18 October 2017

On the move, on the job for the next week

When your work is free-lance, it's good to be busy, and I'm fortunate enough to start one of my busiest weeks of the year today.

I'm flying to Pittsburgh Wednesday evening to start a stretch that will see me call four games in six days (Thursday, Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday) and fly five different segments before returning to an airport for a second time. It's going to be intense, and it's going to be fun!

I start in my current season, college soccer, returning to the scene of the above vista to see the same game I called a year ago, West Virginia against Texas Tech on ESPNU, although I'm working with Kate Markgraf this year instead of Cat Whitehill. One ridiculously good defender and partner for another!

From there, I'll keep moving for the next week, possibly the longest I've ever been away from my daughter in her young life, to cover this set of games:
Upcoming broadcasts
DateGameMediaPartner
Oct. 19
5 pm ET
West Virginia vs. Texas Tech
(NCAA women's soccer)
ESPNUKate
Markgraf
Oct. 21
8 pm ET
Houston Rockets vs.
Dallas Mavericks (NBA)
NBA League
Pass VR
Viani /
Rogondino
Oct. 22
6 pm ET
Auburn vs. LSU
(NCAA women's soccer)
ESPNUCat
Whitehill
Oct. 24
7:30 pm ET
Boston Celtics vs.
New York Knicks (NBA)
NBA League
Pass VR
Viani /
Rogondino

It's a lot to prepare for, a lot of phone calls to squeeze in, and a lot of clothes to pack into one trip! But I intend to manage with a smile on my face, so check it out when you can.

08 October 2017

Long, fun day at the "office"!

We had a crazy one today in Athens, Georgia. Not so much because of the game, which was plenty exciting and had tremendous scoring chances throughout. No, the weather kept us on the edge of our seats today.

With Hurricane Nate reaching the US mainland late Saturday night on the Gulf Coast, we knew our game, about 75 miles northeast of Atlanta, would likely be affected by rain and wind from the outskirts of the storm. We mentioned it briefly with the coaches on our Friday calls, but when models didn't show too much wind expected in the area for game time, we didn't think much of it.

But we did find out on Saturday that the coaches were considering trying to move the game to an earlier start time and discussing with ESPN SEC Network officials just what that would mean for the game broadcast. When I woke up Sunday and did not find an email outlining a change to the game time, I figured we were home free to kick at the scheduled 5pm time.

But in checking Twitter a little after 9 am, Texas A&M's soccer account posted that the game time had been changed to 2pm Eastern Time. So that was quite a way to find out. I immediately heard from Todd Jones, our producer, and we quickly met downstairs at the hotel with my partner, Jill Loyden, for our production meeting.

It was an accelerated timeline, but nothing outrageous. We got underway at 2pm under steady rain, beginning on the SEC Network alternate channel and moving over to the main channel after the 1pm volleyball match finished. But the rain began to intensify after about 25 minutes, and by 30 minutes into the game, we couldn't see the far sideline due to the heavy rain and the wind, and I don't think our viewers could, either! The game was stopped shortly after, and we turned things over to taped programming and sat around to wait.

We watched other SEC games via the ESPN app, we talked to the Texas A&M radio broadcasters, we tried in vain to get some lunch, and we talked with our very helpful stage manager and statistician. We did two on-air updates to keep fans abreast of the schedule. All the while, Jill was having to rearrange her flight out of town, which I (thankfully) was spared.

Finally we got to resume at 4:50pm and enjoy the rest of the game, which saw Georgia goalkeeper Louise Högrell credited with 14 saves as the Bulldogs stayed with 19th-ranked Texas A&M and took them to overtime. Naturally we went all the way to the 109th minute, just 90 seconds before the game would have ended in a tie, with the game wrapping up more than four hours after it started.

Thankfully, it was well worth the wait! Texas A&M sophomore Grace Piper ended things with a really powerful left-footed shot from outside the penalty area, ending the day (that turned into night) on an exciting note!

I was really pleased with the effort from our entire crew to put together the post-game package, which we tape for the SEC website ... but unfortunately it doesn't embed well, so I'll just link to it here.

The game highlights, as they sounded in real-time, are right here:

04 October 2017

Catching up, prepping for busy fall

It's been almost two full months since I've last posted, and I've called 9 soccer games in that time for a variety of outlets, including some terrific non-conference college action and New York Red Bulls games on both radio and TV. But maybe the busiest portion of my year is about to start.

College soccer is a big part of my workload, and I will be on the road on each of the next six weekends calling games, with a few other games thrown in. That schedule includes SEC women's soccer, Big XII women's soccer, Big Ten men's soccer, and, most notably, the ACC championship game in both women's and men's soccer. October and November are going to be busy! This stretch of games starts on Sunday, Oct 8, when I've got No. 19 Texas A&M facing Georgia in SEC women's soccer action.


The preparation for it, however, goes back to mid-August. Since the SEC Network launched in 2014, I've been part of ESPN's team covering the conference, so I track how each team is doing, what formation they're using, and who's playing in what spot(s). So I watch a lot of games each week, mostly replays via WatchESPN. Sometimes I will sit and watch the games and take notes, particularly if I know I will be calling one of the teams. Other times, I will watch long enough to understand the starting lineups, then skip around looking for the goals.

But adding in both ACC tournaments this year, along with the ACC's agreement to stream its games on WatchESPN, has really given me a chance to focus on the nation's best soccer conference. So that's more than 40 teams I'm tracking every week of the college season, and it should really pay off when I need to research a team and can quickly access their lineups, results, and key moments in their season. Being able to put a team's season in context and understanding at least a little bit of their journey is really critical to a good telecast, and I'm looking forward to learning more about each of the teams I'll call over the next six weeks.

So that's part of what us announcers do when we're not actively calling a game or typing up notes for the next one. Preparation, both on a big-picture level and for specific teams, really never stops.

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, and 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.