Former German captain Michael Ballack and former U.S. international Alexi Lalas have practically been house guests for the American soccer family over the past month, slicing and dicing the European Championship from ESPN’s Connecticut studio.
Almost immediately, people sensed tension in the room as the pair sometimes disagreed.
Some also had concerns over Ballack’s deliverables, which were rather blunt and on the spare side. (Or in other words, quintessentially German – what did anyone really expect?)
So what’s the deal?
These guys are fine. Marc Stein, my co-host on a weekly radio show, caught up with Ballack and Lalas late last week. Stein got them on tape, playfully poking at each other about their month in Connecticut captivity. For instance:
Ballack: With him in the hotel, I have to see him nearly every day, every evening, and that is really tough.
Lalas: C’mon! I have taught you things about soccer, and about life off the field, that you will take with you for the rest of your life.
Ballack: You taught me? You teach me?
Lalas: Every day I teach you, my friend …
Ballack: From the perspective of an average center back, maybe you are right.
Zing! Average center back! And they say Germans have no sense of humor.
The entire interview is here, at about the 7:00 minute mark of the show. (It also includes Stein asking Ballack about the possibility of playing in MLS; he is out of contract currently, but probably still has a little soccer left.)
My opinion, Ballack as an analyst? When asked a good question, Ballack usually has something insightful or instructional to say. But lobbing a general query toward the man (which is often the way of American sports journalism) doesn’t work with Ballack. If probably doesn’t work with most people who are working out of a second language, someone who needs to organize their words in addition to organizing their thoughts. Once his broadcast partners seemed to understand that, he was fine.
There’s also some great stuff on our show/podcast from ESPN’s Steve McManaman regarding today’s final. And we also had commentator Derek Rae on this one; he had a very interesting perspective about Michel Platini’s curious statement that Euro 2020 could be staged throughout Europe.