Saturday, March 8, 2008

Eric is a good sport

Since the start of the MLS season is around the corner, it's time to preview the teams. At espn.com, that means our editor, Jen Chang, divides the teams among the regular writers and assigns us a group of squads to cover. The previews for DC United, the New England Revolution, Colorado and Houston are already up. The ones I wrote are coming soon.

I've an extra assignment in addition to writing my articles, though. I call Eric Wynalda (now a former ESPN TV analyst) to interview him about all the MLS clubs, and his take on each one becomes a little sidebar on that team's preview. Chang had the idea for the feature a couple of years ago, and it worked out well.

Despite what people may think about ESPN as an entity, the different departments don't mix much, even when they're covering the same sport. Eric was never under any obligation to do the website any favors, but he was willing to give his perspective.

This year, however, the TV arm of ESPN ended Eric's contract. As a freelancer, I have no direct line to what happened there, but the scuttlebutt was that Eric was considered too brash and outspoken. Chang still wanted Eric's commentary for the previews, though, so I tried to set up an interview.

"Who cares what I think now?" Eric asked me when he returned my call.

Undoubtedly, he wasn't happy with how things had turned out. Sitting there holding the phone, I realized it might seem strange from his standpoint. He'd been let go from ESPN, and now here was a representative from that organization calling him for his view on teams he was no longer covering for them.

Eric is a sport, though, because he agreed to take the time to talk about the teams and again give his unique, no-holds-barred comments for our preview series.

As far as what he's up to these days, Eric mentioned doing some scouting. He's also looking into working as a sports agent. Eric "Jerry Maguire" Wynalda? Who knows? It could happen.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Letting Wynalda go is a sad commentary on ESPN. In contrast to most of their other personnel, who generally discuss anything but the game, Wynalda is knowledgeable and informative regarding the action on the field. He is surely outspoken, but his comments were not wide of the mark very often. In short, he's just the kind of guy that people familiar with soccer want to hear and those not familiar with the game need to hear. Shame on ESPN for chosing ignorant and irrelevant so long as the commentary is diplomatic.

papa bear said...

Wynalda is a loudmouthed, arrogant ass. I will be sad to see him leave.
They should put him in the in studio team to actually add some life to the show. Julie Foudy just doesn't do it for me.
Despite his more irritating traits, no one can say he isn't interesting.

Anonymous said...

Eric didn't belong in the booth. It has been quite good listening to Brian Dunseth and Max Bretos on FSC for the Galaxy tour. Dunseth is very insightful in his comments without being boorish. The thing with Wynalda is that he would latch onto something, one particular aspect of the game or of a player, and he would beat it to death. Make your comment, Eric, and then move on. But he was never able to move on. I'm glad he's been "moved on" by the powers that be.