King Kaufman’s Sports Daily

Copa Mundial: Announcers aside, Univision beats ESPN by not blocking the game with graphics. Plus: Can Isiah fix the Knicks? In a year? (Hint: No.)


So like an idiot I’ve been thinking I couldn’t get the Spanish network Univision on my satellite system, but I figured it out Monday.

My mistake was searching for a show called something like “World Cup” with my DVR’s search feature and finding only the ESPN and ABC broadcasts. Turns out Univision has a very nice program called “Copa Mundial 2006.”

I’ve been hearing and reading a lot of English speakers saying they’ve been watching the World Cup matches on Univision despite not speaking a word of Spanish because the ESPN show is so horrible. So I finally gave myself a chance to see for myself. I watched Italy’s win over Australia on a penalty kick in the morning game, and I’ve come to one basic conclusion.

I’m an idiot. How did I not know I could get Univision? I’ve been missing “Sabado Gigante” all this time!

Also, I enjoyed the Spanish-language broadcast more than I’ve liked the ESPN or ABC shows, even though the ESPN announcers, a big part of why so many people say they’ve turned away from the English-language broadcasts, don’t bother me much.

I’ve read a lot about how soccer fans think guys like Marcelo Balboa and Shep Messing are idiots with no insight and lead play-by-play announcer Dave O’Brien, a baseball guy, has no business being anywhere near soccer.

I like O’Brien just fine as a baseball announcer, but I agree he’s completely out of his element at the World Cup. As for Balboa and company, even if they are idiots — I have nothing to say on the question — even an idiot soccer analyst knows more about soccer than I do, so I learn a few things listening to them, and I don’t find any of them terribly annoying.

My favorite ESPN team is the English-Irish tandem of Adrian Healy and Tommy Smythe, who are now finished. But to be honest, I think I liked them best because of their accents. It just feels more like I’m watching soccer if a guy with an accent from the British Isles is talking. If I don’t hear some Britishism like “sticky wicket” or something, I might as well stick to curling.

Happily, I feel the same way listening to announcers speaking Spanish. That’s what soccer sounded like when I was a kid, occasionally tuning it in on KMEX, Channel 34.

Same goes for bullfighting.

Anyway, my Spanish isn’t good enough anymore to really follow much of what the Univision announcers were talking about, but they seemed to do more describing action than the ESPN boys do, almost like radio announcers. It’s a less conversational style. I think I’d like that in English too.

But the real difference is that Univision doesn’t cover up action with on-screen graphics the way ABC/ESPN insists on doing. If ESPN didn’t get around to showing you its massive, useless starting-lineup graphic before kickoff, well, you’re just going to have to miss some action.

That alone will have me watching on Univision at least some of the time from here on out, even though the endless impersonations of Andres Cantor’s “Gooooooooool!!!!” call have devolved into Bermanesque schtick.

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Help wanted: Apply at MSG in 10 months [PERMALINK]

Madison Square Garden chief James Dolan says Isiah Thomas, who took over as coach of the New York Knicks when Larry Brown was fired last week, has one year to fix the franchise.

That means the Knicks will have another new coach in 2007-08, and probably a new general manager too, because if there’s anyone who can fix that franchise in a year — and I don’t think there is — it isn’t Isiah Thomas, who’s pretty much the main culprit in sending it swirling down the drain.

Thomas has put the Knicks where they are — 23-59 this season, and I think they had some luck to win 23 — with a series of head-scratching personnel moves. It’s all you need to know that signing Jerome James for five years and $29 million is only symbolic of all of Thomas’ bad decisions, rather than being the towering blunder that will always be remembered as the mistake.

With Thomas seated next to him at a Garden press conference, Dolan said, “At this time next year Isiah will be with us if we can all sit here and say that this team has made significant progress towards its goal of eventually becoming an NBA championship team. If we can’t say that, then Isiah will not be here.”

Isiah will not be there.

The Knicks have two first-round picks in Wednesday night’s draft, but they’re both late picks, which is to say they’re crapshoots. You might get a useful player, might not, but you’re not going to get anybody who’ll turn your franchise around by himself. The Knicks would have had the No. 2 pick, but they sent it to Chicago for Eddy Curry.

Have I mentioned that I’m morbidly fascinated by the New York Knicks?

Instead they’ll pick at No. 20 and No. 29. Here are the players taken 20th in the past five years: Julius Hodge, Jameer Nelson, Dahntay Jones, Kareem Rush and Brendan Haywood. Here are the players taken at No. 29: Wayne Simien, David Harrison, Josh Howard, Steve Logan and Trenton Hassell.

Note that the 29th pick was the first pick of the second round before 2003.

Here’s an analysis of the Knicks’ draft needs, courtesy of “Could use help at: Point Guard, Shooting Guard, Small Forward, Center.”

Other than that, the Knicks don’t need much help.

There’s an occasional find in the 20s. Howard was a nice pick. Tony Parker and Leandro Barbosa were both picked at No. 28 in the past five years. Tayshaun Prince was a 23, Boris Diaw a 21.

But if there’s a Tony Parker hiding in this draft, Thomas isn’t going to find him unless he’s hiding in Jerome James’ jersey.

Wait a few months, then send your résumé to James Dolan, Madison Square Garden, 4 Pennsylvania Plaza, New York, NY 10001.

Previous column: Soccer’s perfect, so let’s change it

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