What is probably the only true "word" title in sports, soccer's World Cup, has come to Washington - live from Buenos Aires via closed-circuit TV. THe legendary games, often political as well as athletic spectacles, are being beamed onto a giant screen in Constitution Hall, with most of the atmosphere of actually being there alive.
Soccer fans from foreign countries take their game seriously, and the noise in the hall combined with the noise picked up from the 77,000 fans in Argentina erases any inhibitious about jumping up and shouting in old DAR. Only vendors are missing - no food or drinks aloowed in the hall.
In the series opener, West Germany played Poland in a game that ended 0-0. The crowds in Buenos Aires and Constitution Hall (with 1,000 people, about a third full) frequently whistled to show their disapproval of the cautious play, particularly by the Germans. But soccer is a game that can change tempo in an instant, and as soon as a breakaway was in progress, the crowd changed too. Whistles turned to shout of "Pass! Pass!" or "Kick! Kick!" Missed shots produced loud groans, followed by rumblings and gestures offering explanation as to why the scoring attempts failed.
Although that contest was widely criticized in world soccer circles as poorly played, the footwork and air games were clearly in a special class. Players dribbled the ball as if it was magnetized to their insteps, and their heading always had direction and velocity. Every player on the field had impressive speed for short bursts.
The TV coverage is visually excellent and shoudl be studied carefully by American TV, which too often has a difficult time following long passes and volleys. The cameramen anticipated where a pass or volley was going and then focused on the receiving player in time to watch him trap, head or miss the ball. Excellent instant replay, too, which generally got discussions of particular plays stirred up again throughout the hall.
The audio coverage provided in English had good content, but sounded like thegarbled PA announcements that echo through stadiums. Both the audio and the visual are clearer toward the rear of the hall's first level. The most expensive seats ($12.50 plus tax) are a little too close to the screen for comfort so $10 seats are probably the better buy. Students under 16 are half price for all games except the final.
This weekend's games: Saturday, Mexico-Poland at 3:45 and Peru-Netherlands at 6:15; Sunday, Brazil-Austria at 12:45 and Scotland-Netherlands at 3:45. Other telecasts will be June 14, 18 and 21, winding up with the finals June 25.