The Voices of MNUFC Discuss Growth of MN Soccer and Life Lessons from the Air

Official Minnesota United FC Reporter

By: Bridget McDowell // @BCMcDowell 

There is something different about soccer and soccer fans, especially here in the Midwest. It’s a small community which, despite its growing population, continues to feel small. When we have questions, concerns or criticisms, the faces and voices of the club are just one @ away. Whether it’s explaining why a certain play worked – or didn’t – or providing background information on a player, there are three people on MN United FC’s broadcast team who we can turn to for an enhanced soccer viewing experience.

Callum Williams, Kyndra de St Aubin and Jamie Watson were some of the first signings made by MNUFC as the club transitioned up to MLS for the 2017 season. They bring three different, invaluable perspectives to Loons broadcasts, a benefit to new and long-time fans alike.

Just weeks ahead of the official opening of Allianz Field, I had the opportunity to sit down with all three.

I came in with a list of questions, but as we all settled in around the conference table it became clear that it would be an easy conversation. After all, they do talk soccer for a living. Williams, play-by-play announcer, came to MNUFC after three seasons in the booth at Sporting Kansas City and has a myriad of leagues and competitions to his credit. De St Aubin, color commentator, played DI soccer for the Minnesota Gophers before kicking off a broadcast career that has taken her to the BigTen Network, ESPN and the Women’s World Cup. Watson played professionally for 12 years, including four seasons in Minnesota (one on loan to the Stars, three for the NASL-era Loons) before retiring into his sideline reporter role.

Bridget McDowell: You have a front row seat to the growth of soccer here and, with your various backgrounds – You, Kyndra, played here; you, Jamie, played here as well, on multiple teams; and you, Cal, have covered so many leagues and seen so many different environments for this game. In light of the stadium and the way things are progressing forward, I’m interested in your thoughts on how the soccer experience has changed here in Minnesota, recently with MLS and even through the decades.

Kyndra de St. Aubin: Well, I think it’s kind of cool because all three of us have a different perspective of this exact thing you’re asking about. Mine is my childhood growing up; Jamie’s is actually playing in it, for the team; and Cal’s is like a completely outside view, and coming into the culture when [the move to MLS] just was announced. So I’d have to say, the biggest thing for me, and I was trying to explain it the other day at Allianz, is you can’t really put it into words, what it is like standing in front of that stadium, knowing where this team and this club and soccer has come from in the state of MInnesota, and going back to the Met and the Kicks and the Strikers and prior to Blaine and NSC…

And, it was funny, just out of the blue my husband last night, we were getting ready for bed and I showed him the picture of the United sculpture with Allianz lit up behind it and it almost took his breath away. And that’s tough to do. He was like, it’s crazy if you would’ve thought then… Because he was drafted by the Thunder, used to play with Buzz [Lagos, 16-year head coach of the MN Thunder and father of Manny, current MNUFC Sporting Director, former MNUFC manager, Thunder and MLS veteran] and Amos [Magee, current Director of Player Personnel, Thunder player/manager] on Christmas break and stuff and tool around with those guys so….  Just to know where it’s come from, it’s not surprising sometimes to us in the soccer world, but yet it is at the same time.

It’s such a cool transformation and seeing the game grow and being truly a part of the four other major sports in this market, and competing with all the colleges that we have going. This is a hockey state but you can see soccer slowly kinda growing in there.

Jamie Watson: I mean, it’s – I don’t want to speak for Kyndra – but I can imagine this never seemed like something that was achievable –

KSA: No!

JW: To this level and to Kyndra’s point, I was on the team in 2012 that lost the second leg of the NASL final, the Minnesota Stars at the time, and the team was league owned at the time. And I was in the locker room. Not only had we just lost a final, but everyone in the room thinks that they’re going to be out of a job because the team’s dead in the water. We didn’t know of any discussions that were going on ownership wise, we weren’t privy to that.

So the only saving grace to that night in Tampa that we lost at Al Lang Stadium was the commissioner coming in and congratulating us on a good season, but then telling us, by the way, we have a new investor and owner that want to come in and save soccer in Minnesota. And not only save it,  but he’s got big plans for it. That was Dr. Bill McGuire and we didn’t know it at the time but… I was in the room when it was first said to the players at that level, and I thought, “Oh, cool. Soccer’s not just going to go away, but it will probably be, at best, this level [NASL] and to see what it had turned into as a player with Minnesota United, it was professional from day one.

We went to England, Mexico, Brazil for preseason trips, a significant investment when you could really just train indoors at Blaine instead. He was doing things and investing money, I’m sure losing money hand over fist, year after year, with this vision of wanting to get to this point. And it’s easy to say I want to get to that point… to spend your hard-earned money that you worked your entire life to earn? It’s a completely different level of belief. I was on the team and I don’t know if I believed it, you know? And he did so I think it was a testament to the vision he had back in 2012 when he joined on.

And to stand out there and watch Kyndra emcee [the Allianz Field Scarf Raising] – I still don’t – I just, it’s just, It’s never this good! It’s got that too good to be true feeling. This time it is true though.

BM: I can say, as a fan, you’re always kind of waiting for that other shoe to drop.

KSA: Yeah

BM: When that announcement was made … It’s like, we’ve heard this before. You know?

JW: Uh huh. And honestly, I think I understand that…

KSA: Unfortunately, or fortunately, Dr McGuire is a man on a mission.

Callum Williams: He really is, yeah.

JW: For better or worse, yeah.

KSA: You know what I mean?

BM: It sounds like it!

KSA: He sets out to accomplish something and watch out. And it will be at this level. He knows no other way. Plus he’s a former college athlete so he hates losing so there’s all these different layers to him. I mean just now we were sitting there, the three of us and him, watching Slovakia and Hungary on my computer. [We met on the first matchday of the Euro Qualifiers] You know, and he’ll sit right down and watch it with us because he wants to know who this player is and who that player is and whatever so he’s a very involved owner. In a good way.

CW: And he was furious [Jan] Gregus wasn’t starting.

KSA: Yeah, exactly! He wants to know who’s taking him up, who’s taking Gregus’ place in Slovakia’s starting lineup, today. [Slovakia went on to win 2-0, but did so without Gregus.]

JW: What are we, twenty-four days away [from home opener]?

KSA: Yeah.

JW: Twenty-three days away and he –

KSA: Yeah, and he sits down and –

JW: And he’s watching Hungary-Slovakia, Thursday at 3 o’clock because he loves soccer that much.

CW: He’s absolutely into it. We’re very, very lucky here and I think, from my perspective, talking about how this thing has grown, as Kyndra quite rightly said, I’m the outsider here. And, I’ll be totally honest, when the club first approached me, I had no idea about the soccer culture here, and I’ve been completely blown away by the level of enthusiasm for the game here. Obviously you had the Kicks and the Stars, Thunder, everybody over the course of the last thirty years or so, so soccer’s always been here.

And I had no idea that it was as big as it actually is and that people always seem to follow the game and it was one of the first things I was told. When the club first asked about coming on board I called a couple people I knew around the league and it was the first thing that everybody said: “Soccer culture’s great there, you got to go, you gotta go, it’s fantastic.” And I think the stadium is one of many aspects that prove that for sure.

BM: Awesome. Yeah, I think a lot of people had almost forgotten that it was still here. Until all of this happened and it sort of took off again. And it’s like, wait, it never actually left.

JW: Well, I think Minnesota gets overlooked in that aspect so many times because it’s not LA, it’s not New York.

KSA: It does as a state in general.

JW: Yeah, of course.

KSA: Like, ‘oh you’re in the middle of the country somewhere, you’re not Chicago.’

JW: Yeah! But if you’re here you know. Kyndra grew up on it.

CW: Yeah, if you’re not Chicago, yeah –

JW: And you have to have that because it’s not easy, not to speak to Kyndra’s childhood, but it’s not as if there’s like this professional team in your backyard that you can grow and idolize to one day be on. Maybe it was here, maybe it wasn’t

KSA: Yep!

JW: There’s these gaps and times when it was here and  then now you get –

KSA: It was the Lagoses back then, and it was Amos Magee.

BM: Exactly, it’s crazy.

KSA: It is kinda funny, I remember my first day, when I came in for my interview and I sat down at this table and they had just hired Adrian Heath. And they bring him in to sit in on this interview, and I’m like, I’m sure this is exactly where he wants to be right now; he’s got to assemble a roster in a matter of days. And it was Amos and Manny and Adrian and maybe one other person. But it was weird because I’m like, Oh! I know you, I know you, you know what I mean? It had been so many years but everyone kinda looks the same.

BM: Yeah, definitely. I mean, I grew up here too and my mom grew up in Minneapolis. She, it turned out, went to Kicks games.

KSA: There you go.

BM: And she hadn’t even mentioned it until I dragged her to a United game.

KSA: Isn’t that funny?

JW: No way.

BM: And one time Buzz walked by, up to the booth and she said, ‘That’s Buzz!’ And I was like, ‘How do you know him?’ And this whole, like family history with soccer came out. But yeah, people had kind of forgotten it was still around; she hadn’t even give it a second thought. I mean, how does it compare – Cal, you came from Kansas City most recently, how does it compare here, whether to Kansas or you, Kyndra, having covered other sports in other states… What makes it unique in that respect?

KSA: Why don’t you start because you have the KC experience?

CW: Well, so it’s very reminiscent in terms of the way that Sporting Kansas City rebranded themselves, new stadium, something the club was always looking towards. I say that because we’ve obviously got Allianz Field to look forward to here and I guess moving into Major League Soccer is almost, sort of a rebrand isn’t it? Because you’re essentially moving the club onto another level.

The fans are very similar: great background with the game, they know the game, challenge people, whether it’s on social media or whether it’s other outlets and that’s great! Because that insinuates that they care and that’s great. I think there are, as I said, a lot of similarities to my experiences in Kansas City and I think the stadium now is only going to elevate it. We all know this but ever since we saw the plans for the stadium, we all knew this was going to be something spectacular.

And I think now that if the team continues the way that it started this year and it goes on and it has a playoff run and does well… I’ve said this before, Bridget, in my opinion there’s no reason for – should the team go on and do that- there’s no reason that if you’re in a bar somewhere, and you often hear people talking about the Wild and the ‘Wolves and whatnot, there’s no reason that Minnesota United can’t then come up in the conversation.

I genuinely think that if Minnesota United compete and give Minnesotans a team to be proud of, with the environment they have around them now, I genuinely think that we can become a part of that generic sports conversation. Now, we’re already getting there; I’m starting to see more Minnesota United flags, scarves, t-shirts, whatever, all over the place.

But I do think a successful season will help and I say that because in Kansas City, after a successful season there, Sporting got to the playoffs, they won the Open Cup the year after that, then MLS Cup the year after that and it became mainstream very, very quickly. To the point where the players, and even myself, we couldn’t really walk out on the streets because of people, it became such a big thing in Kansas City. Personally, what I’ve seen already, I think Minnesota United will do just the same, for sure.

KSA: I’d say from my perspective, just from my overall sports perspective, speaking to Cal’s point about becoming part of the general sports conversation, the two markets that I really worked in before were Milwaukee and Phoenix. And Phoenix, specifically, is a hotbed for soccer because, as anybody knows, anybody who can play outside for 12 months of the year, like Texas or Florida or California,

JW: That’s a huge advantage, yep!

KSA: Huge advantage. So soccer’s a big deal there, but at the same time they struggled to make soccer popular there because you can’t create fans, necessarily. It has to be, just like an atmosphere inside of a stadium I think it takes some time and sometimes it’s just very organic. So even though, covering other sports, I just said to a coworker, I lived and breathed brackets before, I filled out tournament brackets and I haven’t filled one out since I moved here and started this job, because your focus changes and what you’re thinking about changes.

And I just think that this town, and this city, and this state loves this game so much and people respect it so, even if you’re not a fan of it, you’re willing to go to a game and learn it and want to be a part of it and support it. And I think our state is big into that because we have so many pro sports and college sports, they just learn to support everything and appreciate it. And sometimes, when I was in Arizona on the air for radio, I was constantly defending soccer. You know, people think it’s boring and this, that. You know, if a goal was seven points would you feel better about it, like-

CW: Pssh.

KSA: You don’t have that because people respect it. Like, if we go on radio shows or we go on local TV shows, they may not have been to a game yet, they may not be a diehard soccer fan, but they want to learn and they want to hear about it. And I think that’s a little bit different in this market than maybe some of the others I’ve been a part of in the past which is really fun to see.

JW: I’ll just say, a different perspective because they kind of hit everything… How lucky are we that we get to be the people that are talking about it on a Saturday, we’re immersed in it. We get to see – we get to peel the curtains back a little bit, to see what goes on behind closed doors and we get to then talk about it. And really we’re a mouthpiece that what people want to know and are talking about and a lot of what we end up talking about in pregame shows, a lot of it is dictated on what are the big storylines, what are the big talking points of the week.

We can sit down on a Monday and say, ‘We think this will be important on Saturday’s game,’ but the reality is, the week happens and it shifts and then we sit down and we go, ‘Right, remember that two hour meeting we had on Monday? Let’s just crumple that piece of paper and throw that away and let’s start over again,’ because everything’s changed, in a matter of a couple days. And we’re in an awesome position that we’re, like – I played for twelve years and I thought that was the greatest job in the world… This is the – that’s 1A, this is 1B.

Because this is the next best thing to playing and being with them is great because I don’t think a day goes by that we don’t have conversations, whether in person or over text about soccer, what’s going on on social media, like Cal said, having conversations with other people. And it’s amazing that we get to do it and that it’s a club that we all believe in, that we get to be a part of and then on the weekend, we’re the fortunate ones that get to talk about it.

CW: Mm-hmm.

JW: And a lot of what we talk about is dictated on what the fans are talking about so it’s pretty cool that we get to do that. And it’s transformed because it was maybe a smaller group of people who were talking about it before and, I’ve said this, I’ve played in games where there were more people in this office than there were in the stands, total! And now you look at it and it’s like, wow!

It’s amazing to see where it’s come from and it’s only getting bigger and bigger. I mean, if this was the stock market I’d be buying all the Minnesota United shares I could get my hands on because it’s only going one direction.

CW: That’s the thing isn’t it? I think, from all of us collectively, the thing we’re all excited about is the obvious and quite blatant sense of this unwavering potential here. And I think that’s the biggest thing for all of us, isn’t it, that it’s such an exciting time to be a part of this. And I think that’s certainly what lives within our core isn’t it, is the drive to want to be a part of this.

And just knowing what it can become, and not only in Minnesota but throughout the entirety of the league, you know, it’s such a wonderful time to be a part of soccer in this country and we happen to be in a situation where we’ve got this glorious stadium which will be the crown jewel of Major League Soccer for some time and then being a part of this project in MLS that just continues to elevate year after year. It’s a very exciting time for sure.

BM: It does seem to be becoming a more legitimate sport and league than it was before for sure. Favorite calls or moments from these last few seasons? Hard question, I know.

KSA: No, it’s just, honestly there’s quite a few. Sometimes, for as rough as the first two seasons may have seemed…

CW: We had a great time!

JW and KSA: Yeah!

KSA: We had a great time! You know, part of that is the beauty of… We do really try to treat the broadcast as 51-49 Minnesota percentage-wise. So when we call a game or Cal does a goal call, you know, if it’s an insane or ridiculous goal by the opponent he’s going to give it the same love as he does a Minnesota goal. And so sometimes, and Cal can probably vouch for this, I can’t tell you how many times, especially the Darwin chips, you know, I smack his arm really hard in the broadcast when certain things happen.

CW: She beats me.

KSA: So he can vouch for that. So he may know better than I do what my favorite call was by how hard I hit him.

JW: By how big the bruise is.

KSA: Yeah exactly. But there’s a couple, like Abu Danladi’s strike in Montreal and I go back to this a lot you know, late in the match, same with his one in Atlanta. Just because of the significance of the moment and the feeling of it.

CW: Yeah.

KSA: Depending on where we were at as a team at that point and how the season had been going. Of course there was Atlanta, at Atlanta. That always feels good. And then Darwin’s chips. To me, that whole match, it was like, ‘Oh my god! You’ve got to be joking!’ It was one of those moments that if I told you this happened in one game you wouldn’t believe me until you saw it. So those are some of my favorite ones, at least from Minnesota United, for sure.

JW: I’ll say that I think I have the best vantage point of all, because I get Cal, his call, in my ear, Kyndra’s breakdown of it, and I get the energy of the bench right next to me. So it’s incredible. You talked about the one in Montreal. I’m literally standing, it was actually – it was actually too close –

KSA: Is it hard for you not to cheer though because you’re out in the public eye? We’re doing this [swings her arm at Cal] in the booth and no one knows.

JW: It is hard and sometimes I do have to remind myself that I’m not a player anymore but that Montreal one, I mean that’s Adrian Heath [points to Cal, sitting four feet away] and I’m here and we weren’t winning, we were down early in that one. I’m trying to break that down where I know that Adrian can hear what I’m saying so I think I was whispering into the microphone and it’s incredible.

It’s a really unique perspective because Cal’s got this incredible voice that his calls stick and they resonate and that’s not an easy act for Kyndra to follow up because he gives these incredible goal calls and then Kyndra’s got to come in and match that energy, right? So then,

KSA: Yeah, and not sound like an idiot.

JW: Yeah, well, we try to do that for 90 minutes, plus 30 minutes pre and post. No promises on that one and no perfect performances yet for me. So, then you know, that Montreal one certainly stands out. It was a 3-2 winner in the dying moments of the game. And I think the Darwin Quintero chip… The hat trick is the best hat trick I’ve ever seen, live or on TV I think, ever. And having the soundtrack playing from these two in my ear while I’m down on the bench looking at guys that – I mean Adrian’s been in soccer for 43 years and looking at his face and this look of something he’s never seen before – you know it’s a rare, rare, rare occasion so I think those stand out for sure. [To Cal:] You have one? Other than your ‘It’s historic, it’s iconic…”

CW: Yeah…

JW: “It’s a moment to savor for a lifetime.”

KSA: Maybe you didn’t love your call, but a favorite goal you’ve seen.

CW: Yeah, I was going to say, I try – I’m not a big fan of relistening and going back and listening to yourself. I think it’s important to do maybe once, you know if we watch tape during the week and whatnot, it’s important to do that, but I’m not a big fan of remembering goal calls and whatnot. I get them, a couple of people, like these guys, saying one or two things in the week, like, ‘What did you say here?’ or whatever. But for me it should never be about the commentator, it’s about the moment. Someone asked me a while ago, it was about the Ramirez goal in Portland, the first goal –

KSA: The first goal in MLS.

CW: Yeah and they said something along the lines of – They described it as my moment and I said, No, no it’s not. It’s Christian’s moment, it’s the club’s moment, it’s Minnesota’s moment; it’s nothing to do with the commentator, regardless of what you say on the call. I think it’s important as Kyndra insinuated earlier on that we try to do a 51-49 in favor of Minnesota because fans aren’t stupid.

When there’s a clear and obvious yellow or red card, I think we do a good job in suggesting that it’s an obvious yellow or red card because in my opinion then if you try to say ‘Well, it’s obviously not a yellow card, that’s ridiculous, the foul should have gone in favor of Minnesota,’… You’re being disrespectful to the fans because the fans want a true and honest broadcast and I’m the same. I’m a fan. I don’t want to hear the commentator spew stuff.

JW: I would turn it off.

CW: We want the obvious and the truth. But in terms of goals, the one is the Quintero hat trick, isn’t it? That – I’ve never ever seen a hat trick that has glistened so perfectly on any stage ever. You’re right, Bridget, I’ve covered a lot of football around the world, in a lot of different stadiums, a lot of different leagues. I’ve never ever seen an individual grab a game by the scruff of the neck the way he did on that particular afternoon and then to go and score a hat trick the way he did. The manner which he did, as well, was beyond perfection, wasn’t it, for that particular afternoon.

And I remember, obviously Minnesota ended up winning 4-3 and there was a couple of defensive issues that day – that summed up our 2018 campaign – but also that afternoon summed up what we had brought in, in Darwin. And what an absolute master stroke that was from the club. And I still can’t believe – I remember commentating on him in the Concacaf Champions League when he was at Club America and he tore apart opponents with ease and made Tyrone Mears look like a rookie at some stages.

JW: I hated him. I hated him!

CW: Yeah so that afternoon with the Quintero hat trick, that will take some beating for sure.

JW: ‘Quinteroooooooo.’

KSA: Well and usually a hat trick, usually one of the goals is like, off your belly or something. You know what I mean? It’s a deflection or one of the three. To have three the way he did is different.

JW: Good luck ever topping that.

CW: Yeah! Yeah, yeah.

BM: I remember watching that one, vividly, in the press box and it was just insane. Everyone in there is going, ‘What?! One of those has to be offside.’

JW: Right? Something. Something has to go wrong.

BM: Yeah, something’s going to happen here.

KSA: A VAR decision against him somehow.

CW: Nooo, let’s not! Let’s not get into VAR.

BM: Yeah, everyone in there is looking around waiting…. You know I have to say, I started off as a fan, not media. And now covering it as media, I’ll still spend some games down in the supporters section. But I think your commentary helps put everything into perspective, better than some other clubs, some other leagues even, where even when we’re having a horrible game, a horrible season, you can go back and find those moments that string together the positives and get that overall perspective again.

It helps with writing the stories too: I can go back and watch a game with commentary and get other perspectives on the game. So, Cal, you talked a little about social media and criticism and people not understanding why you do a 51-49. Are there things that you want the fans to know, whether it’s the hard core supporters who go back and watch it and disagree with whatever you’re saying or the casual fan who just, maybe their only exposure is through your broadcast.

KSA: The only thing I would say, and I used to feel this way as a player, is that if you’re not getting talked to then they probably don’t care about you. If the coach isn’t talking and yelling at you then they probably don’t care and you’d rather be cared about. Sometimes I feel that way with the fanbase or the supporters or even if someone’s just turned on the game and has never watched the game before.

Whether they’re going to compliment or criticise us or whatever it might be, I’d still rather have them watching because then, like Cal said, you know that they care. And you know, we just try to cipher through some of the feedback, whether it’s to us or to the team or about a specific player or the club, whatever it might be. I’d still rather have anybody respond or have an opinion than no one saying anything, because then you think that no one cares and no one’s watching. That’s just my personal perspective.

CW: You know, it’s funny because we spoke about this a while ago and I actually, if somebody takes it upon themselves to at my twitter handle, and come at me with something they disagree with then so be it, that’s fine, because clearly, as Kyndra said, they care. If someone has a go or a pop at me because I’m ‘too the other team’ or I’m ‘too Minnesota,’ that’s social media, that happens. People hear what they want to hear, they hear different things, and as a commentator there’s only so much you can do about that.

You will never appease every ear in the world. You will always make a pair of ears bleed and clear another pair of ears, there’s nothing you can do about it. What I actually don’t have a problem with is someone saying… Someone actually said this last year, they thought I was too pro-Portland, and they had managed to get together the video of the goal call and sent it to me and I said, I have no problem with people saying that, because it means they care. I have no problem with someone telling me you’re too Portland, you’re too Vancouver, because it means they care and it’s something we don’t spend much time thinking about, it’s par for the course really.

And we value every aspect of feedback. I think it’s important to take praise just as you take criticism, with the tiniest pinch of salt. Because it can get to you either way as a commentator. You get a lot of people saying a lot of things. So you take it with the tiniest pinch of salt. Also, I think it’s important to take as much feedback as we can and we pride ourselves on it. It’s important to us to get as much feedback as possible and we’re in a very fortunate position to have one of our owners, a chap called Ben Grossman, who is sort of a senior consultant for Fox and he’ll be with Kyndra in France for the Women’s World Cup and was a part of the last world cup I believe, and he’s been – His abrasive nature is exactly what we need.

And I don’t think it’s ever a bad thing having internal opinions come our way. As I said we have no problem really with anyone suggesting we do certain things. I had one of the local journalists pull me aside at training the other day to say ‘Have you considered doing this?’ and I said, No we haven’t, but thank you for that suggestion, and sure, we’ll consider it, for sure. So it’s never a bad thing, I don’t think.

JW: One thing I learned as a player early on, especially as social media started becoming a big aspect of it, is you’re never as good as they say and you’re never as bad as they say. And right now, I could create any sort of social media account I want, on a paid or unpaid platform, a chatroom, forum, whatever, and I could go to basketball and I could criticize to all ends about whatever I think: I played one year of sixth grade B-team basketball and I was cut in seventh grade year, in tryouts.

So, just because somebody is offering up an opinion doesn’t mean they are right or doesn’t mean that you should then adopt it and change your approach and what we’ve done to get to this point, to be fortunate enough to be in this position. It’s naive to not take in what people say, filter it out, filter what applies and filter out the rest that doesn’t and say, ‘Okay, that’s interesting, maybe I agree, maybe I don’t.’

And never second guess yourself because the worst thing is, if you don’t know who you are in this… And don’t be stubborn. Certainly don’t put blinders on and say I’m doing everything right, I’m never changing. But you have to have, like any professional, you have to have a level of confidence and belief that what you’re doing is the best representation of how you want to come across, and, as Cal said, we are not the highlights.

Cal has said this and I’ve taken it to heart, nobody tunes in to watch a soccer game to hear the broadcasters. They’re there to watch the game right?

BM: Right.

JW: So, if you keep that in perspective, and you try to be as fair and balanced as you can, you set yourself up to give the best broadcast you can. And look, it’s great when people say stuff to you, you know what I mean? Everyone likes it. I mean, you know, when you write a  great article and someone says, ‘We thought that was fantastic or spot on, that’s great,’ of course you love hearing that. Now all of a sudden does it mean that you’re a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist from 24 hours ago to where you are now?

BM: Yeah, no, exactly.

JW: You just hopefully try to string together as many consistent performances as you can and try to get better and never think that you’re too good or above anybody to listen to them or entertain a conversation because also, you don’t know who’s watching. It could be somebody’s first time watching a broadcast and maybe they want to learn. Maybe they’re so eager to learn about it and you have a conversation with them on social media. Then they become engaged, and they become drawn into it and also maybe you’re dealing with someone who really knows their stuff and you have to be able to defend what you said. To say ‘Right, I stand by this because of this, we can agree to disagree.’

CW: Mm-hmm.

JW: But everything I say in the broadcast, it’s that 51-49 percent. When we’re being critical of Minnesota United, I want to be sure that when I go in Monday morning to training I can look at so and so and say ‘I said this.’ I don’t think there’s any benefit in going ‘This guy’s terrible, what an awful game he’s having’ because what does that do? How do you learn from that if you’re watching.

How about, ‘What he tried to do was see this, the intention was this, however, it clearly hasn’t come off; that mistake led to a goal.’ That’s the end result, not what was intended but what came from it. There’s a way to go about it, and it’s lazy to just say, ‘He’s bad and had a bad game.’ Okay, you’ve seen that, he’s seen that, she’s seen that, I’ve seen that, we all know that. But explain what happened, why it happened. That’s what goes through my mind and hopefully comes out without stumbling or cursing, you know?

BM: Are you getting tired of ‘You dive like Jamie Watson’ yet?

JW: Never! I hated it for a while. Then I thought, ‘Well I kind of miss it’ when I didn’t hear it. And then when I would have people text me, years after it first happened and I was playing in a different league and they’re like, ‘You’ve played for two different teams and an entirely different league, why are they talking about you??” I don’t know but I love it. I love those guys. I miss every single one of ‘em.

Fun story: A few days after this conversation, Watson emceed a season ticket holder event at Allianz Field. As he prompted about a thousand fans, myself included, to bunch closer together in the Wonderwall for our attempt at a world record loon call, one of my friends shouted down to Watson on the pitch, ‘You dive like Jamie Watson!’ I had kept this interview quiet and wanted it to stay that way, so I offered him no explanation as to why the cheer made me laugh so hard. Sorry, Joe!

BM: Before I had even come to a United game I had heard that a few times and then you signed and someone said, ‘You know who that is right?’ Yeah, Jamie Watson. ‘He’s that Jamie Watson.’ Ohhh…

JW: I think that’s why they signed me, just to mess with all the Dark Clouds. So thank you, Dark Clouds, you probably got me a job, a new career.

BM: Well, those were my big questions for you. Thank you for your time, thanks for doing this.

CW: Yeah –

JW: Absolutely. We appreciate it.

KSA: No problem. Yeah, we were just sitting around watching soccer so…

CW: Yeah!

JW: Not a bad job, is it?

KSA: No.

BM: That’s for sure.

JW: No, not a bad job.

The Loons open Allianz Field on Saturday, April 13, when they face New York City FC. Opening Day festivities begin at noon with kickoff set for 4 PM CST. The match will be broadcast nationally on ESPN.

Featured image: MNUFC.com

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @BCMcDowell

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale


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