Thursday Night MLS is back.
A few weeks ago, I was watching an MLS game–I believe it was Houston vs. Los Angeles–and I suddenly noticed the commentary. I’m more a data hound during games, looking at the ticker for stats or listening to the broadcast merely for facts I’ve missed.
Then a simple late tackle was made and I found myself listening to Kyle Martino describe how and why it happened. Thrifty and on-point. Pithy.
I was hooked. I listened to Martino the rest of the game and emailed our ESPN contact to set up a time to chat with Martino basically just because I wanted to. No angle.
Most reading TSG probably know Kyle Martino as member of the Los Angeles Galaxy in more of a bit role. Before injuries took their toll on Martino–who would have formed a great non-magic spray partnership with John O’Brien–the UVA alum was once a high school player of the year and MLS rookie of the year. The latter in 2002.
Now, as injures wrapped up a career before it should have ended, Martino does his soccer work from the booth, much to my current delight. While he’s on the box for MLS, shortly you’ll be able to delight in Martino calling World Cup games on ESPN Radio.
Now, to Kyle.
TSG: Okay, Kyle, thanks for joining us. Where are you headed today?
Kyle Martino: I’m heading to do the Real Salt Lake-Philly Union game in Salt Lake.
(Note: This interview was recorded May 6th.)
TSG: I typically don’t recognize announcers unless they are good or bad. If they’re average, then I don’t really hear them.
I was listening the other day to one of your games and you made some excellent points. Then I listened intently to you the rest of the game.
Your commentary is simple and effective.
That’s the lead-in; here’s the question.
Do you have a certain style? How do you think about planning and delivering each game?
KM: I think for me. I think the reason the feedback has been so positive is that my style is I approach games like I would like to listen to them.
I remember being always being so turned off by announcers that would either talk to much and try to really put way too much of their print on the game or talk too much about themselves.
I remember many times having to stop watching and listening to soccer games because of the commentary.
When I got to the booth, I really wanted to take responsibility and deliver simple thoughts.
Be an easy listen and have my thoughts and comments mesh with the game.
TSG: How do you prepare for each game? Do you watch video, do you draw from your playing experience?
KM: Really, it’s funny. Having to stop playing because of an injury and being young in this industry, I’m commenting on players that I played with and against. I’ll be doing that for the next 10 years.
A lot of my material is because it’s still so fresh because I just played versus some of the players, coaches or team. A lot of it is the knowledge that I’ve built up and already have.
The rest of it is just research. I read a lot and go to a number of Web sites during the day and find out what’s going on.
Lastly, I still have about two or three good buddies per team. I’m getting ready to go into Salt Lake and I’m going to hang out with Kyle Beckerman and Chris Wingert and get the skinny on what’s really going on in the locker-room and what’s going on on the field.
TSG: Do those friendships prohibit you from praising or criticizing players? Do you feel like, “Hey, I can’t praise him too much because he’s my buddy?”
KM: That’s a really good question. No, I try to be as objective as possible regardless if it is a good friend or someone I couldn’t stand playing against.
I give praise when praise is deserved and criticism when that is deserved. I’m not the type of guy that is going to talk about my favorite player and say positive things if he’s knocking the ball off his shin out of bounds all game. I’m not going to hold back.
For me, one of the reasons I love doing it so much is that it’s the perfect distance from the game since I can’t play anymore.
If I have a PHD or an MDA or any sort of credential in anything, it’s in soccer.
I like being able to have the responsibility of documenting what’s going on in the game.