By DAVID BAUDER
Arlo White is just grateful that he recognized Alex Morgan’s head.
NBC’s play-by-play announcer for Olympic women’s soccer doesn’t want to think about what would have happened had he blown the call of Morgan’s last-minute goal in the U.S. team’s 4-3 semifinal victory over Canada. It has already become his much-repeated signature call for an American audience.
Thursday brings the opportunity for more drama, and a big audience, as the U.S. team takes on Japan in the gold medal game at Wembley Stadium in London.
White worked for a decade in his native Britain for BBC Radio before moving to the U.S. two years ago, where he’s the lead announcer for Major League Soccer on the NBC Sports Network. He endured a few months of teasing from his British friends for having to say “soccer” instead of “football,” but he’s become used to speaking to an American audience.
Five years of broadcasting the Super Bowl on the BBC taught White about calling a sport where many listeners don’t know the nuances of the game. He believes it’s up to the newcomers to learn some things on their own.
“The die-hards will not want to be spoon-fed,” he said. “The novices will not want to be blinded by science. But there is a happy medium and hopefully we’re striking that.”
White said he sensed the Canada match would be a good one. The two teams didn’t particularly like one another, both squads were playing well and the U.S. women have a penchant for drama.
“Once the goals started flowing in the beginning of the second half, you knew it was going to be something special,” he said.
Now happily in London for the final game, White had two weeks’ worth of relentless traveling to places like Glasgow and Manchester for early-round matches. He slept on a table in a train compartment and said he’s been subsisting mostly on potato chips and coffee.
He partners with Brandi Chastain, who endured some unwanted publicity when U.S. goalie Hope Solo trashed her on Twitter. The flap hasn’t affected their work, White said, “not in the slightest. I think Brandi was very professional throughout the whole situation.”
She also hasn’t had much need to criticize the U.S. defenders lately.
White said he hasn’t had time to think what the exposure during the Olympics will mean for his career. He’s most looking forward to the “buzz” everyone will get when they walk into Wembley and calling a game that means so much. The U.S. has been eager for such a matchup since losing the World Cup to Japan.
“I wanted to be a soccer announcer since I was 6 years old,” he said. “I used to be a plastics salesman, and I’d rather be doing what I’m doing now.”
RATINGS: An estimated 30.1 million people watched NBC’s Tuesday telecast, making it the 11th in 12 nights that the television audience for the London Games beat the corresponding night in Beijing.
THANKS, JOHN: Fun segment by Jimmy Roberts on sporting rituals, which included the curmudgeonly John McEnroe complaining about athletes who give each other high fives after nearly every play, good or bad. Now it’s impossible not to think about it!
HIGH DIVE: Doesn’t it seem as if NBC’s prime-time broadcast opens with diving more often than not? Producers should guard against predictability.
BEACH DRAMA: The bronze medal beach volleyball match between China and Brazil made for some real drama in the sand, astutely called by NBC’s team of Chris Marlowe and Kevin Wong. They pointed out how Brazil’s Larissa, when the team was losing badly in the first set, embarrassed her teammate Juliana by twice refusing to set her up for spikes. The two women quarreled openly. Near defeat, Brazil came back to win the second set and then the match.
QUOTE: “The Brazilians have come back from the dead!” — Marlowe.
FLOWERS: Sweet move by American runner Alysia Montano, wearing a flower in her hair during a heat of the 800 meters to honor her grandmother, who turned 100 on Wednesday.
UPCOMING: The U.S. versus Japan for the gold medal in women’s soccer Thursday.
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