As you may know, I’m announcing a number of Colorado Rapids soccer matches this summer and so far it’s been a blast! Case in point:
Kosuke Kimura’s 65-yard scoring bomb in the Rapid’s 2-2 draw with New England!
I’ve called a wide variety of sports during my play-by-play career at both the professional and collegiate level; including basketball, football, soccer and volleyball. Calling indoor and beach volleyball matches in six consecutive Summer Olympics is another highlight! It’s an exciting profession and once you’ve mastered the fundamentals, these skills can translate to a variety of “sports”. Would you believe Acapulco cliff-diving, show horse-jumping and the World Series of Poker? Yes, I’ve announced them all!
Calling soccer is somewhat like calling basketball. The players are athletic. They move interchangeably up and down the pitch or court and when the action is fast paced, both sports are very exciting.
The cornerstone of any broadcast, including soccer, is player identification and name pronunciation. Identify the players correctly, and say their names right, and you are halfway home.
Each team in MLS starts 11 players and has 7 more in reserve. My San Diego State math says that’s a total of 36 eligible players to keep track of, including keepers. Add to that a passel of international players with tricky, poly-syllabic names and you see the challenge.
Writing out the names phonetically and practicing pronunciations out loud is the first step to calling a clean match. Example: Rajko Lekic = Rye-co Leck-itch! Meanwhile, I study team rosters, the player bios and their positions on the pitch. I also read print articles for additional background and entertaining stories.
Another crucial step is watching at least 2 different match DVDs of the opposing team. I note the positioning of the players, what they actually look like (bald guys are a big help!), and the characteristics of that particular team.
The second most important element in announcing soccer is using the appropriate lingo. In the “worlds game”, you play on the “pitch”, not on a field. Fans are referred to as “supporters”, a shutout is a “clean sheet”, and if someone kicks the ball through your legs into the goal, it’s a “nutmeg” not cinnamon!
Each week, I try to add a few new soccer terms to my call. In this way, I continually build my on-air vocabulary and keep the call interesting. Nothing is more annoying than hearing an announcer use the same term over and over again and again!
Finally, when you announce any sport, including soccer, you should have a good handle on the rules. Some soccer rules are basic: there are two 45 minute halves and you can’t play the ball with your hands. Some are quirky: there are no timeouts, and at the end of each half, “stoppage” time is added (usually 2-4 minutes) to make up for delays and injuries. And some are pretty easy: a yellow card is a caution and a red card means you are ejected for the remainder of the match.
While I’ve been aware of the red card ejection for decades, the rule was ingrained in my mind when my then 9 year old daughter Grace received a red card and was ejected from a Littleton Rec match for throwing grass at another girl! To this day, Grace says the girl tripped her from behind and deserved it!
All-in-all, my foray into the world of Colorado Rapids Soccer and MLS has been very rewarding. I especially appreciate working with analyst Marcello Balboa (terrific knowledge and insight, funny, and GREAT hair.) The Rapids coaches, staff and players are always helpful and cooperative. Supporters attending home matches at Dicks Sporting Goods Park love the facility and our Altitude production crew does a bang up job bringing the action to viewers at home.
Last year the Colorado Rapids won the MLS Championship Cup. Here’s hoping we’ll see another championship run this fall!