Wednesday, January 11, 2012

12-Pack Interview Series: Eric Wynalda on Working at Fox Soccer, National Team Duty, and his Favorite Beer

The dust has settled somewhat from part one of our interview with former U.S. Men's National Team forward and current Fox Soccer analyst Eric Wynalda.

Part two includes our conversation about working for Fox Soccer, what it's like to put on the red, white, and blue and play for your country, owning a soccer team, and his favorite beer.

Read on....

Photo Credit: Wynalda's Twitter
Free Beer Movement: You’re now on Fox Soccer. How’s the gig? How do you see FS shaping soccer in the United States?

Eric Wynalda: It’s been fun. I’ve worked with ESPN. I was there for almost seven years. And there are differences between the two about how they do the business of soccer.

We’re very event driven. When there’s a big game we figure out, one, how to get in on our channel and two, how we’re going to cover it. In the past it was money driven because Fox didn’t put a whole lots of money into the sport, but obviously with the purchasing of the World Cup rights in ‘18 and ’22 we have a vested interested in the game.

My job is kind of to sit and wait until there’s an event to cover. I do cover the Champions League. Which I do love. I would argue that Champions League is the best soccer on the planet. it’s the most money. It’s the most interesting.

That’s never work. You get up and your job is to basically commentate for some of the best games imaginable. So I consider myself very fortunate to still be involved in the game. 

Photo Credit: John Mottern/Getty Images 
FBM: You had a pretty storied career for the MNT. What is it like to wear the colors of and play for your country?

EW: It’s a very complex thing.  If you sit there and put your hand on your heart and you listen to the anthem and you stare down the flag and that moment hits you that you realize how many people you’re representing it’s pretty intense. It’s incredible. Because it’s a lot of people and there are a lot of impressions that you’re about to be making.

The responsibility that goes into it is immense. There’s only eleven guys in the country that are chosen to represent the country. Probably two at your position. That means you’re the best player in the country at your position. Which is an incredible achievement.

I’ve watched guys, and I won’t say their names, that are in very prominent positions now in U.S. Soccer and MLS, who wet themselves during the National Anthem because they couldn’t handle the pressure But they’re good coaches now and their good leaders now. They couldn’t handle that moment.
There’s that part of you that has to be incredible prepared and incredibly confident in your own abilities and be ready to handle the big moment because if you think about it too much you’ll scare the crap out of yourself.

FBM: You are with Warren Barton (and Clent Alexander) are a part-owner in the San Diego (Flash) team. Is this your little corner of the soccer universe where you can or where you want to show everybody how a team is run and how to build soccer in America?

EW: Well, eventually, yeah. I think the relationships Warren and I have will always provide a better platform for players if they’re good enough. Warren coaches the team and trains them. He does a fantastic job. He has a great soccer mind.

But it’s an endeavor I’m excited about. I haven’t really been hands on yet. I haven’t had time, but I think our plans for the future are to make the best out of the situation that we can. We need to talk about youth development, the progression of players, providing the right platform to learn the game the right way, to discover who they are, not to be taught to be something they’re not. I think that happens way too much.
I think our goals are to share the knowledge we have as players and hopefully that translates into some new successes.

FBM: Do you see San Diego as a MLS market? Do you see your team as a future part of the league? To exact even more change?

EW: From our perspective it makes sense to get involved. We want to do a lot of things. But San Diego is a tough market. It’s a hard sell unless it’s done perfectly. The demographic are good. There are so many reasons to believe it would work; the weather is fantastic. But it really is the matter of putting together a club and building a tradition of success before we integrate ourselves into the way things are done.

There are the way things are going to be and there are the ways things should be. If we do things the way they should be that probably means we’ll be excluded from the process. We’ve gotta try and find a way to get in.

Warren and I, as businessmen, simply want to do the best we can. When it comes to a scenario where we’ll be in five years, ten years there’s a lot of things that need to change before it’ll work.

It’s not that we want to stick our noses up to the world and say, “We’re doing things right and you’re doing things wrong” it’s we recognize that the powers that be prevent you from doing what you want to do.

If you going to do the things you want to do you’re going to have to go off on your own. Our partners will probably be from Brazil and Italy and England and Germany. They won’t be in Kansas and Texas and New York.

FBM: Do you have a particular drink of choice when you're watching soccer games?

EW: It usually hefeweizen. I picked that up playing in Germany. Franziskaner is usually the one. I’m a big fan of it. If I can’t get that I’ll go with "Shock Top" or Blue Moon. I love “Shock Top” that’s probably my beer of choice.

As I’ve gotten older I’ve tried to limit the beer intake so I don’t get the belly.

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