The early days of World Cup broadcasting in the US

Discussion in 'TV, Satellite & Radio' started by joebarnin, May 20, 2014.

  1. joebarnin

    joebarnin Member

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    In the 1970's, there was basically no English-language World Cup coverage in the United States. The final was shown on tape delay (days later) in 1970 and 1974, and not at all in 1978. On the other hand, by 1994 the coverage had reached "modern standards": all games televised live, and no commercial interruptions. I became a fan in the late 70s, so it was interesting to watch the growth from nothing in 1978 to full coverage in 1994. (This wiki entry gives some details: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_FIFA_World_Cup_broadcasters#United_States).

    Here are my recollections (I still have bits of these broadcasts recorded).

    1982 - I don't remember the games on ESPN. I do remember Toby Charles, of Soccer Made in Germany fame, presenting edited (one hour) highlights of the "match of the day" on PBS, each day of the World Cup. He also did a weekly summary of highlights. The final was on ABC, with Jim McKay announcing. Plenty of commercial interruptions - I don't think they missed any goals though (more on that later). Watching the final, as soon as they hit the first commercial, I switched to the Spanish station.

    1986 - A bunch of games on ESPN, a few weekend ones on NBC. They still had commercial interruptions. The ESPN announcers were in the studio, calling the game off of monitors! That was painful - they had to rely on the broadcast to figure out what was going on. Like, a goal is waved off because of offside and it takes them 20 seconds to realize it because the broadcast never showed the linesman. One game (Belgium-Paraguay I belive), a player shot an indirect free kick straight into goal, which of course was no goal. ESPN didn't realize it was an indirect free kick and actually posted the wrong score. Finally realized the mistake 10 minutes later.

    Charlie Jones did the play-by-play for NBC. He was a good American football announcer, he was enthusiastic and gave it his all, but his soccer knowledge was lacking (hmm, why does that sound familiar..?). Rick Davis was one of the color guys.

    I have to divert here about Davis. Decent analysis, but man that guy could talk. Here's an example. In the final Maradona lost the ball while dribbling; the ball took a bad bounce and got away from him. A typical announcer might say something like: "After four weeks and several games, the Azteca field is a bit torn up, and that's way Maradona lost the ball ".

    Here's what Davis said: "The important thing here, in terms of looking and registering the qualify of the player there: the field surface, something we haven't talked much about today. The tournament's taken its toll on it. So many games, and the players wearing the sharp, metal studded cleats, really takes its toll on a field, they tear it up and unfortunately in spite of all of modern technology you simply can't get the grass to grow back as quickly as you want so the field ends up being bumpy, and on that play I think Maradona lost the ball because of it bouncing up." Did he get paid by the word?

    1990 - TNT was the sole English broadcaster. This time I think at least some (or maybe all) announcers were on site. But the dreaded commercial breaks were still there, and this time at least a couple of goals were missed. I remember coming back from a commercial to waving Italian flags and the crowd going nuts. "Guess what just happened? A goal for Italy. We'll show you the replay in a minute". Great, thanks.

    When 1994 came around, it was like the promised land.
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  2. FoxBoro 143

    FoxBoro 143 Member

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    I am so happy it's 2014! We are lucky folks
  3. ATL_Bayern_Fan

    ATL_Bayern_Fan Member

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    Really nice job, joebarnin. First world cup I followed closely was USA 94. People in bangladesh were amazed that these cops stood for 90 minutes with their backs turned to the field. Couldn't figure out why they didn't seem to be interested in watching the biggest sports spectacle that was happing right behind them.
  4. LMGOAL

    LMGOAL Member

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    Joe
    I lived in Santa Clara, Ca not too far from you during the 74 and 78 World Cups, we had to go to the Cow Palace to see the games, giant screen and Mario Machado as announcer, lots of fun.
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  5. danielmak

    danielmak Member

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    Thanks for starting this thread. I appreciate your reflection. I think I remember seeing the 1982 final on delay. I definitely remember watching the 1986 final. And I think I remember seeing the 1990 final. I watched a lot of 1994, most of 1998. Finally, in 2000 I had a satellite after not having cable since I was a kid living at home, so from then on, I have watched all of the WC and all of the Euros (although 2000 and 2004 were PPV and aired on delay on Fox Sports World). In 2010 I was out of the country from the last group day through the 1/2 finals. It was exciting to be able to watch that in Mexico and interesting that Sky Mexico was airing all games in Spanish but also had secondary audio using the FIFA solo announcer commentary. The games also aired around the clock either complete or in 60 minute edits. So it wasn't a one-shot chance like we have in the US, constantly crossing fingers that the weather doesn't mess with my satellite.
  6. unclesox

    unclesox BigSoccer Supporter

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    @joebarnin, I'm totally feeling you. You're bringing back a flood of memories from when I first began watching the World Cup.
    Santa Cruz? I grew up in Union City and so probably watched the same channels you did back in the day.

    '82 was also my first World Cup. I also didn't have ESPN and so watched it all on the old SIN Spanish network. What was really cool was that they simulcast Mexico's coverage on Televisa, which I loved. Gerardo Pena was their main commentator and they also had Pele as an analyst.
    My first big memory of their coverage is when they showed England-France live. West Germany-Algeria was being played the same time and when halftime came without an update from Gijon I was thinking, "It can't still be 0-0." Then in the second half when "Alemania 0, Argelia 1" appeared on screen I was going nuts begging for them to switch over. When the final score was revealed, I forced myself to stay up at 11pm through 1am when they had the scheduled delayed broadcast of that game because I simply couldn't believe that scoreline and had to witness it myself.
    And I remember the disgust that Toby Charles expressed following the "Schande von Gijón".
    For the final on ABC, Jim McKay began the broadcast in the studio by calling it "the event of the day." (!) But I believe the match itself was commentated on by Mario Machado and Paul Gardner, who were at the Bernabeu.

    Btw, sometime around 1978 or '79 'Soccer Made In Germany' showed seven games (their standard one hour edits) from the 1974 World Cup that they claimed had never been shown in the United States live or delayed on closed circuit (apart from the final which they also screened). The matches weren't shown in chronological order on SMIG, in fact they began with the final. From memory, I believe the seven matches shown were:
    Holland-West Germany
    Poland-Argentina
    Uruguay-Holland
    West Germany-Chile

    East Germany-Holland
    Yugoslavia-West Germany
    Poland-Italy
    * not 100% positive on these two but very certain on the others.


    '86 began as a total mess for broadcasters worldwide because the International Broadcast Center in Mexico City crossed up many communication lines with various countries receiving commentary from others (or no sound or video at all).
    NBC received commentary from somewhere in southeast Asia and so were forced to have Charlie Jones call collect and broadcast the Italy-Bulgaria opener via a handset telephone receiver. I think the same happened with part of the England-Argentina game too. NBC lost the sound but still had video so Charlie Jones dialed collect again.
    It also affected ESPN's coverage a couple of days later. They were originally scheduled to show USSR-Hungary but their monitors received Argentina-South Korea (both matches were played simultaneously) and Bob Ley and Co. were at a loss and struggled to readjust their notes.
    Unlike four years earlier SIN produced their own broadcasts with the legendary team of Tony Tirado and Norberto Longo (and a young Jorge Berry, for those familiar with him) handling the commentary. They also had a secondary team for those lesser profile first round games that were played simultaneous to others: Tony Lopez (from San Francisco's KDTV 14!) and Víctor Manuel Velásquez who I believe worked for the local San Antonio SIN affiliate at the time. And for their field reporter they had the great Teofilo Cubillas! I still have all of those broadcasts recorded on video. Some great interviews with Maradona as he was making history.

    In '90 the World Cup was the first sports programming ever shown on TNT. I recall them missing two goals due to commercials: Italy's 1-0 against the USA and Italy's 1-0 in the semi against Argentina.
    That wikipedia link doesn't mention the TNT commentating team of Bob Neal (a veteran of Turner Sports back in the day) and former NFL/Falcons kicker Mick Luckhurst (I followed the NFL back then but had no idea Luckhurst was English and knew 'real' football). When England equalized against Germany in the semi Luckhurst unashamedly announced, "And I didn't leap from my seat, I flew out!"
    By this time SIN was now Univision with Andres Cantor as their main commentator. They originally scheduled to show select matches from the first round but when Costa Rica shocked Scotland - a game they initially hadn't planned to broadcast - they switched up and had a delayed broadcast deep into the night. Same thing when Costa Rica surprised Sweden later in the tournament.

    Great memories. :cool:
    Last edited: May 21, 2014
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  7. Pierre Head

    Pierre Head Member+

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    There were some games in the 1966 WC (England) that were shown in the US, and this led to the start of professional leagues in the USA. For 1970 (Mexico), only the final was shown on Wide World of Sports, tape delayed I believe,with commercials. I don't recall what happened for 1974, but the 1978 Final was shown on closed circuit TV live at various public venues that charged for admission. By 1982, it was possible to watch essentially all the games on free OTA TV on Spanish language channels in many cities. They just used the broadcasts that were being shown in Mexico, including commercials shown along the bottom of the screen for items not sold in the USA! The final was live shown on ABC. When the third Italy goal went in, Jim McKay said the score was 21-0. By 1986, all the games could be seen on Univision or bootlegged from unscrambled satellite feeds with English commentary. By then satellite systems were affordable for ordinary people but with the huge C-band dishes. Of course for 1990 since the USA had qualified there was coverage available in various forms.

    PH
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  8. joebarnin

    joebarnin Member

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    Wow, games on closed circuit. I had no idea.

    I watched the '78 final over-the-air; from San Diego I could get the Tijuana station (channel 12). I really wasn't into soccer at all, but I was reading about the World Cup in the newspaper and I decided to check it out. By the end of the game I was hooked.
  9. unclesox

    unclesox BigSoccer Supporter

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    Those little cartoon adverts were classic! Loved them.
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  10. Pierre Head

    Pierre Head Member+

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    I vaguely remember some of those games on SMIG, but can't recall anything on TV actually at the time of the 74 WC.

    I did not see any US TV coverage in 1990 myself because I went to Italy to watch the games in person. But I recall it was available, but don't know on what channels.

    In some ways yes, but it was very frustrating trying to find WC on TV. By 1986 SIN(Univision) had gone from OTA to cable but some cable companies did not put it out. I remember calling my local (small suburb) cable provider to ask if they would be making it available and they said no because there were not enough people interested in a Spanish network. When I explained that they were showing the WC games and a lot of people would be interested Spanish or not, he replied that maybe they would reconsider for the WC next year:rolleyes:.

    PH
  11. simont

    simont Member

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    I started watching soccer 1998 I remember being in School and they had the games on in the lunchroom lets say I took a 2hr lunch brake I think I may have cut like 1 class a day to watch. as for the TV just 4 days ago ESPN C had a bunch off old WC games I was watching some from 1998 and 2002 and the guy who did the USA games was Jack Edwards god I am so happy ESPN has Ian dark now.
  12. Jamooky

    Jamooky Member+

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    Cool thread, gents. :thumbsup:
  13. Art Deco

    Art Deco Member

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    My memories of the 82 and 86 World Cups were trying to pull in SIN from a local affiliate in Tampa with rabbit ears and half the time failing miserably as the affiliate was a low-power TV station. We had cable, but this was before the "must-carry" rule was put into place requiring cable cos to pick up all local stations.
  14. Jamooky

    Jamooky Member+

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    WC '90 was my 1st. I coulda sworn in was on USA, not TNT. Oh well. I was young. There were commercial breaks on the '90 broadcasts, right?
  15. joebarnin

    joebarnin Member

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    Oh yeah. They missed goals at least a couple of times.
  16. joebarnin

    joebarnin Member

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    I may get slammed for this, but I'm going to stick up for Jack Edwards. He was not great, but he was massively better than his predecessor (Roger Twibell) and successor (Dave O'Brien). At least he knew a little about soccer, unlike the other two. He knew the players and would often anticipate what was going to happen next, which showed some knowledge of the sport. I admit his style was irritating ("mine eyes have seen the glory"), but he was a solid soccer announcer. Twibell and O'Brien were clueless.
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  17. TJNash

    TJNash Member

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    Awesome post!

    However. TNT first broadcasted NBA games in 1988. It started its NFL Sunday Night package a few months after the 1990 World Cup, which might be the source of your confusion.
  18. unclesox

    unclesox BigSoccer Supporter

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    Atlanta Hawks, I take it. :D
  19. TJNash

    TJNash Member

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    The whole league, with no doubt a heavy mix of Hawks games.
  20. stingbee30

    stingbee30 Member

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    if I'm not mistaken, you are confusing with TBS. I lived in Atlanta during that times, and most of the games were show on TBS. TNT became the cable outlet of Turner. TBS was shown on over-the-air in Atlanta market since it's inception. TNT started to snatch some Sporting properties starting with the likes of NBA.
  21. ATL_Bayern_Fan

    ATL_Bayern_Fan Member

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    Are there still countries where majority, if not all, games are shown in tape-delay? I'm assuming America was one of the last one, but I could be wrong.
  22. TJNash

    TJNash Member

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    Not confusing it with TBS. Both TNT and TBS nationally televised NBA games (not just the Hawks), with TNT starting in 1988. All under the Turner Sports umbrella.
  23. InterFan76

    InterFan76 Member

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    I remember the 82 final on ABC and the 86 WC like it was yesterday. Italy vs Bulgaria from 86 on NBC made me a diehard soccer fan from that day on I was 10 in 86. The 86 WC was the first time I remember trying to follow all the teams and who were the stars of each. I even got the panini sticker album for Xmas in 86. My dad thought I was strange for liking soccer so much. I was introduced to it by my Uncle who was born in Sicily. Every Sunday morning watching Serie A on PBS the Maradonna era at Napoli. The 1990 WC on TNT was awesome our team finally made a final that I was able to watch on TV. I was psyched to root for the USA.
  24. Kryptonite

    Kryptonite BigSoccer Supporter

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    @kgilbert78 , have at it.


    A cool, but probably forgotten-about fact/story..as I remember it. I'm probably wrong in at least one regard:

    As we all know, the creation of MLS was a factor in the USA getting the 1994 World Cup. FIFA basically said "We'll give you the World Cup if you start a professional league." The league was supposed to start in 1995, but got delayed to 1996.

    Anyway, it would have been beyond foolish for the 1994 World Cup to be in the USA and not be on accessible TV on a live broadcast. Having commercials interrupt the match wouldn't have been fun. The networks started to think. "How to run a commercial during the game without taking away from the play?" This is where they started to put logos on the TV screen with the whole "This portion of today's match brought to you by." Along with the logos came the constant on-screen score/time bug.

    However, it wasn't until about 1998 when the score/time bug became an expected thing. Some have been decent (several on FSC and Setanta) and some have been atrocious (2006 World Cup which made a large screen seem like a tiny widescreen image.) Some of the NFL/college football ones are/were bad.

    Yes, I remember watching games before the time/score bug. Yes, it was bad. Now, I can't live without it.

    Long story short, I guess we have MLS and the 1994 World Cup for the bug...at least on the American broadcasts on major channels.
    Last edited: May 23, 2014
  25. InterFan76

    InterFan76 Member

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    I faintly remember if I recall correctly the playoffs for the 90 WC between US and Canada were shown on the Score cable network. Does anyone remember that?

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