I Finally Got to Work an MLS Game

For those of you who do not know, I make my living in the sports broadcasting industry. I have worked on broadcasts that cover a wide range of sports, but I had never had the opportunity to work an MLS game.

That changed over the weekend.

So I figured it might be fun to give a glimpse of what we go through in the broadcast center (okay, TV truck) as we prepare for the telecast.

Sunday as I was getting ready to head down for the broadcast, I got to thinking, when was the last time I went to an MLS game. It had been a while. In fact, it was MLS’ inaugural season. I caught a double header between Mexico and Bolivia at the Cotton Bowl with a Dallas Burn nightcap. The Burn game was much better than the yawner between the two national sides. It didn’t hurt that one of my childhood heroes, Hugo Sanchez, was playing for the Burn at the time. He gave the fans a great show and the cherry on top was Hugol’s classic move: the bicycle kick.

But I digress, back to the day.

9:30 am. I leave my hotel in North Houston (mental note, avoid North Houston on next visit) and ask Siri to guide me down to the BBVA. It was my first week with an iPhone, and Siri had successfully navigated me to the Fine Arts Museum and a fine pub afterwards. However, she had no idea what BBVA Compass Stadium was, and to add insult to injury, she also refused to give me directions for locations in Barbados.

And there I was thinking the MLS had become more relevant.

9:54 am, I arrive at the stadium, and, as always, the quest began to find the TV truck. The rule is, if you need to to find the TV trucks, just look for the trash dumpsters. Alas, this truck was nowhere the dump, at least not as far as I could smell.

I am in Houston, though, which does have a peculiar smell to begin with.

10:30 The tedious part of the day is transferring files from the external drive to the graphics machine. But it also gives me a chance to do some last minute studying on the teams.

11:00 Copying, Copying.

11:30 – The copy is done, and it’s time to go to work. At first glance, soccer isn’t all that bad of show to build. It’s not stat crazy like Baseball, and not roster heavy like Football.

Sponsors are a different story.

A little TV secret for y’all. Yes, we try and tell the story to the best of our abilities, but the sponsored elements are the key components of the show. And since soccer has no built in breaks like other sports, it is a sponsor heavy show. Very sponsor heavy. Enough to give me an ulcer.

11:33 I find out that the score bug operator will handle the majority of the sponsor load. Huzzah!

1:30 The NBC Comcast look is very clean and elegant look, but it is very complicated to set up (especially for someone who is not accustomed to its many layers). Two hours of work yielded just a handful of graphics, but the important ones are done, we can do a show, so it’s time for lunch!

1:35 Yummy Barbecue

2:15 Glenn Davis walks into the truck. I have had the pleasure of making an appearance on his “Soccer Matters” show, we communicate occasionally through the twitter, but had never met in person. Right away, we start talking about Cruz Azul’s recent run of good fortune. After he leaves I tell myself, “that is easily the first time the on-air talent and I ever had a conversation about Mexican soccer. Glenn is one of the best in the biz; glad I finally got to meet face to face.

2:45. I just realized that I can watch the Masters on my iPhone in HD. What a great picture.

3:00 We put a little pre-production together, but can’t shake the thump, thump, thump of the band blaring in the lot next to the truck.

3:45 Realize 15 minutes before airtime that the NBC Comcast look lists the home team second like all other American sports. I built out of town scores with the home team on top, you know, soccer style. It is too late to change them.

4:00 We are on the air. A decent crowd at the BBVA. May as well. There won’t be too many more 4pm starts when the broiler known as summer in Texas fires up.

Dynamo goal!!

Fire Goal!!

Halftime --- after an essentially font free 1st half, it’s time to go to work. Still confused by the home team second thing as even the stats guy feeds me numbers with Dynamo first. The home side had more chances, but not more goals.

The second half starts off uneventful until a fan invades the broadcast booth. I pictured Glenn giving the guy the business before sending him on his way.

10 Minutes from time, Dynamo’s Brad Davis sneaks a free kick by everyone, including the goal keeper for a 2-1 lead.

Chicago elicits the biggest reaction from the truck as they nearly get an equalizer. Luckily, it was good enough for the “Save of the game” which was our last sponsored element to get in.

The Dynamo win and extend their home unbeaten run to 35 games, which of course we had a graphic saying just that (and had one in case they didn't).

6:00 the game is over but our day is not. Post game, web hits, etc.

6:02 – the game was apparently tape delayed, so no post game or web hits. Which means the best graphic of the day is posted.

Watched the rest of the Masters before I got back to my car, which I find out had a lovely new dent from the monster truck that had parked next to me. Caramba!

It was alot of fun and hope to do more in the future.