Morocco did not qualify for this year’s World Cup, but England and the United States did. Yesterday I watched them play.
A lot has changed since the last World Cup, not just the additional camera treatments, but sonically too. This year the stadium sounded more like an apiary than the choral competitions of ere, with South African vuvuzelas trumping anything resembling a human voice.
In 2007 Phillipe Parreno and Douglas Gordon released Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait, a game-length scopic interrogation of French mid-fielder Zinedine Zidane (whose last World Cup appearance was marred by his attack on an opposing player, after that player had insulted Zidane’s family). Unlike the Zidane portrait (shot during a league game), yesterday’s coverage intercut real-time play (a follow-the-ball master-shot of dot-connection) with replay (where slo-mo close-ups ran the gamut from pornographic “money shot” to Zapruder-style assassination documentation). While the real-time coverage allows us to see the structural set-ups of attackers and defenders, the replay is a lyrical eddy made up of players, equipment, coaches and referees – with every grimace, every billowing jersey approximating the interior workings of its participants.
Presiding over yesterday’s match were ESPN narrators Martin Tyler, a Brit covering the play-by-play, and colour commentator John Harkes, a former player and the first American to participate in an English Premier League game. As much as I enjoyed the visual intercutting, it was the audio coverage that drew me in.
Tyler was most poetic. In reflecting on his countrymen’s fast start, we were told that “England got off to an absolute flier.” Of a particularly aggressive tackle, “right on the margin of what’s permissible.” When a player was carded for spirited play, Tyler summarized the offense as a result of “persistent infringement.” Not to be outdone, and no doubt related to his time in England, Harkes, who occasionally pronounces his “ers” as “ahs”, said of an Englishman’s errant pass: “his touch was too big.”
Ice hockey has its own broadcast language. From Foster Hewitt’s “He shoots, he scores” to Danny Gallivan’s “cannonating drive” to Jim Robson’s “Hello to all hospital patients and shut-ins, those who can’t make it out to the game.” It is doubtful I will ever make it to a World Cup match, not because I dislike crowds but because I am more comfortable at home, with its poetry.