02 May 2012

Looking back: April 25 Dallas-RSL broadcast

Last week I called three games in eight days for FC Dallas. I have three more games coming up in May, including two in the next nine days, but I want to recap the April games one by one. I started with the Dallas-Vancouver match, and now we turn to the mid-week Dallas-RSL game.

April 25 – FS Southwest Plus / CW30 / ESPN 700 AM – FC Dallas vs. Real Salt Lake
The Wednesday game was a different animal altogether. Aside from being able to actually watch Dallas train in person and talk with RSL head coach Jason Kreis in person as part of my research, and aside from actually being in the stadium, the big difference was that we were taking on a combined broadcast that was seen in both Dallas and Salt Lake City.

I think these combined broadcasts have a lot of potential, because a good announcing team will know and represent the perspective of both teams, and an on-site production should be able to put together a very good show for home fans, away fans, and neutrals watching online. The focus will be overall storylines of both teams, not just the local perspective. At the moment, the biggest challenge of combined broadcasts, in my opinion, is not the announcers or the production, but the sponsor inventory. It’s simple enough to have the FC Dallas lineup presented by Dr Pepper and the Real Salt Lake lineup presented by Xango, but a lot of the other promotional reads didn’t seem to have the same flow (RSL offers for a fried chicken establishment, for example, don't carry over to North Texas), and I think they slowed us down and congested the broadcast just a bit. In this case, we were also being simulcast on radio in Salt Lake City, so I had to talk a little more than I usually would on a TV broadcast and give the time and score a little more often. It's never enough for a radio listener, I know, but hopefully it helped a bit.

It was my first time working with Brian Dunseth, although we had met several times previously from his work with FOX Soccer. I think it took us a little bit to find our rhythm of who talked when and who covered what aspects of a play (plus, how do you react when somebody says "flying taco" on air?), but I thought we got a lot more comfortable as the game went on, which bodes well for our next game together on Sunday. It's great to have Brian next to you because he sees the game so well and is so entrenched in the league.

Although we saw a nasty arm injury to Carlos Rodriguez and a first MLS goal from Emiliano Bonfigli to tie the game for RSL, the big talking point was the penalty kick awarded to Dallas just before halftime. First of all, the play was an awkward one to call, because I definitely had to wait a second to be sure the referee was calling a penalty kick, and even when it happened, I wasn't entirely sure what the call was for. Secondly, both Brian and I had separately noted in our own research that the referee, Geoff Gamble, had a history of awarding penalty kicks, so that immediately kicked into both of our minds, and Brian went directly to that point on-air. Third, it's eventually a judgment call as to what constitutes a handball in the box. I don't know that either Brian or I saw the need to make the call, but having worked for teams on both sides of those decisions, I think we were able to point out RSL's outrage (especially given the calls against them the week before) and the Dallas sentiment of: "It clearly hit his hand, and we deserved that call after controlling the last 30 minutes." Of course, saying each perspective leaves fans of the other team more than a little frustrated, but isn't that what soccer's all about?

At any rate, as in so many ties, I would have liked a few more late dramatics, but the closest we came was Chris Seitz diving at the feet of Alvaro Saborío in the 77th minute to preserve the 1-1 score. Full highlights from our broadcast available here.

After the game, we had the awkward sign-off of, “FC Dallas fans, good night to you; Real Salt Lake fans, stay tuned for the post-game show.” That left us with 30 minutes to talk Real Salt Lake in the first post-game show I’ve done on television, although I’ve certainly done more than my share on radio over the years. That meant more on-camera time at a point in the night where we’re usually pretty tired of being ‘on.’ I actually enjoyed the post-game show, though, talking over some of the key moments both with Brian and with Jason Kreis and Will Johnson from RSL. All in all, I hope my latest foray into the RSL market left folks feeling better than my last one, and it was a fun game to call.

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