For World Cup aficionados, have you noticed a change in this year’s ESPN broadcasting? This is the first time in history that every ESPN/ABC main announcer has a British accent. Lead broadcaster, Martine Tyler works for London’s Sky Sports and was named Premier League Commentator of the Decade in 2003. Tyler will be joined by three other play-by-play announcers: Derek Rae, Adrian Healey and Ian Darke. The only American accent expected to be heard is that of John Harkes, a former American captain, and solely during the US-England matches.
There’s been speculation as to why ESPN/ABC decided to have an all British sounding cast. The reason I’m most familiar with is, since England invented the sport and has the most historical experience with it, a British ‘voice’ sounded more authoritative and professional. But some American soccer fans don’t seem to regard the reason, regardless of motive, worthy of the change. To these fans, an all British news casting team reporting on behalf of an American broadcasting agency is nothing short of ‘unpatriotic’.
I tend to think of accents in terms of phonology, not politics. For the World Cup, what exemplifies a country’s greatness is not its particular speech patterns. Rather, its athleticism and sportsmanship. So does it really matter if a broadcaster pronounces his ‘r’ like Brian Williams or Sir Alastair Burnet? I think we should focus on what matters most: supporting our teams and the international soccer community with loud cheers…of every accent out there!
What do you think? Is ESPN’s choice of an all British broadcasting cast a political issue?