22 October 2012

My TV soccer season in the books

With the 3-1 FC Dallas loss to Seattle last night, my soccer broadcasting season came to an end. It was my first year working primarily (and, as it turned out, exclusively) on television, and my first year as a free-lance broadcaster rather than as a full-time team employee. As such, there were a lot of changes to get used to and adjustments to make throughout the year.

In the end, I worked 20 soccer games – 8 preseason, 12 regular season – with eight different partners in three different roles for productions by four different clubs and broadcasts on up to eight different outlets, depending on how you count it. To simplify, I called the preseason Disney Pro Soccer Classic (with a one-game cameo as a color analyst) and 10 regular-season FC Dallas games, adding one game of play-by-play for Houston and one game as a sideline reporter for Kansas City. Full schedule.

I fulfilled a major goal – earning a living (or something close to it) as a broadcaster, rather than as a communications professional who broadcasts – and owe a lot of people, both personally and professionally, for their respective roles in that.

The most memorable moment of the season was definitely Julian de Guzman’s dramatic goal against Vancouver on September 15:

I’ve had the pleasure to call some clutch late goals, both for and against my employer, since my first pro soccer broadcast in 2008, and this was one of the most fun. It was an important goal, the timing last-gasp, and the quality of the goal (how I wish we had an end-zone view of it!) satisfied the hopes of an electric crowd. That’s just about everything you can ask for. Comparing it against other plays, it loses a little bit of luster because the playoff chase went unrewarded, but anybody there that night will not soon forget it.

One of my other favorite calls from the season, one that may have flown under the radar, was this Bryan Meredith save against FC Dallas on May 9:
The play was a great one, but I felt the whole call worked well. I was able to transition from a separate point (Seattle fatigue) into the play via Fabian Castillo, I correctly identified Andrew Jacobson as the player who headed it back, and “Oh, what a stop!” felt like a good reaction to the play. After the play stopped, I was able to sum it up before turning it over to Ian Joy for the replay (which happened to come from my favorite angle).

I also really enjoyed my one foray as a sideline reporter, working for Kansas City in a June game in Philadelphia, but unfortunately all video evidence of that night seems to be lost. Kansas City fans were understandably quick to jettison any DVR recordings of their 4-0 defeat, and as far as I know, only the Philadelphia broadcast of the game still exists.

Looking back, I think the biggest improvement I made over the course of the season was ramping up the energy on my broadcasts. That applies mostly to on-camera segments, but also to play-by-play. I’m a low-key guy by nature, so I don’t like to get worked up until a moment really calls for it, but I am always excited to be calling a game. On camera, however, it sometimes takes a little bit of effort to make sure that excitement impacts the viewer. I think opening segments and slow moments in the game sounded much better in May, July, September, and October than they did in March and April. That change really started with some feedback from do-it-all analyst Brian Dunseth, so my thanks to him for that honest, helpful critique.

Overall, I felt good about my debut season on television. I would have loved to call a game every weekend and call some playoff games, but I got more comfortable each game and got better as the year went on, and that’s what you hope for. I’m excited to watch the MLS postseason and even more excited to call MLS games next year, hopefully as early as February or March.

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