good, young players there with the talent.

So maybe they’re dark horses.  I think they qualify as dark horses, don’t they, just about?

Q.         Ian and Steve, you guys talked about some of the individual stories that might come up during the World Cup.  I also wanted to see how much of an impact do you think Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie might have? 

STEVE McMANAMAN:  Of course everybody’s interested in Suarez and Cavani, certainly the partnership.  I’m really looking forward to see how Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie perform, to be very honest.  There are so many subplots.  Until yesterday’s game, I was asked numerous times on Wednesday about should Wayne Rooney be dropped out of the squad?  He was the talk in England about Wayne Rooney not fitting in correctly and should he be left on the substitute bench?  I thought it was nonsense to be very honest, because he is and will always be one of England’s best players and most exciting players.  He played last night and was excellent.  So I think that showed a lot of the press up in England about him.

So I think for me Wayne Rooney has to play.  It’s a very difficult group for England.  But like in every World Cup, if you qualify from the group, you’re going to need your main players and best players to perform.  And Wayne Rooney is one of the best players if not the best.  Certainly the best attack‑minded player.  So if he performs well, and scores goals and is the star of the show, England will go very, very far.

… like Wayne Rooney, we talk about the opposition of Robin van Persie.  They’re going to play Spain and Chile.  If he’s going to progress and be a star of the show, he’s going to have to play well against arguably two of the best teams around.  So it’s a huge, huge World Cup for him.  He’s the star man in the Netherlands forward line …  No one stands out like Robin van Persie.  So he’s going to have to show the pressure like Wayne Rooney.

So it’s a huge tournament for both of them.  It could be the pinnacle tournament because of the opposition.  Because of the stature of the two players playing together at Manchester United.  There are going to be heros or failures after this World Cup tournament.  There is no middle ground, unfortunately, for them.

IAN DARKE:  I think it’s fascinating the World Cup because we always preview it talking about who we think the big stars are going to be.  Of course so much publicity will center around Neymar, Suarez if he’s fit, Cristiano Ronaldo if he’s fit.  There is a story today that he may have to miss the first game.  It looks dodgy for him with his knee. Lionel Messi, is this going to be the World Cup for him to grab the glory in the way Diego (Maradona) did in 1986 and almost win it single‑handedly.

He won’t be winging it single‑handedly by the way, because he’s got a lot of talent around him in that Argentina team.  They’ve got to go pretty close.  But often the World Cup comes out with people the world never knew before – Toto Schillaci never having played a competitive game for Italy before the 1990 tournament.

One guy you might look out for is the Russian, Alexander Aleksandr Kokorin, good, good player.  Russia was flattered to deceive.  But he may be someone that makes a wider name for himself at this tournament.

As for Wayne Rooney, I don’t know.  He obviously is a gifted player, but he’s been part of what’s essentially been a failing England team in a lot of tournaments.  I think there is a little bit of a problem now in the system England play, this 4, 3, 2, where exactly he fits in.  There are rivals to his position in that front four, Sturridge, Lallana, Sterling, especially Barkley looks pretty well suited to playing where Rooney plays just behind Sturridge.  I’m not saying he should be dropped, but I think it is a valid debate because sometimes he just drops too deep and doesn’t get close enough to the striker if you put him in that three that plays behind without trying to get too technical here.

As for van Persie, I don’t know.  It’s been a bit of an injury ravaged season.  And now there is another problem.  As Macca said, they are in a tough group.  So he’s captaining it for Louis Van Gaal.  I think the Netherlands and him have got their work cut out.

FastScripts by ASAP Sports

Baseball Tonight’s Sunday Night Baseball Takeover June 1 on ESPN

ESPN-MLBSeven Baseball Tonight Commentators to be Strategically Positioned throughout Dodger Stadium to Call Dodgers-Pirates in Unique Experience for Viewers

ESPN will present a unique experience for viewers this weekend on Sunday Night Baseball presented by Taco Bell – the exclusive, national Major League Baseball game of the week – as the Pittsburgh Pirates visit the Los Angeles Dodgers, June 1, at 8 p.m. ET. Baseball Tonight will “take over” Sunday Night Baseball, immediately following the Baseball Tonight: Sunday Night Countdown on-site pre-game show at 7 p.m.

How it will work

Karl Ravech and Baseball Hall of Famer and analyst Barry Larkin will be on site for Baseball Tonight: Sunday Night Countdownfrom just outside of Dodger Stadium. After the show, Ravech and Larkin will head to the Sunday Night Baseball booth inside the stadium where they will lead a team of seven Baseball Tonight commentators who will collectively call the action from various locations throughout Dodger Stadium.

ESPN’s regular Sunday Night Baseball booth – Dan Shulman and John Kruk – has the week off. Regular Sunday Night Baseball reporter Buster Olney will be part of the seven-person team at Dodger Stadium.

Baseball Tonight commentator Dodger Stadium location Analysis specialty
Karl Ravech Sunday Night Baseball television booth Overall, team lead
Barry Larkin Sunday Night Baseball television booth Overall, team lead
Buster Olney Press box News and information
Eric Wedge Behind Home plate Big-picture strategy
Mark Mulder Pirates dugout Pitching
Aaron Boone Dodgers’ dugout Offense
Doug Glanville Right Field Pavilion Defense

Mike McQuade, vice-president, production:

“We are committed to expanding our Major League Baseball coverage by finding new methods of informing and entertaining fans. We’ll look to bring viewers closer to the game through the vantage points of our Baseball Tonight experts, who will be strategically placed in positions where they can capture all of the storylines happening during a baseball game.”

ESPN, in its 25th Major League Baseball season, has provided viewers with several unique experiences so far this season, including Baseball Tonight: Sunday Night Countdown celebrity appearances and game commentators in non-traditional broadcast locations.

Sunday Night Baseball is also available on ESPN Radio, ESPN Deportes, ESPN Deportes Radio and WatchESPN.

Upcoming Sunday Night Baseball schedule

Date Game
June 1 Pittsburgh Pirates at Los Angeles Dodgers
June 8 Boston Red Sox at Detroit Tigers
June 15 TBD
June 29 Boston Red Sox at New York Yankees
July 13 New York Yankees at Baltimore Orioles
July 20 Los Angeles Dodgers at St. Louis Cardinals
Aug 3 New York Yankees at Boston Red Sox

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ESPN’s 2014 Major League Soccer Regular-Season Schedule

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The 19th season of Major League Soccer on ESPN will begin Tuesday, May 27, at 7:45 p.m. ET on ESPN2 with the live telecast of MLS Cup champion Sporting Kansas City vs. New York Red Bulls from Sporting Park in Kansas City.

Highlights of 2014 MLS season on ESPN:

  • All 18 regular-season matches (17 on ESPN2, one on ESPN) will be carried on ESPN Deportes, ESPN Deportes Radio and available via WatchESPN;
  • 17 games involving at least one 2013 playoff club, four matches showcasing defending champion Sporting Kansas City;
  • The 2014 MLS All-Star Game in Portland will air Wednesday, Aug. 6, at 9:30 p.m. on ESPN2 and will showcase the MLS All-Stars vs. Bayern Munich, the Bundesliga’s 2013-2014 champions;
  • Two Cascadia Cup clashes between Seattle Sounders and Portland Timber (Sunday, July 13, and Sunday, Aug. 24);
  • Two I-95 Corridor rivalry matches: Philadelphia Union vs. New York Red Bulls (Wednesday, July 16) and New York Red Bulls vs. D.C. United (Wednesday, Sept. 10);
  • A West vs. East meeting between LA Galaxy and New York Red Bulls on Sunday, Sept. 28;
  • Portland Timbers vs. FC Dallas on the eve of the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the last match before the league’s two-week break for the group phase of the quadrennial tournament.

 

ESPN’s 2014 MLS Schedule

(Schedule Subject to Change)

Date Time (ET) Match Networks
Tue, May 27 7:45 p.m. Sporting Kansas City vs. New York Red Bulls ESPN2/ESPN Deportes
Wed, Jun 11 10 p.m. Portland Timbers vs. FC Dallas ESPN2/ESPN Deportes
Sun, Jul 6 3 p.m. Sporting Kansas City vs. Chicago Fire ESPN/ESPN Deportes
Sun, Jul 13 10 p.m. Seattle Sounders vs. Portland Timbers ESPN2/ESPN Deportes
Wed, Jul 16 7 p.m. Philadelphia Union vs. New York Red Bulls ESPN2/ESPN Deportes
Sat, Jul 19 6 p.m. Sporting Kansas City vs. LA Galaxy ESPN2/ESPN Deportes
Sat, Jul 26 10 p.m. Seattle Sounders vs. LA Galaxy ESPN2/ESPN Deportes
Wed, Jul 30 9 p.m. Real Salt Lake vs. New York Red Bulls ESPN2/ESPN Deportes
Wed, Aug 6 9:30 p.m. MLS All-Star Game:
MLS All-Stars vs. Bayern Munich
ESPN2
Sun, Aug 10 10:30 p.m. Seattle Sounders vs. Houston Dynamo ESPN2/ESPN Deportes
Sun, Aug 24 5 p.m. Portland Timbers vs. Seattle Sounders ESPN2/ESPN Deportes
Sun, Sep 7 5 p.m. Portland Timbers vs. San Jose Earthquakes ESPN2/ESPN Deportes
Wed, Sep 10 8 p.m. New York Red Bulls vs. D.C. United ESPN2/ESPN Deportes
Sun, Sep 28 8:30 p.m. LA Galaxy vs. New York Red Bulls ESPN2/ESPN Deportes
Thu, Oct 2 8 p.m. Philadelphia Union vs. Chicago Fire ESPN2/ESPN Deportes
Sun, Oct 12 7 p.m. FC Dallas vs. LA Galaxy ESPN2/ESPN Deportes
Thu, Oct 16 8 p.m. Houston Dynamo vs. New England Revolution ESPN2/ESPN Deportes
Sun, Oct 19 8:30 p.m. LA Galaxy vs. Seattle Sounders ESPN2/ESPN Deportes
Sun, Oct 26 8:30 p.m. Sporting Kansas City vs. New York Red Bulls ESPN2/ESPN Deportes

 

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ESPN and ESPN3 Present 2014 Scripps National Spelling Bee Finals

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ESPN’s 21st straight year of televising the Scripps National Spelling Bee final will feature more than 14 combined hours of live competition across ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN3, beginning Wednesday, May 28, at 8 a.m. ET, and concluding on Thursday, May 29, at 10 p.m.

ESPN3, the live multiscreen sports network available in 92 million homes, will exclusively carry all preliminary rounds live on Wednesday. Live television coverage will begin Thursday, May 29, at 10 a.m. with the semifinals on ESPN2 and WatchESPN. The competition will conclude on ESPN and WatchESPN at 8 p.m. with the Championship Finals.

Throughout the competition, ESPN3 and WatchESPN will feature an enhanced “Play Along” version, a newly integrated informational experience featuring the live coverage from the Bee alongside a display of the official spelling clues from Scripps, speller bio blasts, previous words spelled, live tweets and other information.  Viewers can spell along with the finalists to test their own skills and then see how they did when the word is revealed.

The schedule:

Date Time (ET) Round Networks
Wed, May 28 8-11:45 a.m. Preliminary Round & Play-Along version ESPN3
1:15-5:15 p.m. Preliminary Round & Play-Along Version ESPN3
Thu, May 30 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Semifinals Rounds ESPN2 / WatchESPN
8-10 p.m. Championship Finals ESPN / WatchESPN

Commentators: SportsCenter’s Chris McKendry Returns; ESPN Kaylee Hartung Debuts

After a four-year hiatus from the Bee telecast, SportsCenter anchor Chris McKendry returns to host the Scripps National Spelling Bee Final. McKendry will be returning to Washington, DC, where her sportscasting career bloomed while working for WJLA-TV, the ABC affiliate in the market.

Paul Loeffler, a Bee finalist who represented the Merced (Calif.) Sun-Star in the 1990 Scripps National Spelling Bee and finished among the top 13 spellers, makes his ninth appearance as analyst.

ESPN college sports reporter Kaylee Hartung will make her debut as the Scripps National Spelling Bee reporter. Hartung, like McKendry also worked in the nation’s capital in the CBS News Washington Bureau prior to her transition to sports journalism. She served as reporter for ESPN’s coverage of the 2013 College World Series, as well as college football and college basketball in the 2012-13 seasons. Hartung is also host of Longhorn Network’s flagship program “Longhorn Extra.”

ESPN Spelling Bee TV highlights:

  • The production open features three of the more experienced spellers – Jae Canetti (Reston, Va.), Hannah Citsay (Lancaster, Pa.) and Vanya Shivashankar (Olathe, Kansas) – and their little friend Buzz, an animated bee;
  • Video of select champion spellers lip-synching to the American Authors hit song “Best Day of My Life”;
  • Best of the Bee – Highlights from the most memorable moments from ESPN’s two decades of National Spelling Bee Finals; and
  • Introductory profiles of select champion spellers, highlighting their hometowns, schools and hobbies; and
  • Two in-depth profiles of Lucas Urbanski from Crystal Lake, Illinois, (sponsored by Northwest Herald), who earned his fourth trip to the Scripps National Spelling Bee by beating out his twin sister, Claire, after the siblings competed against one another unopposed for final 32 rounds during their qualifying regional Bee; and Vanya Shivashankarfrom Olathe, Kansas, (sponsored by The Olathe News), who finished in fifth place last year and is a sibling to the 2009 Scripps National Spelling Bee winner Kavya Shivashankar.

ESPN and Scripps National Spelling Bee Reach Two-Year Agreement

ESPN, Inc. and the Scripps National Spelling Bee have reached a two-year agreement for the exclusive rights to carry the National Spelling Bee Finals in 2014 and 2015 across its linear television and digital platforms. The agreement continues ESPN’s relationship with the National Spelling Bee which dates back to 1994, the first time ESPN televised the final of the educational competition program held annually in the nation’s capital, Washington, DC.

ABOUT THE SCRIPPS NATIONAL SPELLING BEE FINALS

The Scripps National Spelling Bee is the nation’s largest and longest-running educational program. The purpose of the Scripps National Spelling Bee is to help students improve spelling, increase their vocabularies, learn concepts and develop correct English usage that will help them all of their lives. Visit www.spellingbee.com for more information about the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which is administered on a not-for-profit basis by The E.W. Scripps Company.

The 2014 Scripps National Spelling Bee will feature 281 champion spellers, ranging in age from eight to 14. Spellers qualify for the national competition by winning locally sponsored spelling contests in their respective communities. The champion spellers who travel to Washington, D.C., represent all 50 U.S. states, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Department of Defense Schools in Europe; also, the Bahamas, Canada, China, Ghana, Jamaica, Japan and South Korea.

For more information and real-time results for all segments of competition are provided at the Bee’s official website, http://www.spellingbee.com/

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Transcript of Indianapolis 500 on ABC Media Conference Call

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A media conference call was held today to discuss ABC’slive telecast of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 25, beginning at 11 a.m. ET. Participants on the call were ESPN vice president, motorsports, production, Rich Feinberg, along with the three members of ESPN’s booth for the telecast: lap-by-lap announcer Allen Bestwick and analysts Scott Goodyear and Eddie Cheever. This is the 50th consecutive year that the Indianapolis 500 will air on ABC. A transcript of the call follows:

 

RICH FEINBERG: 50 years on ABC.  For me, that starts with a ‘Wow.’  What a run.  My personal memories of the Indy 500 and ABC’s coverage of it date back to when I was a kid.  Memorial Day weekends with my family, appointment viewing.  Those days it was on a tape delay at night.  To see it come around now to the 50-year anniversary is just amazing.

Our team looks at it like it’s a privilege to produce the Indy 500.  It always has been.  It always will be.  It’s a cherished assignment that everybody embraces.  Our goal is quite simple, and that’s to uphold the tradition of excellence in coverage that’s been established by our ABC colleagues over the past 49 years.

That may sound a bit cliché, but it’s a fact.  We do that by focusing our coverage on the drivers and their stories, their team’s race strategy.  Perhaps the most intriguing thing for the casual fan, that’s the speed.  When you’re talking about cars doing over 230 miles an hour, that’s an off-the-charts number.

Through our coverage, we want to make sure our viewers feel like they’re not only enjoying the race but thirsting to be there.  I look forward to being a part of it as I do every year.

ALLEN BESTWICK:  The history for me, when I was a young kid, my dad had racecars at a racetrack in Seekonk, Massachusetts.  Didn’t get much racing on television then, except for the Indianapolis 500.  That was appointment television for us.  As a young boy, watching this race every year sparked my fascination with the broadcasting business, in particular as I continued to follow, watching Jim McKay, the role he played, the variety of sports he did, the excellence with which he did them, and how much you felt like even though you never met him, he was a friend through the television.

So for me all these years later to get a chance to sit in that seat on this occasion, it’s not just bucket list, it’s beyond bucket list.  It’s a little overwhelming to think about how fortunate I am and how honored I am to be part of this.

I can’t wait for Sunday.  It’s been a wonderful month so far and I really look forward to a great race.

SCOTT GOODYEAR:  I can certainly remember the very first time I went to Indianapolis in 1973 with my father.  It was a bit of a surprise visit because I was racing a go-kart and he surprised me on the Saturday night and said, We’re not racing tomorrow, we’re going to drive all night and go to the Indianapolis 500.  It has been a part of my life for a long time.

Then having a chance to go there as a rookie in 1990 as a driver was pretty cool.  Having some reasonable success there, and now having an opportunity as I have done for many years to be in the booth with ABC is truly a privilege.  When we get together for meetings, there’s a lot of passion and pride to being involved in this race.

For me, I view this race now from the television booth almost like a driver.  There are the super teams that you anticipate will do well, there are teams in the middle of the road that have a good shot at it, then there are teams there participating, if they’re in the top 10 at the end of the day they feel pretty lucky.

The split between group one and group two seems like it’s been shrinking for the past couple years.  This year, smaller teams winning some events, Long Beach and the Indy GP, that might be true this weekend.

Ed Carpenter, surprising everybody.  Neat to do qualifying, see the frustration on the big teams’ faces because they are missing some answers.

Indianapolis is all about the weather literally, the sense of what it can do to your racecar; emotions, what it can do to you as a driver.  That’s just qualifying.  The race is no different.

What I watched in practice yesterday from the group racing, last year practice shows it’s going to have the same thing for this coming Indy 500.  Excited about it.

Somebody asked me the other day, Pick a winner.  I don’t think I can.  I think there’s an honest 10, 12 people that can win this event.  Eddie and I were talking about it.  If you were betting in Vegas, it would be hard to put your money on somebody.  Looking forward to it.

EDDIE CHEEVER:  I dreamed about it as a child when I was living in Italy, I heard it on the radio.  I kept racing.  I was lucky to come here and race.  I was lucky enough to win it.  Now I’m going to be sitting in the booth with two friends calling the 50th anniversary of ABC calling the Indy 500.  I don’t know how it could be any better than that.

It’s going to be a very exciting race.  There’s too many stories to sit down and go through them one by one, so many different possibilities, that I really think it’s going to go down as one of the most exciting races we’ve ever had at Indy.  And when you consider how we ended last lap, the result would have probably changed if the race would have gone another 400 yards, and I expect we’ll see the same thing on Sunday.

Q.         Eddie and Scott, there’s two names that have returned this year that link back to some important moments in IndyCar recent history, with Villeneuve coming back, and Montoya being back.  What do you think about having both of those names back in the field?  Have you heard from fans?  Do you feel there’s a different vibe having them back? 

EDDIE CHEEVER:  They’re two totally different types of drivers.  They have been extremely successful in Formula One.  Villeneuve is a Formula One world champion, which in my books is as high as it gets in open-wheel racing.

I knew Villeneuve’s father very well when we were racing together in Formula One.  I remember driving back around in a car where I was doing the steering and — he was doing the steering and I was doing the throttle.  I was never pushing on the throttle strong enough.

I have a great interest in seeing him do very well.  I think he’ll approach the race differently.  He’s with a smaller team.  He already looks like he’s starting to think about how he will prepare himself for those last laps.

A lot of people have gravitated to him during the race.  As the race goes on, people will remember the great win he had not too long ago.

Montoya is racing for Penske.  He’s committed to the series for the whole season, whereas Villeneuve is committed for one race for the moment.

He’s had an exciting beginning, but not quite up to pace where everybody expected him to do well.  He all of a sudden laid down a very good lap on the day of qualifying.

I think you’ll really see a lot of aggressive moves from Montoya early on.  He’s going for a perfect record, having competed only twice.  I really think he has a good chance of winning.

There’s a lot of excitement whenever you mention the word ‘Montoya’ in the pits, even amongst the drivers.  Whereas Villeneuve, he’s going to have to build that back up, but there’s a lot of respect for what he has done.

SCOTT GOODYEAR:  I think everything Eddie said is spot on.  The interesting thing for me is I had an opportunity to spend half an hour with Jacques in the garage area a week ago.  Through all the questions I was asking him, catching up with him, I asked him, Why come back to something that you’ve won, have great memories with?  Why come back after a 19-year absence?

He said, Racing is my oxygen.  I need to race something.  I loved it.  It didn’t really interest me for quite a few years.  But I’ve been watching it for the last year, year and a half, and he said it’s something he would like to go back to.

He said he would like to come back to the series next year and run full-time, if it’s possible.  If this is an audition to get his feet wet and make sure that he can go out and let people know his interest, it may be.  I’m not sure that if everybody is running strong at the end of the day that he has enough experience in these new cars, which he says are different to drive, to be a contender.  I think finishing in the top 10 would be a success for him and the team.

With Montoya, I’ll add to what Eddie said, every driver you speak to in the paddock says that when he has enough time underneath his belt in these cars, from being in the tin tops for the last little while, they’re going to worry that he’s going to be dominating like he was before, from the factor that he’ll be one of those guys you’ll be battling with in the top 3-5.  As.

The drivers say, they have enough drivers they have to contend with.  A lot of respect for Montoya in the garage area.

Q.         Is it good generally for the series to have both of those drivers back? 

EDDIE CHEEVER:  I think it’s phenomenal, exceptional.  Montoya brings a lot of Formula One sense.  Montoya brings a lot of people back to watching open-wheel racing.

Villeneuve, I can’t repeat it enough, was a Formula One champion.  His father was, I would say, one of the top three drivers that ever drove for Ferrari.  The history, the whole amount of energy they bring is tremendous to anything they participate in.

Q.         This is the first time we have a youngster from Nazareth, Pennsylvania, not named Andretti.  I wanted Scott and Eddie’s take on the young Sage Karam, in high school still.  Your thoughts of his challenges, how he might add to the storyline on Sunday

SCOTT GOODYEAR:  When I met him earlier this month and spent some time with him, speaking with him in the garage, nice young man.  At 19 years of age, times have changed, because at 19, I was just finishing karting and about ready to take my first day of Formula Ford school.

We were talking about this on our conference call this morning.  They almost have harnessed him back a little bit because the team says he is very eager to get going and is trying to get so much accomplished in a short amount of time.

As a rookie here, you can be very fast.  But 500 miles is such a long, long time on the racetrack.  I always broke it up into five 100-mile races.  You have to get yourself through it and not rush.

This will be interesting for Villeneuve and Montoya.  It’s been a while since they’ve come here and run this race.  Everybody is anxious.  Seems like it happens between 250 and 300 miles.  Everybody seems like they want to get going.  I always did.

For him as a rookie, he’s going to have to be throttled back, have somebody good with him on the radio talking to him, his spotter is going to have to do well.  He has enthusiasm, good looks, an American, so he has a bright future ahead of him.

EDDIE CHEEVER:  Just to add to what Scott said, talent and youth and energy are wonderful things to have.  Don’t really fit in that well in how you approach the Indy 500.  Here you have to have an enormous amount of patience.  You have to be willing to listen to the pits.  You have to be able to pick yourself up from a bad stint with the tires not working or you have some sort of problem.

It will be a great testament to his ability if he can finish the 500.

We saw another youngster last year from Colombia called Munoz, Scott and I were betting which lap he was going to crash because he was almost in the grass, but he made it.

Those things that carry you forward in open-wheel racing on a street course don’t really come much into play around the Speedway.

Q.         Marco Andretti, your take on Marco?  Seems like he can’t get over the hump.  Very close, very much in contention for a good portion of the race last year.  It just didn’t happen for him.  Same thing happened a couple weeks later at Pocono where he had the dominant car all weekend.  Seems like he’s there every week. 

EDDIE CHEEVER:  He is always a threat to win.  It’s his family’s team.  He has been very quick.  His rookie year at Indy was unbelievable.  He lost by the smallest of margins.  He is unfortunate in that he has some incredibly talented teammates.

He’s really going to be judged not so much by the fact that he wins or doesn’t win, but how he compares with his teammates.  That’s a tall order.

SCOTT GOODYEAR:  I would be delighted to see Marco win from the standpoint that I understand what it’s like to come to win this event, but not, obviously in ’92 and ’97 being second, obviously ’95 across the line first and being disqualified.

Regardless, it’s a scenario that weighs on you every racetrack you go to.  It weighs on you when you come back here to the Indianapolis 500.  For him, I’m sure he thinks about it.  I talked to him about it.  He said, No, it’s behind me, I don’t think about it too much.

But you do.  I always looked at it like you’ll get another chance.  I’m sure he feels the same way.

When you get close to the end of your career, then when you retire, and you haven’t accomplished that goal, which is the reason your living, breathing and racing, and your last name is Andretti, and the pressure that’s on a third-generation driver, I would love to see him win.  It would be great for him, his family, and our sport to have Andretti win again.

Q.         Allen, from everything I understand, Kurt Busch is resonating well with the fans and other drivers at Indy.  Have you noticed anything different in his demeanor or mannerisms or attitude when he’s out there in an IndyCar than you’ve noticed when he’s maybe in the NASCAR garage. 

ALLEN BESTWICK:  I think anytime you go someplace and try something new and different for the first time, have a little bit of success at it, you’re going to have a little pep in your step.

Think about how much Kurt has hung himself out there by doing this.  I’ll borrow Eddie’s thought about this.  Here is a guy who is a NASCAR champion.  All the race wins he’s accumulated.  He was willing to put that reputation out there on the line for the world to step out and try and drive a type of racecar he’d never driven before.

I’ve seen nothing but good things from Kurt.  I see a guy who is determined to master it, has fit in very well with his teammates, has dug into the engineering, the aerodynamics, driving techniques, soaked it up like a sponge, acquitted himself very, very well in an IndyCar.  I’m not surprised by that.  We know Kurt is a heck of a racecar driver.

I’m not surprised he’s acquitted himself well.  He’s having fun.  He understands the challenge ahead of him.  He got a taste of the difficulty of that challenge yesterday.  You can say he’s gotten the full Indy experience now.

But I’ve seen nothing but smiles from Kurt.  Why not, right?  He had the guts to put himself out there and try this.  He’s doing well.  He has the opportunity to have a good, solid race experience on Sunday and do something he probably never thought he’d get the chance to do in his life.  I can relate to that.  It makes you smile.

Q.         Eddie, I’ve seen some of your comments in recent weeks.  What are your impressions of Kurt in an IndyCar? 

EDDIE CHEEVER:  I am totally impressed by everything he has done in the car.  Going out and turning into turn one when you’re up at speed, and engineers have told you, Don’t take your foot off the throttle, you’re talking to yourself telling yourself it’s going to be okay.  That’s a difficult moment even in a racecar driver that’s done it his whole life, to be committed to doing that.

He’s been incredibly fast.  Every hurdle he got to, other than yesterday, when he got very lucky and hit the wall at the right angle.  Other than that, I am just impressed.  When he had to go out and do his qualifying run, that’s 230, that is really moving the mail.  That’s fast.  Turning into turn one at 236 miles an hour, and everybody said that the cars were sliding at the end of their run because they were so much on the limit trying to trim them out.  He went and did it as if he’s been doing it his whole life.

He is talented and incredibly brave.  If he digests this last hit he had, it took me a long time to digest, if he can go through that, he’s in that leading group at the end of the race, I would consider him a possible top-three finisher, if he gets through all the problems during the race.  But he’s been incredible.  I’m very impressed.

Q.         Rich, 92 cameras planned.  Why the increase this year?  Are any of those specialty cameras? 

RICH FEINBERG:  The 92 is actually in concert pretty close to what we did last year.  36 of those cameras are on racecars.  We will have this year a complement of 12 different teams, including Helio Castroneves, Tony Kanaan, Juan Pablo Montoya, Simon Pagenaud, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Ed Carpenter, all carrying on-camera systems.  All 36 are on track, if you would.

The remaining cameras include some specialty things.  We will have a helicopter cam for the entire race.  We have several ultraslow motion cameras that we have strategically placed around the track.  We have wall cams.  We have grass cams.  We have hand-held cams.  We have robotic cams.  I think we got the place pretty well wired up.

The unique thing about this race, racing in general, is the size of the playing field is gigantic, so it takes more.  We’re always watching multiple things.  A lot of our camera systems allow us to focus on multiple battles on the track to make sure we can document as much of the action as we can for the fans.

It is a very large production, one of the largest that we do every year.  Tremendous credit to our technical and engineering staff to put together this system and ultimately I think our fans are the benefactors of it.

Q.         Are there any other production enhancements planned? 

RICH FEINBERG:  Well, we’ve made some changes since we were at the track last.  I’d start with probably the most noticeable one for our fans will be welcoming Allen Bestwick to the family.  Allen and I have worked together for many, many years.  I know not only he’s excited about doing the project, but I’m just as excited to have him along.  He’s one of the best in the business, and I think our fans will really enjoy his call.

We have some new graphic elements we’re using.  We have some good feature stories we’ll tell before we get going with the race.  As I said earlier, our ultimate job is to tell the stories of the drivers, and to the best of our ability, through the pictures and through the sounds, create that thirst for our viewers to want to be there and enjoy this very special sporting event.

Q.         Allen, you’ve had a very long career in calling NASCAR races.  How does it feel to be in the open-wheel world now? 

ALLEN BESTWICK:  It feels pretty good.  It’s been a great experience so far.  It’s funny because for as long as I’ve been around racing, I’ve spent my whole career in the month of May in Charlotte basically and watched the 500 from afar.

I’ve been at the Speedway, around the NASCAR race there since 1994, so when I walked in the gate this month, it wasn’t a new experience for me to be at the Speedway.  I knew where the gate was to get in and I knew where the TV compound was, where the booth was.  I knew where to find things.  It’s not a completely new experience at the Speedway.

Then I’ve had great support from Rich and my bosses to do the research that I needed to do.  I spent time in Indianapolis in February just after the Daytona 500.  Some of the race teams were more than gracious in welcoming me in.  I went through IndyCars from top to bottom at team shops.  Had dinners and lunches with drivers and team managers.  I’ve had plenty of time to acclimate myself – short way to say it – the same thing done differently.

It’s still an auto race.  The object is still to get the distance covered from start to finish in the least amount of time possible.  Terminology, styles, strategies are a little different.

I look forward to the race.  Obviously it’s the premiere auto race in the United States, maybe the world, every year.  To have the opportunity to call it is a fascinating thing.  I’m more excited than anything because it’s been a great experience so far.  I can’t wait to see what race day is like in person.

Q.         For Scott and Eddie, obviously you have a lot of experience on both sides.  There’s so many changes in TV in 50 years.  Probably what hasn’t changed much is the raw talent that open-wheel drivers share.  What special traits do you think open-wheel drivers have to be able to perform so well in what is basically a road rocket before enormous crowds on prime ABC TV? 

SCOTT GOODYEAR:  I think for me, now that I’ve stepped away from it, I honestly believe that you can be trained to be a very good, proficient driver that can compete at IndyCar level.  But I think the ones that are winning and are just a little bit faster have something different.  I think it might be something that you’re just born with.

There’s been that question for years and years, especially when we talk about different generations of drivers.  When you stand at a road course, you watch a guy like Will Power drive around, even his fellow competitors say that they expect him to be on pole everywhere they go to on a road course.

You go to ovals and see the smoothness of guys like Scott Dixon, and honestly a very impressive Ed Carpenter.  Ed obviously trained hard, not through the road courses, because he’s not that great on a road course, but he spent so many years doing the midgets and the dirt cars.

I think it’s training and then I think you have to have a little bit of a gift.

With that I think I am more impressed now than I was when I was doing it.  When you’re doing it, you eat, breathe and sleep it.  You expect to be good.  You expect to be competitive.  You don’t feel that you’re doing anything different than anybody else ’cause you’re getting up, going and doing your job every day.

It’s only when you step away from it like I have, and maybe Eddie feels this way, you truly understand how different your occupation was when you’re sitting in a racecar.

Our racecar happened to weigh 1500 pounds and have in our day 900 horsepower, now they’re about 725.  And, oh, yeah, as Eddie mentioned earlier, we go into turn one at 230, 240 miles an hour and don’t take our foot off the gas.

The last comment I’ll make on all that is when you’re doing it back then, it seems like it’s in slow motion.  It seems like the straightaways are long, and I guess that’s what I guess they call being in the zone in other sports.

When you’re getting ready to retire, you notice that life is going by a little quicker in the racecar than it did before.  That’s probably the first indication it’s time to go find something else to do.

I know how difficult it is, I know how brave you are when you’re doing it.  That’s the neat thing I think when I watch the cars go around today.

EDDIE CHEEVER:  Having raced for a decade in Formula One, Monaco, Spa, everywhere else, then coming to Indy, I don’t say this trying to make a joke of it, I think you have to be a little bit crazy when you’re racing on the limit at the Indianapolis 500.

It is, I would say by far and away, the most dangerous and most intoxicating race that I have ever been a part of.  When you have to throw a car into a corner at 235 miles an hour, two feet behind a car that’s doing the same speed, another car that’s trying to pass you, do all this and stay away from that horribly hard wall, you have to be a little bit different.

The more time I had spent with A.J. Foyt, Unser, Andretti, there’s a common thread:  they’re all capable of dealing with the danger very well and yet perform at such a high level.

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Indianapolis 500 Airing on ABC for 50th Consecutive Year

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ESPN3 to Offer Second Screen Experience with Onboard Camera Views

Continuing a Memorial Day weekend TV tradition that began in 1965, ABC will air the Indianapolis 500 for the 50th consecutive year on Sunday, May 25. The telecast of the 98th running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing begins with a one-hour pre-race show at 11 a.m. ET with the green flag waving at 12:12 p.m.

What began as highlights in black-and-white on ABC’s Wide World of Sports in 1965 has evolved into ESPN’s massive production of the modern telecast for ABC, one of the largest and most complex that ESPN does each year. The production will utilize 92 cameras to televise the premier event of the Verizon IndyCar Series, including three onboard cameras per car in 12 of the 33 cars competing in the race.

The relationship between ABC and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is one of the longest-running between a network and a sporting event. Weekend coverage of the Masters has aired on CBS since 1956, and ABC has aired the Little League World Series since 1963.

“The stewardship of ABC’s storied history at the Indianapolis 500 is something we take very seriously,” said Jed Drake, ESPN senior vice president and executive producer. “The heritage of this event, and the pure excitement and spectacle of it, are what we look forward to bringing to our viewers every year.”

During the past 49 telecasts of the race, some of the most familiar names in sports television history have been part of ABC’s coverage, led by the legendary Jim McKay, who called the race for 18 years and served as telecast host for two others. Chris Schenkel, Bill Flemming, Keith Jackson, Al Michaels, Jim Lampley and Brent Musburger have all served in various roles on the telecast.

The “Dean of Motorsports Journalists,” Chris Economaki, originated the role of pit reporter and was part of many Indianapolis 500 telecasts on ABC, while former Indy 500 winner Rodger Ward originated the driver-analyst position that was later filled by Jackie Stewart, Sam Posey, Bobby Unser, Rusty Wallace, Tom Sneva, Arie Luyendyk and others. Paul Page anchored the telecast 14 times and before his late night career, David Letterman was a pit reporter on the 1971 telecast.

Allen Bestwick will become the 10th person to call the race on ABC when he makes his debut this year.

“One of the things that sparked my fascination with broadcasting was that appointment viewing of the broadcast of the Indianapolis 500 with Jim McKay behind the microphone,” said Bestwick. “It’s one of those things that attracted me and inspired me to get into the business and to think that I’m going to have the opportunity to sit in that chair – THAT chair – is mind-blowing.”

Joining Bestwick in the broadcast booth will be analysts Scott Goodyear and Eddie Cheever, both former Indy 500 competitors. ESPN SportsCenter anchor Lindsay Czarniak will host the telecast from the Speedway’s iconic Pagoda while pit reporters will be Rick DeBruhl, Jamie Little, Dr. Jerry Punch and Vince Welch.

ABC’s Indianapolis 500 telecast will be produced under the oversight of ESPN vice president, motorsports, production Rich Feinberg. Shawn Murphywill produce the race telecast and Bruce Watson will direct, while Terry Lingner will produce the pre-race show with Chip Dean directing.

Viewers of the ABC telecast will have the option of a second screen experience through a choice of live streaming video from the onboard cameras on ESPN3, ESPN’s multi-screen live sports network. ESPN3 will carry the feeds exclusively through WatchESPN and on Indycar.com. ESPN3 is accessible online at WatchESPN.com, on smartphones and tablets via the WatchESPN app and streamed on televisions through ESPN on Xbox LIVE to Gold members, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV and Roku.  The network is currently available to more than 92 million homes at no additional cost to fans who receive their high-speed Internet connection or video subscription from an affiliated service provider.  The network is also available at no cost to approximately 21 million U.S. college students and U.S.-based military personnel via computers, smartphones and tablets connected to on-campus educational and on-base military broadband and Wi-Fi networks.

Among the features that will air during the pre-race show or in ESPN SportsCenter’s Indianapolis 500 coverage:

  • ESPN’s Chris Connelly tells the story of Tony Kanaan’s lucky charm, a medallion given to him by his mother, shared by him to a girl facing life-saving brain surgery, and returned to him, days before he won the most important race of his life.
  • ESPN The Magazine senior writer Ryan McGee interviewed some 30 current and former ABC announcers and behind-the-scenes production personnel in search of unique and interesting memories of some of the greatest and memorable Indy 500 telecast moments over the past 50 years.
  • Helio Castroneves was the first driver to climb the fence to celebrate his wins, a tradition so loved by fans that he is forever begged by fans to climb in their seat section. And so enjoyed by the racing community that even Tony Stewart couldn’t resist copying ‘Spiderman’. Now he’d like a 4th climb at the Indy 500.
  • A Memorial Day feature: the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier honors those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. And so the sentinels stand guard. Their uniforms meticulous, their movements precise and their commitment unflagging, Every hour, every day, year after year.
  • Former NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Kurt Busch, competing in the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca Cola 600 at Charlotte in the same day, will be interviewed prior to the race.

In addition to television in the United States on ABC and Watch ABC, ESPN also distributes Verizon IndyCar Series race telecasts through a combination of ESPN networks and syndication to more than 198 countries and 101 million homes. Also, U.S. troops serving overseas and on Navy vessels around the world can watch live via a broadcast agreement between ESPN and the American Forces Network.

Timeline – 50 Years of Indy 500 on ABC

  • Charlie Brockman, an Indianapolis media personality who had called the closed-circuit broadcasts of the Indy 500 in previous years, is play-by-play announcer for the first telecast in 1965 on ABC’s Wide World of Sports.
  • ABC veteran Chris Schenkel calls the 1966 race telecast.
  • In 1967, the race appears in color for the first time and Jim McKay calls the first of his 18 Indy 500 telecasts.
  • Former race winner Rodger Ward joins McKay in the 1967 telecast in the new role of driver-analyst.
  • In 1971, for the first time, ABC’s coverage of the Indianapolis 500 airs as a same-day, stand-alone, tape-delayed telecast in prime time rather than as part of the Wide World of Sports program.
  • In 1975, Keith Jackson handles anchor duties for ABC as Jim McKay misses the race for the only time between 1967 and his final race in 1987.
  • In 1983, Al Unserand Rick Mearscarry onboard cameras, the first used in Indy 500 coverage.
  • In 1986, after many years of tape-delayed telecasts, the race is televised live for the first time.
  • In 1987, Jim McKay, who serves as host, works his 20th and final Indianapolis 500 for ABC (18 years in play-by-play role, two years as host).
  • In 2004, several rain delays take the telecast to 8 l/2 hours, making for one of the longest single-event telecasts ever.
  • Also in 2004, Jamie Little makes her debut as a pit reporter, the first woman ever in that role at the Indy 500.
  • In 2006, ABC introduces the “side-by-side” format, allowing viewers to continue watching the action during national commercial breaks.
  • In 2007, the race is televised in High Definition for the first time. Also, for the first time, two women work as pit reporters in coverage as Brienne Pedigo joins Jamie Little in the pits.
  • In 2011, ESPN and Indianapolis Motor Speedway announce a new six-year agreement to begin in 2013 to keep the Indianapolis 500 on ABC through 2018, including the 100th running in 2016, and make ABC the exclusive broadcast network partner of the IndyCar Series.
  • The 100th Anniversary Indianapolis 500 airs on ABC in 2011, the 47th consecutive year the network has televised the event.
  • In 2012, ESPN introduces a second-screen experience to the Indianapolis 500 telecast with streaming onboard cameras available for viewing on ESPN3 during the race telecast.
  • In 2013, ESPN SportsCenter anchor Lindsay Czarniak becomes the first woman to host ABC’s Indianapolis 500 telecast.

Indianapolis 500 lap-by-lap announcers on ABC

(1965-2014)

1965 – Charlie Brockman

1966 – Chris Schenkel

1967-1974 – Jim McKay

1975 – Keith Jackson

1976-1985 – Jim McKay

1986-1987 – Jim Lampley

1988-1998 – Paul Page

1999-2001 – Bob Jenkins

2002-2004 – Paul Page

2005 – Todd Harris

2006 – 2013 – Marty Reid

2014 – Allen Bestwick

Summary:

Jim McKay – 18 years (two additional years as host)

Paul Page – 14 years

Marty Reid – 8 years

Bob Jenkins – 3 years

Jim Lampley – 2 years

Charlie Brockman, Todd Harris, Keith Jackson, Chris Schenkel – 1 year

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