Friday, July 25, 2014
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The making of an American soccer celebrity

Here is the second part of my interview with GolTV color analyst Ray Hudson. I think it's the fun part.

The making of an American soccer celebrity

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Here is the second part of my interview with GolTV color analyst Ray Hudson. I think it's the fun part. Hudson and I talked about how things work at GolTV, his views of American soccer, and how he has become something of a celebrity among soccer fans in this country.

You can read the first part of the interview, dealing with the big series of Barcelona-Real Madrid games this month, by clicking here.


A lot of the games that you call at GolTV are done off monitors. How much of the atmosphere from the stadium do you pick up doing it that way?

Now that GolTV has high definition, in all honesty, that allows a lot more of the atmosphere to come through not just to our monitor in the studio, but into people’s living rooms. It’s like looking through a window, isn’t it – we all take it for granted so much.

But I was watching an Argentine game last night, Boca Juniors, and oh, God, it was excruciating having to watch it that way – it’s like you’re having to watch through a rainstorm in regular-definition TV now.

Certainly, there’s nothing like actually being in the stadium to get the smell of the grease paint in your nose. We’re still capable of, hopefully, projecting that electrifying atmosphere through the screens and through our microphones into the viewers’ living rooms.

I’m sure you get asked this all the time, but people probably want to know anyway: how do you come up with all those catch-phrases and ways of describing plays?

It’s something that I’ve just acquired over all of the years that I’ve been doing this. I always go back to having such a good schooling as a kid, with my father and a great English teacher. Not to be too cerebral about this, but without that, I wouldn’t have this sort of expressionism to fall back on.

That was a very formative part of my being able to dip into those different verbal palates, and color a game and frame and occasion. And to elevate it to the the point where it may be over-exaggerated, but I would rather it be that way when these wonderful, world-class players are producing such magical moments for us.

I’d rather it be that way. I couldn’t not be anything else than this. But sometimes these teams and these players - whether it be in a defensive position, or attack, or goalkeeping, or even a referee - sometimes they need to be profiled and colored in a way that really does their brilliance justice. A lot of the times, you have to resort to hyperbole or extreme analogies, and it seems to tickle a lot of people’s fancies.

I know it’s not everybody’s cup of tea, and I can understand that. But by and large, I couldn’t alter anything. It’s not a shtick, it’s not something that I purposely went out and planned. It’s just that way, and it just keeps maintaining itself.

It gets harder sometimes – I’ve got to start re-treading a few of the verbal tires every now and again, because I don’t always have that sort of wealth of adjectives at my dispensation in the spur of the moment. It’s bloody hard, because priming that occasion where you have that sort of response to a single moment, and then having to control it, and then elaborate on the action and give it that sort of glitter bomb, if you like, it’s a challenge.

And it’s got to be spontaneous, that’s the thing. You’re being called upon to do it on the high wire. It’s not a case of writing and then scribbling it out, and then saying, ‘I’ll use that instead,’ and then mulling it over. You’re on the gun. And thankfully, I’ve been able to decorate these games a lot with good wordsmanship and expressionisms more often than not.

I remember when you were the coach of D.C. United, and you were very much the same way back then. That brings up my next question: As you are based in Miami, how much of MLS and American soccer in general are you able to watch from down there?

Well, Phil Schoen in particular follows MLS religiously. He’s a real aficionado of the league. Plus, he’s got two young kids and a wife to go home to after doing basically a dozen games a week, on top of his studio work. And he still tunes into every MLS game. So he’s a saint that way.

I cannot do it. This year is the one time I’ve bought the MLS Direct Kick package. So I’ve got the games to watch, and I have watched quite a few more this season than in recent seasons. I still take an interest. I’ll still turn the games on to see how Ben Olsen is doing with D.C. United, to see how Nick Rimando and Kyle Beckerman and Andy Williams are doing with Real Salt Lake. Things like that.

But when you do as many games as I do, sometimes you just want to turn away and watch a bit of Sesame Street or SpongeBob SquarePants. Just to get the [heck] away from it, you know? Just to turn off and get away from the game. But like I said, I still do drop in.

I went up to Toronto FC to watch their game against Los Angeles last week, and had an absolutely fantastic time. It’s astonishing how the business model and the game day experience have changed since I was out of the league. That was a real eye-opener.

Toronto were wonderful hosts for me, and it was wonderful to be shown around the whole place. It was truly breathtaking how far that whole game day experience has come. It was as good as you could get – it was absolutely tremendous.

I figure that probably the biggest change since you were in the league is that not only in Toronto, but also places like Philadelphia and Portland and Seattle, there are soccer-specific stadiums, and the impact that has had.

Absolutely. It’s night and day compared to these cavernous, empty NFL stadiums that we had to go and play at in my Miami Fusion days and D.C. United days. Columbus Crew Stadium was a state-of-the-art setup. Now, as you said, the Philadelphia Union situation, with Nick Sakewicz and Peter Nowak, that’s another one – you could not ask for anything better.

You’re not going to get the Bernabéu or the Camp Nou, because they are Coliseums that have been there since Noah had an ark. These soccer-specific stadiums are just wonderful magnets for fans to come in to.

I’ve got to say, though, on the flip side of it, the one thing that has still got to be addressed is the quality of play on the pitch. That’s the biggest challenge. But the rest of the model that MLS has engineered over time, and especially the Canadian situation – along with Philadelphia, who were the last ones to expand in – for me it was jaw-dropping to go around the stadium and see it all. It was wonderful.

I have one last question for you, and you’ve probably also been asked this one at some point. Your GolTV colleague Phil Schoen is on Twitter, and there’s a guy – at least I think it’s a guy – out there with the handle Live Ray Hudson who does nothing but tweet your one-liners during games.

Have you ever talked to the Live Ray Hudson tweeter, and have you yourself considered joining Twitter at some point?

There’s two or three people who have done something similar over the years, with different types of web sites that are dedicated to that sort of thing. It’s wonderful, and I’m extremely flattered by it. It’s certainly bewildering to me, because I’m just starting to use a cell phone now, and I cannot figure out Twitter from Facebook.

I have no clue as to how to manipulate it or use it, but a good friend of mine – Joe McGiniss, who’s the author of the great book The Miracle of Castel Di Sangro – he has just settled that situation. Joe’s out of my old-school type as well, but he’s absolutely floored by it, and is insistent that I get my caveman mentality dragged into the daylight.

But that’s all a space odyssey for me, and I’m just one of those apes with a bone in hand. I’m just not quite ready.

Jonathan Tannenwald Philly.com
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The Goalkeeper is your home for the latest news about the Philadelphia Union, Major League Soccer, U.S. national teams and the rest of the world's most popular sport. It's also a place for fans to gather and celebrate the culture of soccer and its unique place on the sports landscape.

Reach Jonathan at jtannenwald@phillynews.com or 215-854-2330.

Jonathan Tannenwald Philly.com
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