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Announced the right way, it’s a whole different ballgame

So I was watching football on TV the other day when the announcer said:

“What a lovely, deft touch.”

Lovely? Deft?

What kind of football announcer uses those words to describe a play? An English football announcer, that’s who.

In other words, a soccer announcer. Lately, I have been gulping in massive draughts of English soccer on the Fox Soccer Channel. The differences between the announcing styles are comical. Someday, I would love to hear Troy Aikman utter the following words:

“There are six or seven players out there fancying their chances.”

Nobody in the NFL, NBA or MLB has ever fancied anything. But I heard that line this week, in the middle of a match between Manchester City and the Tottenham Hotspurs. “Fancy” is, of course, a British-ism for “be fond of,” but it’s a term that Americans simply don’t fancy.

A lot of phrases strike me as comical simply because of the differences in American and English slang, as in the following actual lines:

“Both sides are sussing each other out.”

“He feels like his team were hard done by in the first half.”

“That goal was as cheeky as it can be.”

Somehow, I can’t imagine Craig Ehlo braying, “That Matt Bouldin three-pointer was so … cheeky!”

Other lines strike me as funny because they employ unfamiliar soccer terminology, as in:

“It’s the big striker and the flick-on to the little striker!”

“He just got a little bit of the nutmegs there.”

“The keeper will have no clean sheet tonight.”

What? That sounds like a particularly nasty insult, but “clean sheet” simply means a clean score sheet. In other words, a shutout. A “nutmeg” is a ball passed through another player’s legs, so named because … oh, use your imagination.

However, it sometimes boils down to this: The average British sportscaster has a more elegant vocabulary than the average American sportscaster and possibly even the average American poetry professor.

The word “lovely” is heard multiple times per game. I have even heard plays described as “sumptuous.”

A few more examples:

“He is the silkiest of strikers.”

“We are in the dying embers of this game.”

“Tottenham are painting a pretty picture here.”

“They have no answers to the questions that Arsenal are posing.”

“I don’t think he has troubled the back of the net on a regular basis.”

The best lines come during those rare soccer moments when someone actually troubles the back of the net, or, as we say in America, scores.

I have heard a goal described as “a picture-book goal,” “a glooo-rious goal” and a “goal laid on a plate.”

And the best goal of all?

“That was a wonder goal from James Milner!”

A wonder goal? Actually, that does sound a lot like a Matt Bouldin three-pointer.