You can't swing a corner flag these days without whacking a soccer podcast.
Truly, we're stocked up on those puppies like quarts of egg nog at the local Piggly Wiggly.
But some broadcasts and podcasts do manage to distinguish themselves -- like the one I'm on, if I do say so.
Any success here is not about me, however. It's about our guests. Most podcasts -- and there are some very good ones out there -- are stocking-stuffed with pundit analysis. Ours, Soccer Today, is guest driven. It's live Saturdays at 7 a.m. at KESN 103.3 in Dallas, but boffo podcast download numbers are really driving the operation.
The show was Bobby Rhine's little broadcasting baby. He was determined to get a soccer show on local radio that would also have some national appeal. And he nailed it. By partnering with Marc Stein, a nationally noted NBA writer who also loves his soccer, they tapped into a blue ribbon gusher of available guests.
"Steen-o" is an odd duck when it comes to soccer. Long, long ago, when Manchester City really was just the noisy neighbor (that was Sir Alex Ferguson's pejorative moniker), Stein became a City fan. He once told me the story of how such an anamoly came about. But since I was probably obsessing over @50cent's Twitter rants or researching a better light bulb or something at the time, I can't recall the details. But I do know this: Steen-o was a massive Manchester City supporter going way back in the dark days at Maine Road, when once-proud City suffered the ignominy of relegation into England's third tier.
But even then, Steen-o was taking a yearly trip to see his beloved Blues. I know so, because we were colleagues at The Dallas Morning News. He still takes that trip, too. This year, I believe he was able to absorb six City matches, a total that includes a couple of reserve matches. Yes. Reserve matches.
The point is this: he became acquainted with an impressive list of rising European journalists through the years via these excursions to northern England. And as many of them would travel to the States, or perhaps some had interest in NBA, they were able to swap tales and gain lots of common ground, etc.
(... for more, click forward... )
So today, when Steen-o dials up the Euro digits, these guys are delighted to pop on for a 10-minute segment, talking EPL or European matters or whatever.
Meanwhile … when Rhine tragically lost his life over the summer at age 35, he was already trying to involve me somehow in the show. So when Bobby died in September, Steen-o and others involved in the operation asked me to fill in for the show's heart and soul. A tall order, indeed.
Fortunately, I have a little bit of a name and have always tried to do things the right way in our business. So, I am able to secure some interesting guests from domestic soccer's end.
So we get guys like Daily Telegraph correspondent Graham Chase, Steve McManaman, Derek Rae and Ian Darke of ESPN, The Daily Mirror's Oliver Holt, Times of London columnist Gabriele Marcotti, etc. (We concentrate on EPL, in addition to MLS and U.S. national team, so the heavy UK accents make sense.) Thanks to Steen-o's peerless NBA rolodex, we also got Dirk Nowitzki in a big conversation about German soccer; the man knows his Bundesliga and DFB history!)
On the domestic front, recent guests have included MLS Cup finalist managers Bruce Arena and Dominic Kinnear, Brek Shea (just before departure for Arsenal training), Omar Gonzalez, DaMarcus Beasley, Jozy Altidore, plus US-based journalists Alexi Lalas, Grant Wahl, Steven Goff and others.
Last weekend, ESPN analyst Taylor Twellman was among three guests. (Steen-o handled this one solo, since I was derelict of duty while sampling cava and scarfing anchovies throughout Barcelona. Boo, me! … but big ups to Steen-o.)
Here's the link to the show. Check out Twellman's thoughts on MLS just a few days before the announcement of his expanded role on ESPN.
Meanwhile, just back from Barca, I've got to unpack, plan a workout routine to withdraw the, uh, "Spanish investments" from my expanding central portfolio … and do my part to find a guest or two for Saturday's show.