ESPN’s about-face towards the US Soccer Team (video)

One of the staples of daily American sports journalism is ESPN’s “Pardon the Interruption” show, or “PTI” as it is commonly referred to, in which hosts Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon debate the top sports stories of the day in North America. The show is known for the hosts’ straight-talking and encyclopedic analysis of sports, with the main focus being the classic US pastimes of basketball, American football and baseball.

In the last few days however, the show has been forced to talk soccer in the wake of Team America’s successes at the Confederations Cup. And in doing so the show has moved rapidly from having a negative outlook on the world’s most popular sport to quickly performing a 180 when Jozy Altidore was interviewed following the defeat of Spain last Wednesday.

Ahead of the match with Spain Kornheiser and Wilbon went on the offensive, defending for their belief that America’s escape from the group stages ahead of Italy and Egypt was somehow tainted.

The segment opened with Kornheiser announcing “We should probably have helmets and body-armour for this story because we are taking incoming action here. Yesterday on this here programme, we said that the United States’ soccer advancement in some dopey international tournament was nothing to be proud of. We disparage the tie-breaking system that put us in ahead of Italy.”

Wilbon argued back at the “soccer-heads” that “we understand the tie-breaking procedures, but we don’t like the tie-breaking procedures!” before the talking-head barked that “football should get new rules.” Kornheiser, exuding a distinct lack of faith in Team America, then went on to shout that if the US team wanted to really prove its worth that the either needed to beat Spain or not lose too heavily.

The bashing of Team America before the Spain match can be seen here.

On Thursday the pair were forced to step down from their anti-negative soccer vibe when US star Jozy Altidore was interviewed on the show after the defeat of Spain. Whether out of respect for their guest or rather because of the impact of the American triumph over the Spanish, Kornheiser and Wilborn turned down their rhetoric against football as they opted to switch off their opinions.

On particular notice was the fact that the usually shoot-from-the-hip style of commentary for which Kornheiser and Wilbon are famed was replaced as the presenters were reduced to crib-sheets in order to fire pertinent questions at Altidore.

Jozy Altidore’s interview on PTI can be seen here.