Broadcast Center Circles Globe With Talk From The World Cup

David Jackson
Date Published: 
Dallas Morning News

DALLAS - It is near the witching hour, and not just any clown can wander around here.

But Brozo is not just any clown. He is a regular feature on "Los Protagonistas," a nightly Mexican television program that combines World Cup soccer highlights and comedy.

Think of "The NFL Today" crossed with "Saturday Night Live." Imagine a man with a big red nose and floppy green wig at a news desk, bantering with the anchor about the World Cup soccer game they attended that day in Washington D.C.

Brozo's schtick is a filmed fan feature. He seems partial to young women, to the point where part of one leering "interview" has to be bleeped out.

"He's a clown, but not for children," says Andres Bustamante, another comedian on the show produced by Television Azteca. "He's an adult clown."

Down the hall, things are a tad more serious on German television. Sabine Hartelt opens her live sportscast chatting with the German version of Katie Couric, who can't decide whether to greet her Dallas-based correspondent with "good morning" or "good evening."

At least Hartelt has a dozen crew members to keep her company in the wee hours. Elsewhere in the Centennial Building, in a booth smaller than some bedroom closets, Jorge Rowinsky of Uruguay conducts a radio talk show all by his lonesome, chatting with callers to his home station in Montevideo.

"I talk with the people about anything," he says.

A one-man band. Two national networks. One striking similarity: All mention they are reporting from Dallas, Texas, precisely the publicity the city sought when it bid for the International Broadcast Center.

"You can't buy that kind of advertising," IBC director James Oshust said.

If it's midnight in Dallas, it must be time for "Breakfast Television" in Cologne. The German version of the "Today" show is broadcasting its entire sports report from the IBC, where Hartelt and her colleagues are having trouble with the weather.

Not the heat outside. The air-conditioning inside, in both the Automobile and Centennial buildings.

"It would be nice if it was cool," Hartelt said. "But it's cold."

Besides, the heat was yesterday's story, as the German team nearly wilted in a closer-than-expected 3-2 victory over South Korea. Today's big news is Germany midfielder Stefan Effenberg, sent home for flipping the finger at the team's fans during that game at the Dallas Cotton Bowl.

The German network provided a complete report on the controversy. It included a closeup of somebody's hand, middle finger extended, with an explanation of this relatively unfamiliar custom.

Hartelt and her crew work for ARD, one of two public television networks in Germany. ARD alternates World Cup coverage with the other network, ZDF. Both use the same studio, which features a neon outline of the Dallas skyline.

Back in the control room sits Christian Verwaayen, who identifies himself as "master engineer" for ARD. Facing a bank of television sets, Verwaayen proudly demonstrates his network's electronic access to all nine U.S. stadiums hosting World Cup games.

The European Broadcasting Union, which holds the World Cup broadcasting rights and therefore supervises the IBC, covers all 52 tournament games. It transmits the signals back to a super control room in the International Broadcast Center.

The IBC control room sends the signals to Verwaayen and engineers of more than 100 other networks housed at the complex. The networks supply their own commentary and graphics; their headquarters back home stick in commercials. Local stations across the globe give the games to millions of fans.

This whole process takes seconds.

None of the technology fazes Verwaayen. He's produced sports events for 32 years, starting not long after the Berlin Wall went up. Verwaayen isn't even much of a soccer fan.

"I see it too much," he said.

"OK, Barbados, we are looking for a countdown now," Alvin Corneal says. He sits in the closet-sized studio leased by the Caribbean Broadcasting Union, a radio hook-up.

Forty seconds. Corneal dons headphones and checks his sound level. Thirty seconds. He moves his television monitor into just the right place. Twenty seconds. He re-checks the line-ups for the Brazil-Sweden game, which is being played near Detroit. Ten seconds.

"And a very good afternoon to you in the Caribbean," Corneal starts.

Next door, a broadcaster from Uruguay booms out his call of the Brazil-Sweden match. Down the hall, Nigerian radio belts out the play-by-play of Cameroon-Russia, under way at the same time near San Francisco. Near Nigeria is a television broadcaster from Moscow.

It sounds like a soccer version of a Gregorian chant. Or at least a cocktail party at the United Nations.

Welcome to the booth section of the IBC. While many networks send commentators to the individual stadiums, the IBC provides a way for lower-budget operations both radio and television to broadcast the games from Dallas.

Stadium noise is piped into each network's sound system. It makes virtual reality even more realistic, as fans in the Caribbean and elsewhere can hear the shouts, the music, even the thwack of a well-kicked soccer ball.

"What we are getting here in terms of sound is exactly what they are getting on the ground," Corneal said before his broadcast.

What the Dallas-based commentators do with the video and audio feeds is largely a matter of style. The Moscow television broadcaster calls the game like one would a tennis match cool, calm, collected. Latin announcers start shouting when teams come even close to scoring.

When a team actually breaks through, the booths unite with a universally understood word: GOAL!

Corneal calls the game with a Caribbean lilt that recalls reggae and rum. There is a definite stylistic influence, said the native of Trinidad: "We were owned by the British at one time."

So Corneal has one player kicking "a very long, ambitious ball." Another has a "very educated left foot." When Sweden takes a 1-0 lead, the scorer is described as "flicking the ball delicately, with clinical accuracy."

Corneal is pleased with his broadcast of the match, which ends in a 1-1 draw. Given the popularity of the Brazilian team in the Caribbean, Corneal estimates his audience at 7.5 million.

The Caribbean receives the ABC and ESPN World Cup telecasts (which are not done out of the IBC). But Corneal says he hears that people turn down their TVs and turn on their radios.

"I guess they understand our dialect a little better than the foreign dialect," he said.