Howard Herman: Red Sox voice O'Brien cherishes his World Cup call
Dave O'Brien spent the days leading up to the All-Star break in Houston with the Red Sox. Eight years ago, he was in Berlin getting ready to broadcast the 2006 World Cup Final.
"It was in the Olympiastadion where Jesse Owens won three gold medals. Just to be in that place in that time was really a phenomenal experience," O'Brien said.
As Germany gets ready to play Argentina for the 2014 World Cup today, the memories of Italy's 2006 win over France on penalty kicks comes back for the Red Sox radio broadcaster.
"I'll never forget being there, walking into the stadium and seeing this bell which had been erected at the time they erected the stadium," he said. "It had a Nazi swastika on it and a bullet hole through it. It was sitting in the grass right outside of the entrance to Olympiastadion. That told me a lot about where I was.
"I found the whole event, the whole experience of calling the World Cup to really be one of the great things I've been involved in."
O'Brien was criticized fiercely by the soccer cognoscenti in the United States for his lack of background. He had been working for ESPN since 2002, doing baseball and basketball. He took over doing MLS games during the run up to the 2006 World Cup, and had about five months leading to the big event.
"I also had, and [Fox's Gus Johnson] is doing to a lesser degree I think, other sports to call," said O'Brien. "Doing baseball and doing basketball, it wasn't like any of my workload was lessened leading up to it. I had to work soccer around it."
The World Cup coverage on ABC and ESPN this year has been nothing short of remarkable. Play-by-play broadcasters like Ian Darke, Adrian Healey, Derek Rae and Jon Champion have delivered the goods.
Johnson is going to be Fox's lead play-by-play commentator when the World Cup moves to Russia in four years. Johnson, who is Fox's top college football and basketball broadcaster, has been doing soccer on Fox since 2013 and will have five years experience heading into the next World Cup.
"I think it's a smart way to go. I think what they're doing is a very smart move," said O'Brien. "I would have loved that. I'm envious of what they're doing and what they're doing for Gus.
"He has to be immersed in it. He has to be calling matches. He has to call big matches."
And if it's Gus Johnson, O'Brien or whoever the next guy is, the Sox radio broadcaster says that an American broadcast needs an American broadcaster with serious soccer chops.
"I sat there the other day and watched Tim Howard put on an incredible display of goalkeeping against Belgium and the name that kept popping into my head was [1980 Olympic goalie] Jim Craig," O'Brien said. "I never heard his name referenced on the broadcast.
"I think Ian Darke does an incredible job. He's a great game caller, but he's not from the United States. We do need an American perspective as our team gets better, as the national team gets better and advances. I would love to see, be it Gus or someone, take it and run with it."
To reach Howard Herman:
or (413) 496-6253.
On Twitter: @howardherman.
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