Saturday, April 24, 2010

Soccer Saturday and Gol TV Commentator Ray Hudson

Gol TV commentator Ray Hudson joined us on Soccer Saturday presented by the Milwaukee Wave today. Listen here.

If you feel like finding out a bit of how much it meant to me in particular, keep reading ...

I've mentioned it before in this space, I grew up following hockey and the incredibly fast-pace of the men who called the game. The role models, beyond Wayne Gretzky, were the men who called the games. Their words flew at a pace that left you dizzy. Yet, beyond mere description, there was a comprehension that taught and ... conveyed ... the game for those who didn't fully understand the intricacies. 

I always loved football. Just not as deeply as I have in my adult life.

One of the things that first drew me more deeply into its world was that it contained the majestic creativity of hockey yet it actually allowed the artists on the playing field to express themselves to their full potential. Picasso on a bar napkin versus Picasso on a full canvass. Thompson with someone - or something - to capture his words. Godard with Coutard as opposed to Godard with simply Cahiers du Cinema. 

Later, I began an actual pursuit of broadcasting as a profession in college until I found the track to be a little too redundant. French and creative writing was the eventual magnetic draw. Much more stimulation. At the same time, I tripped into a career in Major League Baseball. Right place, right time, a little know how, a little hard work and all that. 

The point of all the background story is that through all of it, as I grew up, I looked at, focused on and listened to the folks behind the mic more than I did the athletes on the field. The words they delivered to our ears. The way they positioned the battle, the story they set, the passion they'd share with you and the path they'd take you on as you learned every corner of each game. And then, as I was growing into my 20s, I found myself working in baseball and sitting at the same dinner table as the likes of Vin Scully, the voice of the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers for 50 plus years, Hall of Famers like Ernie Harwell, Marty Brenneman and Bob Uecker, and Harry Kalas, one of the defining voices of the legendary NFL Films.

Do I value those moments and the yarns those folks have to share with me? You better believe it. 

In 2007, a group of us at The Highbury Pub in Milwaukee, Wis., (including Jim and I) were watching the finale of La Liga as Real Madrid were battling Getafe in great tussle that would eventually give Real the title. 

Jim and I were floored - floored - by the brilliance of the commentator for Gol TV, Ray Hudson. He sounded not like the stodgy (yet spectacular) gentlemen who called the games from England that we'd watch every morning. Ray sounded like us ... yet it was an 'us' that came equipped with tongues of silver, a spirit of pure energy, wisdom and transcendent and mind-boggling hyperbole. He sounded like someone who loved the game with such fire that it naturally poured out him like an exploding volcano. 

At the end of the day we saw a shift in the way we'd have to watch and enjoy our football. Those 6:30 a.m. alarm calls to get to our pub and watch the teams we support was thing ... sticking around until the games from Spain, and most importantly, the games from Spain called by Ray Hudson, was another challenge all together. But damn if we weren't up for it. Time and time again, seven or eight hours into the day that already had all of us football lovers up and out of bed at 6:00 a.m., we'd be tripping for the doors only to stop and realize, "Wait! Wait. Wait just one minute. Ray Hudson's on in an hour. We can stay. We must stay."

And of course, we'd stay. And hot damn would we be better off for it. 

This morning, Ray Hudson joined us on Soccer Saturday presented by the Milwaukee Wave, the radio show based out of Milwaukee that we've been fortunate enough to contribute to since its debut show this spring. Our dear friend, Peter Wilt, president of the Milwaukee Wave, bon vivant, more-important-than-you-realize-member-of-the-American-soccer-fraternity and all around great guy knows Ray from their common time in America's MLS. After Jim and I discussed Ray in our last segment, Peter arranged the interview and Ray was kind enough to join us this morning to have some fun and talk football.

At the base of it all though what he shared and continued to express, as he does every weekend, was his bottomless love for the game and appreciation for its heroes and artists. He's a great example of what it means to just sit back and be wowed. Sure you love your team. Sure you got torn apart by losses, poor performances and injustice. Sure you want to brag in the face of your rivals, shout at turncoats and shake your fist at the enemy but at the very bottom of everything, it's a hell of a fun time following football and all it offers us.

Ray is a great example of that. 

Like a Vin Scully who crafts sentences in baseball that make you grin and understand as if you've just finished glancing at a Norman Rockwell.

Like a Bob Uecker, a man whose wit is unmatched and who reads a never-ending list of sponsorships like no other.

Like a Harry Carey, a man who sounds just like the drunk and crazy fan in the bleachers in front of you who'd piss you off if he wasn't so damn entertaining.

He's all of it rolled together. Magically poetic and endlessly effusive. 

He's worth sticking around for.

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