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THE INSIDE TRACK | THE HOT CORNER

A consumer's guide to the best and worst of sports media and merchandise. Ground rules: If it can be read, played, heard, observed, worn, viewed, dialed or downloaded, it's in play here.

April 27, 1998|MIKE PENNER

What: Monday Night Football, English style.

Where: ESPN2.

You have your Monday Night Football fix, I have mine--with at least one notable advantage:

This football is the real football--"soccer" in the Yankee vernacular--and benefits from its association with the trendiest, most entertaining professional soccer league on the planet at the moment, the English Premier League.

Because its elite clubs, buoyed by a lucrative television deal with Sky TV, have ungodly sums of money to throw around, the Premier League has become a magnet for the top talent and coaches in Europe.

Most of the games are aired in the United States several hours after they are played overseas. The telecasts themselves are superior to ESPN's Major League Soccer coverage, for two essential reasons:

1. More action. No Miami Fusion or Chicago Fire to be found on these pitches.

2. English announcers. This is a fundamental tenet of soccer on television--there isn't a game that can't be improved by adding a proper British accent to the play-by-play commentary.

ESPN2's Mike Hill has all the requisites--the scholarly tenor, the restrained delivery, the quintessentially English economical use of the language.

A typical Hill description of a goal: "Anelka . . . Bergkamp . . . Sliding that one through . . . Good run, this . . . And it's two-nil . . . Ray Parlour, beautifully released by Dennis Bergkamp."

Added attraction: "English Soccer on ESPN2" frequently offers highlights from around the league during halftime. No Howard Cosell commentary, unfortunately, but for news-starved soccer fans on this side of the pond, it'll do in a pinch.

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