Not A Safari

South Africa's World Cup, as seen from New York City

the right register

During the last Mundial, Dave O’Brien, a baseball commentator drafted in by ABC to convert Americans to football, broke my heart when he said, as a player lined up to take a free-kick—I think this was during Italy’s fractious game against the USA—“the referee has awarded a Beckham-style free-kick.” Awarded a what? The other American commentators weren’t much better either, outsiders looking in on a sport with which they had a deformed relationship.

One might say, as did Dr Johnson of a dog walking on hind legs, it’s not a matter of whether American commentators call World Cup matches well: tis a wonder they do it at all.

I swore off the moronic inferno American English language commentary. When and where possible, I watched the matches on Univision and, with golazo-azo-azos ringing in my ears, I was much the better for it.

Now, I understand Spanish poorly and speak it not at all. At the speed Univision’s Colombian commentators take it, I’m lucky to catch a player’s name here and there. But how much richer the sport becomes given the right register of expertise and enthusiasm.

We’ll watch this year’s matches in whatever languages our hosts choose. But, given the choice, left to our own devices, it’s Spanish all the way.

[TC]

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