Friday, June 25, 2010


Argentinian-born sports commentator, Andrés Cantor

We watch the World Cup in Spanish at home.  I understand very little of it.  My Costan Rican brother-in-law claims that in the US, sixty percent of Americans tune in to the World Cup in Spanish, while thirty percent prefer the British commentary, and a mere ten percent choose the American version.  I am still looking for Nielsen rating statistics that will confirm his scholarship, but in the meanwhile, I think I can understand why.

Take for example the following truncated transcript from Spanish-language TV of last Wednesday's USA vs. Algeria game, in which the USA won in the third minute of the very last four minutes of overtime, concluding a frustratingly flat zero-zero tie: 

"Those idiots!  So close, inconceivable!!  How can they call that soccer?  Every goal they miss has gotten worse!  A disgrace to their country!  Dempsey, what an embarrassment, what a disappointment, oh, su madre, su madre...  Will his mother be able to face her son?  Wait, now the USA has the ball!  The counterattack is moving, moving forward, Donovan, Altidore, oh!  Algeria on the ground... Dono–! [short pause for inhale] GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAL!" 

And after the playbacks have been repeated, the jumping up and down:

"The passion!  The innovation!  The creativity of the winning team!  The American spirit!  The excitement, I almost couldn't watch!  The United States, saved from the death-grip of elimination in the final minutes of the game, in the final minute!" 

On the other hand, take the UK commentators reporting that same decisive goal: 

"So, we are here watching the game in Pretoria, the score is currently zero to zero.  The United States in the white jerseys is tied with Algeria in the green jerseys.  They have moved into overtime, yes, overtime.  There are less than two minutes remaining in this game.  Donovan kicks the ball.  The score is now one to zero.  Rather late in the game, I dare say.  The game is now over.  We will return after a short message from our sponsors, Bud Light and Nissan." 

I don't know, it must be in their blood to stay cool.  Who knows, maybe sports commentators from the United Kingdom are among those who let loose off the job and wreak havoc on a Greek island like their fellow landsmen. 


The universal siren-call of victory, which brings in billions in advertising dollars annually and is cemented into the psyches of futbol fans worldwide, has a surprisingly short history.  It was first used in Italy at the 1990 FIFA World Cup by the Argentinian-born sportscaster, Andrés Cantor, who was announcing for the US Hispanic viewers of Univison.  However, the call didn't enter cosmic consciousness until the 1994 FIFA World Cup, which was hosted by the United States and to this day holds the record for World Cup attendance at 3.9 million.  That was the year when Cantor's extended yell was catapulted into cult status.  He was invited to appear on Late Night with David Letterman during the FIFA 1994 and 1998 (broadcasting for Late Night in Paris), and his yell was used in a widely-viewed Volkswagen commercial at the World Cup in 1998.  The call is now being sold as a ringtone on Telemundo's website. 

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