06 August 2017

Euro 2017 championship game highlights

This game should get a much longer post from me in the near future, because I think it will go down as one of the most memorable games in European Women's Championship history, but I'm so happy and excited to have called it that I wanted to post the quick highlights here. You can watch a full replay of our coverage (I was happy with how we handled the post-game scenes and the trophy ceremony) at this link, but the quick-hit highlights are WERE below (but are no longer available at this time):

20 June 2017

RIP Tony DiCicco, friend and storyteller

I (along the entire U.S. soccer community, I imagine) was blindsided by news Tuesday that Tony DiCicco, coach of the U.S. women's national team that won the 1999 Women’s World Cup, passed away. I am stunned and sad right now. It’s a crushing personal loss for anybody who knew him.

I’d known Tony for less than 3 years and even then only in a work context, yet he was somebody I unfailingly looked forward to seeing, to greeting, to catching up with, regardless of the soccer or the broadcast. I loved working with him and talking soccer, of course, but the pre-game lunch or dinner (or both!) together was just fun. He could listen and find a way to relate to almost anything, he could be both positive and realistic at the same time, and he was a heck of a storyteller.

In my experience (again, a small sample size compared to many), a meal with Tony meant some serious entertainment. Whether it was the restaurant in the hotel or a chain in whatever small town we were in or a fancy Italian place in Chapel Hill, he had stories. They could be funny and/or insightful, eyebrow-raising and/or sobering. They involved a lot of recognizable names, too, but it wasn’t overt name-dropping, just Tony talking. Stories about the 1999 World Cup team flowed just as easily as those about his family or his goalkeeping days or other teams he coached.

He was confident in his views and opinions – anyone who has heard him second-guessing other coaches as a game or studio analyst can attest to that – but it never felt arrogant or disrespectful to me. He was just sharing his take and could not help but think about soccer and coaching in terms of what his approach would have been, as if he could visualize just how things might play out.

It felt like almost every coach we came across had a connection to Tony's coaching tree. Some were, as I was at first, intimidated by the heights of his success. Others wanted Tony to do them a favor. He was happy to meet, greet, and help each however he could.

Courtesy Ben Solomon
We called a number of college games together, which typically meant a conference call with each coach to get a little background on that team, a guess at the lineup, and an anecdote or two. I would let Tony take the lead, and he would say to the coach, “Tell me about …” whatever the immediate topic was, and away we went. He asked the right questions and knew what to take from the answers, how to read between the lines, and how to work that information into a broadcast. We would always compare notes, and I couldn’t help my bemusement that he always listed formations as 1-4-4-2 or 1-4-3-3 instead of just 4-4-2 or 4-3-3 – he wasn’t about to take the goalkeeper for granted!

On game days, you would never have known the heights he scaled as a coach, watching him interact with the production crew and the locals. “Hi, I’m Tony,” sufficed as an introduction. We got some good games and some crap games together (if I’m honest, our last working together was pretty blah), but we always had fun and we were always in it together. We would eat together, drive to games together, approach coaches together, and leave together afterward … it seems obvious, but it made an incredibly positive difference in our on-air chemistry.

I have to believe that focus on togetherness and connection and unity was something that set him apart as a broadcaster, as a coach, and, far more importantly, as a man.

I was looking forward to comparing notes with and hearing more stories from Tony this fall, and it hasn’t quite sunk in yet that I won’t have that chance. But it was a privilege to know and work with him for the last few years, and I feel terrible for his family, close friends, former players and colleagues, and everybody who knew him better and longer than I.

Joy and unity, caring and storytelling. We will all miss Tony DiCicco.

17 June 2017

VIDEO: Highlights from wild Cosmos win

I was added to the New York Cosmos broadcast team before the season began, but my first two broadcasts were both road games called from a local studio. On Friday night, I finally got to call a game from the team's new home at MCU Park on Coney Island in Brooklyn, and we had a blast!

My partner Friday was former US international Janusz Michallik, who I've met before and with whom I've hosted radio shows before. But we had never called a game together in person, and this was certainly end-to-end entertainment.

Most of us don't call six-goal thrillers every week, and the goals brought real quality as well. The full game broadcast is available via WatchESPN's archive for the next 30 days, and MSG has our post-game segment.

Here are the highlights from Friday night:

Also a quick look at either end of my commute:

30 May 2017

Looking back to top photos, moments from 1st NBA season in virtual reality

Clearly, I've been putting this off for far too long. No posts from the NBA League Pass Virtual Reality opener on Oct. 27 until late May. There's a lot to tell.

In brief, the NBA season was an awesome, exciting, fun, challenging, and lengthy experience. We called one game a week for the entire season for NextVR productions of NBA League Pass VR, finally totaling 26 regular-season games broadcast in virtual reality. While we feel like we always put on a good show, the improvement from No. 1 to No. 26 was substantial and something I was really proud to be part of.

I wrote a whole lot more about the season, and you can scroll all the way down to read it, but pictures are a lot more powerful, aren't they? I can't really do justice to the entire year, but here are a few pictures that I hope capture how much fun it was to cover the NBA in virtual reality!

This is meta: Kevin Durant watching our footage right next to our camera. (via NextVR)
Working my 1st game at Madison Square Garden with Antoine Walker filling in.

29 October 2016

NBA opener in photos

Well, our opening NBA League Pass VR broadcast, produced by NextVR, is in the books, and we've definitely turned our focus to Tuesday's Pacers-Lakers game as our shows move to Tuesday nights for most of the season.

But I did find time to grab a few pictures / screenshots from Thursday's opener, one our entire crew and the basketball fans of Sacramento will not soon forget:

25 October 2016

Hello, NBA! Coming your way in 2016-17

I am proud to announce that I will call play-by-play on the first full season of live virtual-reality sports this winter when the NBA and NextVR partner to produce at least 25 regular-season games in VR via NBA League Pass!

Official announcement from NBA
Official announcement from NextVR
How to get access to NextVR

On my end, this has been a few months in the works, and as we've gone through discussions and test games and everything, I've been so excited but unable to talk about it beyond my immediate family. So I can't wait to start the season Thursday with the Sacramento Kings-San Antonio Spurs game, the regular-season opener at the new Golden 1 Center in Sacramento! Tip is at 7:30 Pacific Time on Thursday, 10:30 Eastern Time, and fans can watch for free with the right VR headset. (Don't worry: If that sounds a little narrow, the availability is only going to get more widespread as the season goes on!)

For the NextVR team, this has been more than a year in the making, and seeing their reaction to the expansion and fine-tuning of the product has been awesome. It's a great group to work with, one I first met when working their first fully produced soccer game in the International Champions Cup in August, and I'm excited for the season.

USA Today article

Personally, this is certainly a bit of a departure from pro soccer and college sports. I've called plenty of basketball, but it's been entirely in the college ranks, so I look forward to learning some of the intricacies of the NBA, its storylines, and its players throughout this season.

One of my partners on the broadcasts this year will be Julianne Viani, who I've worked with a lot as a college basketball analyst in the New York area, and I know she's going to help make our shows analytical, fun, and successful! Fellow soccer vet Mark Rogondino will also be among those contributing, as various schedules allow, and he brings an awesome perspective and energy that are hard to match.

Upload VR article

The test broadcasts have been exhilarating and illuminating. I've learned some things about how to prepare and how to approach these broadcasts (slightly differently than a normal game), and I've learned a lot about how the NBA operates. As broadcasters and as a production group, we've definitely gotten a better idea of what works and what doesn't, and we've come up with ideas we think can be implemented as the season goes on. We may not have every bell and whistle on Opening Night, but you'll be impressed and enjoy the show!

The VR camera angles work really well for basketball, with the most often used cameras stationed underneath the basket. That means dunks and anything at the rim come right at you, and it also provides a more true look of how teams approach the game in terms of Xs and Os, since you get the same vertical vantage point as the players. Our scorer's-table camera, pictured here, brings some sideline access to coaches and players that you don't see on a normal broadcast. It's absolutey fascinating to watch a game this way.

I don't know how many of you have the ability to watch VR broadcasts just yet, but as somebody who was skeptical before trying the technology out, I can highly recommend that you give it a chance! Basketball is definitely the ideal sport to provide a starting point for sports in virtual reality, and I'm incredibly excited for all the new experiences this winter will bring.

So find a Samsung phone or Playstation and a VR headset and check out our Game of the Week all NBA season!

Again, here's how to get access to NextVR.

01 October 2016

All the highlights and reaction from crazy MLS game

In the second of a three-games-in-four-days stretch, I got an awesome game to call Saturday night at Red Bull Arena.

With only three games remaining before the playoffs, the New York Red Bulls and Philadelphia Union played a back-and-forth game with a playoff-like atmosphere. Although it was marred by a scary head injury to a promising young Philadelphia player, Josh Yaro, the rest of the game was edge-of-your seat stuff.

Unfortunately, in my case, it was also Jon-on-the-verge-of-losing-his-voice stuff. All the big plays and the goals, coupled with the energy of the crowd, had me doing a lot of yelling. Hopefully it sounded good, but I was definitely a little hoarse by the postgame show. Hoping for a quick turnaround for Sunday's ESPNU broadcast in West Virginia.

At any rate, here are the highlights from an intense night:

And here's how Shep and I broke it down on the MSG postgame show:

25 September 2016

Arkansas en fuego - postgame from SEC Network

Arkansas has been one of the stories of the year in NCAA women's soccer, beating two top-5 teams and traditional powers (Duke, Florida) and reaching 11-1 overall, 4-0 in SEC play with Sunday's 2-1 win over Ole Miss.

Having called Arkansas games in Fayetteville each of the last two years, and having scouted them extensively while trying to figure out their wide variety of formations, I've been watching this team closely, and it was fun to see them in person on Sunday.

Here's how Cat Whitehill and I discussed takeaways following Sunday's game:

18 September 2016

Postgame recap from Kentucky-Alabama

I watch a ton of video early in the college soccer season to prepare for games throughot the fall, and this weekend was the first time I got to put into action in 2016.

After calling Princeton's 2-1 win over Boston University on the men's side Friday night, I flew to Lexington, Kentucky for my first game of the year on the SEC Network on Sunday. I started calling SEC games two years ago when the network launched, and so I've really enjoyed keeping track of the league and its players in preparation for games.

On Sunday, Kentucky and Alabama finished in a 1-1 tie, but there were so many scoring chances throughout the game that we were really glued to the action. My partner was Jill Loyden, who I worked with on Philadelphia Union games last year, and it was great to welcome her to SEC coverage and see how impressed she was by Kentucky's facilities.

Here's how we recapped the game afterward:

21 August 2016

Video: D.C. United vs. New York Red Bulls call on ESPN

On Sunday, I finally got to call a game with ESPN's lead soccer analyst, Taylor Twellman. He's given me a lot of support and encouragement in my career, but somehow, every time I've gotten an ESPN assignment, Taylor has managed to be somewhere else!

After a crazy night of travel from his last game in New York, he made it down to D.C., where I had flown Saturday morning, and we were able to call Sunday's D.C. United-NewYork Red Bulls game together.

Here's how it looked / sounded as it happened: