Even here in a country where more people know the name of 47-year-old pitcher Jaimie Moyer than they do Diego Maradona (the legendary soccer great (and legendarily insane) Argentina coach (who characteristically came unhinged and made headlines the world over when he attacked Pele in the press this week) there is a tradition of being able to watch the World Cup just about anywhere. From a giant screen in Grand Central Terminal to taxi stands, the inescapable and constant sound of that damn horn has never been far away this week. So far this tournament I have watched everywhere from a wall projection at Heathers (a bar on the Lower East Side more well known for the lesbians who frequent it than broadcasting sporting events) to the outside of a coffeeshop on Jane Street, where a flatscreen has been hastily (and somewhat precariously hung). One place I hadn't watched was ESPN.com.
ESPN carries live video of all the games, but it can be watched only over certain ISPs. Unfortunately, the one we use at MediaPost HQ here in New York is not one of these. (Or perhaps it's fortunate, since if we spent half our days gathered around the large flatscreen monitor in the conference room here, your news would likely be less timely.) So, in New York we are left with ESPN's helpful but unsatisfying graphic depiction of the game, where one can navigate to heat maps of different actions and infographs of the location shots are taken from and where goals were scored from. It's sort of like watching somebody play a video game with stick figures that move only every minute or so.
Univision to the rescue.
Its free, live video offers none of the bells and whistles of ESPN's interactive GameCast version, but has one major advantage: it works. There is even a Facebook integration, the same as ESPN has, where once you are signed in you can see a scroll of updates related to the game by others watching. Like the video itself, this tends to be much more informative if you speak Spanish.
This is Univision's Super Bowl, though, and while the sponsorships and promotions on ESPN may be light, they are not scant here. Upon hitting the World Cup section of the Univision site in the morning before the games start, you're met with a T-Mobile interstitial designed for the Cup, depicting a fan sitting glued to the game (though on a traditional old box television). In the foreground of the shot, to the fan's back, something cooks away on the stove, burning. As the room fills with smoke he continues to sit rapt and oblivious. Smoke alarms sound and he still doesn't notice or budge. It's a cheap joke, and seems to have nothing to do with T-Mobile's products. Maybe it's funnier in Spanish.
Of the series of ads (an there are many, many of them) that play once one when gets to the actual page, the majority are not nearly so timely. Only three of the 10-12 ads have any connection to soccer at all. The best of the bunch is a Verizon ad with three guys in soccer jerseys sneaking out of a room to gather around one of the men's phones to watch a goal being scored. All four man erupt into the familiar "Goooooaaaaal," cheering along with the video on the tiny screen while the familiar red Verizon coverage map hangs over their heads.
In the battle of telecoms, we'll have to give the edge to Verizon.
Coke gives a standard feel good commercial showing people dancing in South Africa intercut with scenes of gameplay. And Corona offers a generic soccer scene at a park field with friends playing amid a bleacher party.
In the battle of beverages, in true World Cup fashion, we'll have to call this one a tie.