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world cup announcers

I usually get around to discussing the announcers as the World Cup gets closer to the end. This year is the first where I have only watched in Spanish on Telemundo, so I don't have anything to say about the English-language announcers, with one exception to come later. As I always say when I'm giving opinions on Spanish-language announcers, my take should be filtered through my less-than-perfect command of the language. Having said that, I get better with every year, and I feel more confident about my comprehension nowadays.

I have a World Cup blog I have used in previous tournaments. It remains online as an archive, but I haven't used it in 2019. I have very few readers of this blog, but the size of my audience is Twitter compared to the 1 or 2 people who stopped by the Cup blog. So I've just moved my occasional comments to this regular blog.

Also, while I'm not proud of it, the truth is I don't give as much of my attention to the Women's Cup than I do to the men's. Oh, I spend more time than most, I suppose ... I'd be surprised if very many readers have watched a single match that didn't include the USA, or even if anyone has watched the Americans at all. But I don't let the Women's World Cup take over my life, the way I do every four years for the men. One result is that I haven't seen every match ... maybe half at most.

OK, with all that throat clearing out of the way, some thoughts about some (not all) of the Telemundo crew.

As usual, it begins with Andres Cantor, and his analysis partner Manuel Sol. Cantor is the best-known soccer announcer in the country, and he deserves his reputation. If there's a problem, it's that there are many excellent play-by-play Spanish-language guys who are ignored by the mainstream media, which tends to act as if Cantor is the only one we have. Sol had a long career in Mexican league soccer, and has been a commentator for several years now. He has a good rapport with Cantor, and is OK with analysis. (In fact, no one I've heard has been less than OK ... there are no stinkers.) One problem, though, is that Telemundo also has the U.S. rights to Copa América, a men's tournament featuring South American teams. Telemundo's announcers are doing double-duty, and while Telemundo's commitment to the Women's Cup is solid, Copa América is probably more important to them. So Cantor isn't doing as many Women's games as you'd like, since he is also doing the Copa.

Sammy Sadovnik is the #2 play-by-play guy, which is more like #1A with Cantor's absences. Sadovnik has long been a favorite of mine, so I'm glad to see him here. His voice is unique, which means I recognize him immediately, which I can't say for the other play-by-play guys (and thus, they'll go without mention here except to reiterate that all are at least OK).

Besides Sol, the most interesting color commentator is Viviana Vila. Vila worked the men's tournament last year, which was a landmark in itself (Aly Wagner was her counterpart on the English-language side). Now Vila returns, and she is excellent in her analysis. And she is different from almost all color commentators, including Wagner and the various men who do the job, in that Vila is not an ex-player. She's a professional journalist, a fan of the sport, unequaled in her knowledge ... all important qualities, but it is exceedingly rare for analysts on TV in any sport who weren't first a player in the game.

Deyna Castellanos is the complete opposite of Vila. Castellanos is only 20 years old (I still can't believe this, thinking it's a typo or something). She plays for Florida State, which is one of the top women's programs in the country, but is obviously not professional. Castellanos has played for the Venezuelan national team ... she is not a complete unknown ... and she's done a decent job with her commentary during the Cup. (Interestingly, two years ago Castellanos was a finalist for the FIFA Best Women's Player. This was taken as an insult by some veterans, notably WWC 2019 star Megan Rapinoe, who felt it showed FIFA's lack of interest in the women's game to nominate a little-known non-professional over more veteran players.)

The man who I find most fascinating in the Telemundo coverage is Marco Antonio Rodríguez, an ex-referee who has the job of commenting on and explaining referee decisions during the matches. Rodríguez spent close to 20 years refereeing in the Mexican League, and was chosen for three World Cups, where he took part in some infamous matches. It's not that Rodríguez was a poor referee, but he was someone you noticed, and not everyone wants a sports official to be the center of attention during a game. He became known as "Chiquidrácula" due to his resemblance to a character on Mexican TV, a fact I don't think I knew ... I just thought he looked like a Bela Lugosi Dracula clone. Truth is, he was a fine referee, but fans are always looking for reasons to hate the men in black, so Chiquidrácula wasn't very popular. He prefers the nickname "Chiquimarco", as he is a devout Christian, and this seems to be taking with the general populace. Anyway, his analysis of referee decisions has been very good during this World Cup. More remarkable, from my viewpoint, is that he is a fine team member with his fellow announcers, who all enjoy banter with Marco Antonio. I'm sure he's always been a nice guy, but I had no idea, and it's still a bit startling to hear him and his colleagues chatting happily about the match.

Finally, switching for a moment to the English-language announcers, I want to single out Danielle Slaton. Of course, I haven't heard her this time around, but she does commentary for San Jose Earthquakes games, so I'm used to her work, and she is top-notch. Slaton, a fine defender in her playing days, gives solid analysis and works well with the announcing team. I'm sure she's done the same for the World Cup. I couldn't let this post go without mentioning her.

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