Shortly after I handed in my resignation to ‘Fox Soccer Report’, Bobby asked me if I would pen a ‘farewell’ article for the website. Naturally, I said ‘of course!’ – but then I sat down and started to write and thought: ‘How do I sum up 9-years on FSR into something people will want to read?’
So, I’ve come up with five of my best and not-so-best moments on the show along with some sappy stuff at the end – enjoy.
#5 – The Early Days
To say we were out of our element when we started this show is an understatement – and I give full credit to Bobby for not blowing his top due to our lack of familiarity with the sport when ‘Global Sportslink’ kicked off in September of 2001.
All I remember from those early days was that horrifying ‘jailyard’ set (some of you who’ve watched us from the beginning may remember the chain link fencing), being terrified of getting the sack for not being good enough and the treacherous viewer email which was so unkind – but also gave us a sense of where we needed to be in terms of their expectations.
Oh, there was also the ever changing hairstyles of Michelle Lissel. The compilation video we made when she left still cracks me up when I think of it (sorry Meesh!).
#4 – The Fly! The Cough! Nope, no post!
The two things we’ve been slammed for most over the years is our pronunciation and the sets….Ohh the sets! Big desks, spaceships, brown & gold and now – the virtual one.
And while it hasn’t always been pretty to look at, you have to admit that it HAS lent itself to a laid back atmosphere on the show….Though that may also be due to some of the personalities we’ve had!
Let me see – I was anchoring with Michelle once, it was a hot summer day, hot in the studio and that studio seemed to attract the odd insect. So, there I am reading a lead-in and as I breathe in, I also take in one of these rogue flies.
I naturally start to choke – but manage to get through it with the best line I can ever remember uttering: ‘They always said I’d choke on-air’.
Given that we also do the show from Canada – it gets cold here. Now, many of you may think you know cold, but I’m telling you, you don’t. We’re talking -40C for a good portion of the winter months, and if you don’t bundle up, you catch a cold – and when one of us gets sick….well, viewers can tell because we have such a small on-air staff that we have no choice but to fight through it and it is audible in our voices – and in the coughing we inevitably go through.
I can remember doing a show with Michelle and she was sick, I mean SICK. She was sniffling and coughing and barely had a voice. We had told her to go home but she refused. So, her and I are doing the show – and she is struggling big time.
We hit the half-way point and I pull the plug on her: ‘You’re done, get out – I’ll do the rest of the show.’ After the commercial break we come back and it is just me the rest of the way.
Then there were countless times when we’ve called for video that wasn’t there or was rolled late. The one we always joke about is the time when I called for post match comments after some EPL hilites in the 2nd half of the show – not remembering those comments were dropped due to time restraints.
My on-air when something like this: “And here are some post match remarks from the managers (long pause as they remind me in my ear that it was dropped)…Ok, nope…no post.”
I’m sure viewers of the show have numerous other tales of hilarity…
#3 – Sideline Reporting for MLS – the Jesse Marsch Incident
Of all the embarrassing moments I’ve had in my career, this is top of the list. I was doing sideline reporting for FSC a few years ago and we are broadcasting the Chicago/Chivas USA MLS game from Toyota Park – a game the Fire won.
My responsibilities include pre-game line-ups/interviews, various in-game hits (aka reports) and then post-match interviews. The game ends and it is a zoo! The production truck is talking to me, I’m communicating with the PR people trying to hurry them up and get me some players to talk to and we are LIVE.
Now, most networks have a field producer with you to help coordinate everything – not FSC. Because the Fire won the game, it takes a little longer to get home players, etc. so I am waiting…and waiting….and waiting.
Finally, up walks Jesse Marsch (wearing a Chivas shirt) so I get him all set and ask him the opening question:
“Jesse, tough loss tonight – give me your thoughts on the game.”
To which Jesse says: “But…we won.”
To which I say: “Right…”
You see, in all the hustle and bustle, I had forgotten that Jesse Marsch actually plays for Chicago (at that time) and took his wearing a Chivas shirt as his uniform, when in fact he had simply swapped shirts in the traditional football way following the match.
I was MORTIFIED – and to this day I still cannot believe I made such a fundamental error. I could use the defence it was one of my first assignments in the field but – even THAT doesn’t hold water in my mind.
Wanna see the clip? It’s on YouTube somewhere.
The ironic part about it – as we all know Marsch eventually went on to play for Chivas….I think he did it to rub it in to me.
God, just writing this story has me embarrassed all over again.
#2 – The 2010 Champions League Final & Michel Platini
If the Marsch story is my low point, being in Spain last spring for the Champions League Final is the high point. Bigger than the Superbowl and broadcast on the Fox network – this was the biggest thing I have done in my career.
Working alongside Curt Menefee and the crew from BIG Fox (as we call the network guys) was a learning experience – but one I knew I was ready for.
I certainly did not feel out of my element and it was an honour to be part of the first EVER Champions League Final broadcast on network television in North America.
As part of that week, I also was given the chance to interview UEFA President and former France footballing great Michel Platini.
Now, I was nervous when I interviewed David Beckham so you can imagine how I was ahead of this sit down! But, I covered all the bases and conducted what I think was the best interview I’ve ever done.
My bosses were happy too and used the interview in a trade to acquire some pre-match Mourinho stuff from Sky. The interview was also given to Sky Italia who aired it – and some of the clips were picked up in UK newspapers.
I knew I’d done a good job when that happened!
And Platini was as nice a gentleman as I’ve met. Funny, friendly and not afraid to answer – and answer intelligently – some tough questions that I actually was expecting him to dodge.
It was a refreshing change from the usual minutia we see and read about every day in this sport.
And being in the Bernabeu at pitch level for the game – unbelievable!
If you are a fan of this sport, you MUST get to a Champions League Final in your lifetime.
It will be worth every penny spent!
#1 – My co-workers and YOU – our audience
I have had the distinct pleasure of working alongside (and with) some of the best people in this business and sport. Here at FSR, we are a small staff (ten people total!) so we take what we do very personally and there is a lot of ‘us’ in what you see.
I’d like to give public thanks to Joe Pascucci for giving me the chance to be on this show in 2001 – this whole thing was HIS idea!
Carlos, Mitch, Michelle, Derek, Terri, Bobby, Nabil & Eoin – it was amazing being able to work with and learn from each of you.
Now to you guys – our dedicated audience and followers. I cannot express my gratitude in words for allowing me into your homes & lives for one hour each day.
We all have busy lives and the fact you have taken time from YOUR life to invest in us is something I have never taken for granted. I have done my best to address every email (before they cut us off from doing that), every phone call and every comment I have come across.
I have gotten in trouble, suspended and close to fired on more than one occasion for doing so but – I wouldn’t have it any other way. I believe it is important that you have a voice and feel that you are heard, even if at the end of it we agree to disagree.
After all, we are doing this for you! So, keep your comments coming, keep urging those in charge to do better and never forget, this is YOUR show, we work for you!
Thank you for watching me work over the past nine years. It has been my pleasure to be a small part of the sport we all love.
I’ll never say this is the end of my involvement in football or TV but for now – remember to keep the ball rolling!
As a pretty regular sports gamer, the one thing I hear all the time from friends is how they don’t want to be buying the same sports game every year. Many a gamer – myself included – has complained that from year to year most sports games just do not undergo major changes….Other than roster updates, team additions or stadium/kit updates.
But this year’s FIFA 11 is different.
The guys over at Electronic Arts have put in over 200 changes to the game and I have to say it is the most frustratingly real soccer game I’ve ever yelled at.
If you play a game long enough, you learn the tricks – and for years FIFA has been like that. You play for a while, you find the tricks and then you are hammering teams 10-2, etc. A few years ago it was the spin-&-go where you could spin past opposition all the way down the park without fear of reprisal. Last year the passing engine seemed a little too easy and simply pinging passes down the pitch in quick fashion usually worked with little trouble.
Not in FIFA 11.
Senior Producer David Rutter told me a few weeks ago that the one major change this year is that you actually have to use your tactics to get through defences and break down opposition sides – and he was right. I tried the usual bevy of tricks I’ve learned and not one worked. I had the ball taken off me, was tripped up, muscled out or had guys in my passing/shooting lanes in a heartbeat. I actually did have to try and find openings and build my play into the opposition end – and it is not easy.
The AI is smarter and more tactically aware and while it will frustrate you when you first start to play – it’s the kind of frustration that produces a smile knowing they got it right.
They have carried over ‘Live Season’ so you can set team form in the game to mirror that of real life which is a feature I enjoyed in last year’s game. They also have ‘Ultimate Team’ which caters to those who like collecting cards and building a side. I tried it out last year and also enjoyed it. (As an aside, if you enjoy Ultimate Team, check out EA’S ‘FIFA ALL-STARS’ on Facebook)
Another one of the major innovations this year is the ‘Be A Goalkeeper’ option in the ‘Be A Pro’ mode (though why anyone would want to be a GK still escapes me). I gave it a try in the practice arena – and it was awesome. I can see this being a major hit with game players, especially in the online environment. I was joking with one of EA’s PR guys that online leagues just got a little more competitive with players able to recruit for 11v.11 games online – GK will be hot commodities if you know how to play the position well.
For me, I’m not much of an online player – Manager Mode is where it’s at. Every year I take a team and play a few seasons just to see what I can do. I take big teams and little teams and for me, the issue I’ve always had is with the transfer Market. You usually find unrealistic valuations, stiff negotiations and little in the way of counter-offers.
From what I’ve played so far, this hasn’t changed – and it is the one thing I’d like to see EA work on. I took over Manchester City and went after Cristiano Ronaldo – just to see. I offered 90m for him and the offer came back denied. It’d be nice to see more of a “That offer is not what we’re willing to do. Would you consider 100m?” and then have it go from there. Make it an actual negotiation. They have this in the Madden engine, it’d be nice to see it here.
I’d also like to see the EA team go after the rights to the various tournaments within each of the licensed leagues. Instead of the ‘league cup’ in La Liga, how about the Copa Del Rey? Or Coppa Italia, Coupe De La Ligue, Carling Cup/FA Cup, etc? It can’t be that hard to secure the rights once you have the league licensed can it?
I know Konami has the Champions League rights so those are out of the question but – those other tournaments should be easy to license and would be a welcome addition in my mind.
Overall, I could go down the spec sheet and list off all the new innovations but instead I’ll just NOT waste your time and tell you if you like soccer gaming and you want to play the most realistic game (look and feel) on the market, this is the game for you. I know there are likely guys reading this who swear by Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) but I think even YOU will find EA has gotten it right.
For me, this game easily scores 9.5 out of 10 – there’s always room for improvement.