One of the pleasures of watching Spanish Football on BeIn Sports is the excellent broadcast booth teamwork of Salvadorean play-by-play announcer Jose Hernandez, and Argentine commentators Eduardo Biscayart and Pablo Marino. Aside from their knowledgeable and insightful commentary, and the intelligently descriptive play-by-play, is their sense of humor, which adds a touch of irreverent levity that never becomes intrusive. Their seeming leeway to be spontaneous and gregarious has made for a fun broadcast on a consistent basis.
An illustrative sequence saw Hernandez relate an errant shot on goal by describing it as “an extremely accurate shot that found its intended target in section 32, row 119, and smack in the middle of empty seat 25.” Marino, adding his analysis, pointed out that the “sliding tackle of his opponent missed the ball but forced the striker to attempt a higher, lifted shot, in order to avoid the attempted block. Thus the off target trajectory. You may remember that his only other previous attempt, from a similar distance but on the other side of the field and a bit further left of the box, in the first half, found the woodwork when the goalkeeper was already beaten. But, Jose, you’re right that the degree of difficulty in finding that empty seat made this shot special.”
The men’s pre-game preparation for their coverage, particularly for games played against teams outside Spain, such as during Champions League matches, is impressive and leads one to enjoy a play-by-play that rarely mispronounces a less known player’s name, or similarly, is consistently redolent of pertinent facts about the Spanish team’s foreign opponent. The trio’s deep knowledge of Latin American players, who form such a large percentage of the star performers in all of European football, and their unconcealed passion, including oozing heart-on-sleeve biases when broadcasting games involving their national or favorite teams, such as when they covered Copa America, provides an eloquent and realistic intensity as accompaniment to the only US coverage available for most of our sport.
But enough of a good thing, must have been the recent words in the hallways of the Al Jazeera spin-off. And in response to obviously shifting corporate priorities, soon after their decision to have the Al Jazeera news channel close shop, the Spanish Football coverage this season has been much diluted.
What has replaced the banter, or the next level up of commentary, or the spontaneity of an acknowledged partisan outburst, you may ask? Advertising is the overwhelmingly obvious answer.
In the recent Celta Vigo-FC Barcelona match, we were treated to 60 advertisements ranging from scripts read out loud by the broadcast trio in the middle of the match, to quarter-screen-sized announcements at regular intervals, to close-ups of balls going wide of goal or out of bounds, where the ball is fuzzy but the flashing ball-stop advertisement is in crisp focus. We are even given a third reading of the lineup on the field the first half and the fourth and fifth in the second half in order to mention who was footing the bill for the info.
“And we have reached the 58th minute of the match with a tenuous draw and lots of give and take. So Bisca, who do we have on the pitch? Well, Jose, the line-ups, brought to us courtesy of X-brand, are…”
Play-by-play was interrupted at the 23rd, 43rd, 64th and 79th minutes, and precisely four minutes after each of those interruptions, for two important reasons. The first interruption was necessary so that the announcers could tell us what the quarter screen advertisement already made clear, that the Spanish language broadcast viewers had been watching all along was actually available in English by using the SAP button on their remotes. The second four interruptions told us what the BeIn Sports website, Facebook, and Twitter handles were, including how to reach the broadcasters themselves directly. Sometimes the interruptions were so long they had to be interrupted themselves, for the play on the pitch had included a great save, a shot off the woodwork, and even a score.
Sadly, most of the added insight and in particular the spontaneous or next level commentary is now supplanted with gallant attempts by the trio to make humorous what they must share with their audiences at least four times a half—the plug for their network’s next show, the plug for the “many far flung places” that their coverage reaches, the plug for the “many Tweets” they receive and must acknowledge in nauseating detail, and the plug for whatever sponsor is paying the most for that match—a phone service company and a mobile phone manufacturer starred in this match.
What a shame. The only Spanish Football coverage available had been so much more fun to watch.