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This aerial view shot through an airplane window shows the Maracana stadium behind the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Tuesday, May 13, 2014. As opening day for the World Cup approaches, people continue to stage protests, some about the billions of dollars spent on the World Cup at a time of social hardship, but soccer is still a unifying force. The international soccer tournament will be the first in the South American nation since 1950. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
Scott D. Pierce: KTVX won’t pre-empt World Cup this time
First Published Jun 06 2014 03:46 pm • Last Updated Jun 06 2014 04:37 pm

A dozen years ago, my son and I sat down in front of the TV to watch the World Cup final. What we saw was — an infomercial.

As astonishing as it sounds today, the then-management at KTVX-Channel 4 didn’t think there was any interest in the game and pre-empted ABC’s coverage for, yes, infomercials. Which meant that local fans missed Brazil’s 2-0 victory over Germany.

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The then-management at KTVX thought the World Cup was so unimportant it didn’t bother to alert anyone of its plans to pre-empt. Seriously.

After some, um, colorful language and frantic channel-flipping, my son and I ended up watching the game on Univision. I don’t speak Spanish, but it was better than watching infomercials.

Things have changed a lot since 2002. KTVX — which has changed both ownership and management — and its sister station, KUCW-Channel 30, are now the local soccer stations. KTVX now pre-empts or moves ABC programming to air Real Salt Lake games.

And there are plenty of locals who can’t wait for the 2014 World Cup to begin on Thursday when Brazil takes on Croatia (2 p.m., ESPN).

ESPN did a great job with the 2010 World Cup, in large part because it decided American soccer fans aren’t stupid.

"We are not dummying it down anymore," ESPN soccer analyst Alexi Lalas said. "We understand that the U.S. doesn’t have a long history when it comes to soccer. But … seeing the progression and the evolution of the way we talk to people about soccer, yes, we want to have everybody involved — but I’m not up there explaining what a throw-in is."

That’s pretty much what ESPN was doing in 2006. And it was awful.

ESPN’s analysis in 2014 won’t scare the casual fans away. "We’ll slow the bus down a little bit," Lalas said, "but you’ve got to jump on. And once you jump on, especially when it comes to a World Cup, you find that you will learn very, very quickly. And you’ll be in one of the greatest parties you’ve ever seen."

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You won’t have to set your alarm and get up stupid early to watch any games this year, but you might have to play hooky from work. With the exception of one 7 p.m. start, all the matches will begin between 10 a.m.-4 p.m. MDT.

The three group-stage games featuring Team USA are:

• Monday, June 16, 10 a.m., vs. Ghana (ESPN)

• Sunday, June 22, 4 p.m., vs, Portugal (ESPN)

• Thursday, June 26, 10 a.m., vs. Germany (ESPN

By the way, this year’s World Cup Final is scheduled to air Sunday, July 13, at 2 p.m. MDT on ABC. That’s KTVX-Channel 4 here in Utah.

Oh, and it will also be seen on Univision.

Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at spierce@sltrib.com; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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