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Arlo White Q&A, Part 2

Part 1 of our Q&A can be seen here. In the second part, Arlo talks about replacing Seattle-announcing icon Kevin Calabro, discusses his early career and gives us a lesson on cricket.

S@H: You were hired to essentially replace Kevin Calabro, who was a bit of a Seattle announcing icon. Was that difficult or did you think the audience was just ready to have a soccer guy?

AW: I think people wanted a soccer guy. But I’m aware of Kevin's work. I listen to his show on 710 ESPN. I watched a couple of DVDs from last season. I’m aware of his NBA work.

I was at the Super Bowl in February, and I was doing my research, the night before the Sunday game and he was announcing an NBA game, I think Chicago was involved -- I like Chicago sports for my sins -- and there was a flying dunk by Luol Deng or someone and he went bananas. It was just brilliant. He made it sound so exciting. He has an amazing voice for a broadcaster, you just want that larynx -- where do you buy one of those? He has that gravelly voice, a great turn of phrase, he’s a tremendous sports broadcaster. So filling those shoes was a daunting prospect and I continue to have the utmost respect for him as a sports broadcaster.

Seattle is lucky to have someone like him. I know the Sonics are gone, but we still have his 710 work and I gather he’s doing quite a lot of ESPN work.

S@H: You have done a fair amount of American sports broadcasting, even before coming to MLS. How do you like broadcasting American sports for a British audience?

AW: I’ve followed American football since 1984. It became huge over there. Dan Marino, Joe Montana, Jim McMahon, those were kind of household names in the UK back then. It was before we had cable TV, so we had highlight shows on once a week and it swept the nation. It was at a time when soccer was struggling a bit with hooliganism and filthy, downtrodden stadiums and the experience wasn’t particularly great. English fans were going around smashing up beautiful European cities. It was embarrassing to be a football fan at that point.

A new sport came around and people went for it. I’ve followed it since then. I’m lucky, I’m doing the Seahawks-49ers game live on radio for the BBC. Once the season is done, I’ll be flown back over to the States a couple times to do a regular season game, the conference championship and the Super Bowl, so I’m very lucky. That’s a passion that is a hobby and I get to do it professionally during the offseason. I’m a lucky lad really.

S@H: Talk a little about your early broadcasting career.

AW: I did a lot of things. I was a host for the Saturday afternoon show (5 Live Sport) ... which is the biggest sports show in the UK. On a football afternoon, you’ve got 40-50 games going on. Scotland, England, Premier League, Championship, League One, League Two, nonleague, rugby, cricket happening at the same time. It was the most exhilarating experience you’ll have. You have so much information that you’ve got to get out. Most of the time when you’re talking just before the 3 p.m. kickoff, you're being talked to at the same time you’re talking. So you have to get the information out but also assimilate information that is being fed to you in your other ear.

It was intense and it was a real buzz. You knew that people would be getting into their cars after watching a game and want to know what happened everywhere else and you were the guy. That was a buzz.

Cricket fit into that. I went on cricket tours and my wife and i had twins, I was away for 4.5 months of her pregnancy. I was in India for a month, in Australia for six weeks and in the Caribbean for 2.5 months. I was able to see an awful lot of the world and also it teaches you how to broadcast in unusual places. So the U.S. Open Cup semifinal at Starfire doesn’t phase me at all.

S@H: Speaking of cricket, and assuming our audience is as clueless about its rules as I am, can you explain it in 60 seconds?

AW: Well, it’s a game that takes five days. There are different forms of it. You have a bowler, different bowlers bowl from different ends, and you have two batsmen at the same time at different ends of the field. They have a bat, they hit the ball and they don’t have to run, they can play defensively, or they can strike the ball between the fielder and score a run. The batsmen have to cross from one end to the other and that’s called a run. Sometimes you hit it far enough to run twice, sometimes you can do it three times. If you hit the ball over the rope, which is the boundary, you get four points. If you hit it over the rope without bouncing, the equivalent of a home run, that’s six runs. It’s no tuncommon for a team to bat for two entire days and score 500-600 runs in a single inning. 

But then there are shorter forms of the game. There’s a 50-over version that takes seven hours when both teams bat once and you have a limited time. And there’s a new version of the game that is called 20-20, and that is sweeping the world. People love it. Traditionalists who love the original form of the game are worried because the younger audieince are into this short form game. 

That wasn’t 60 seconds was it?

S@H: Switching gears a bit, have you found a favorite Seattle beer?

AW: No I haven’t. I have to be honest I haven’t. I’m a Guinness man at home, Guinness and white wine are my staples, I suppose. I have heard good things about Elysian. I used to drink dark beer, until about mid-20s and then I started drinking wine.

S@H: A favorite Washington wine then?

AW: I like St. Michelle. I’d like to go out there. I’ve heard good things. I’d like to learn more about wines, within reason, that’s something I could do. 

S@H: How would you say rooting culture is different in the UK? It seems like, inevitably, you'd have to root for multiple teams if your team isn't in the Premier League.

AW: Leicester City is my team and they are currently in the Championship, the second level. I support them through thick and thin, but I’m inevitably drawn to the Premier League. I don’t necessarily follow a  team, it’s more like teams you don’t hate.

I’m a big football history buff. I grew up with the great Liverpool teams and I’m delighted that they aren’t winning every trophy, because it got boring. But they are an unbelievable football club and Liverpool is a wonderful city, it’s a football city. The humor in that city is incredible. They love good football and they support their team. Anfield, I’ve been there repeatedly, it is an unbelievable experience to just hear the noise cascade down onto the field.

So I always look out for their result, but I also look for Manchester Untied results. My dad used to print their programs and got his hand stuck in the machine and, long story short, he almost had to have his arm amputated. He didn’t have to thankfully. He has kind of a claw of a hand, but his golf handicap took something like six shots off, so there’s a silver lining to it. Manchester United sent me a strip and a pair of boots and sent my dad a letter that if you need anything let us know. So I’ve always been fan of theirs.

Recently I’ve enjoyed Spurs and the way they play football. I’m slightly indifferent toward Arsenal, but I like the way they play football. Villa because they’re local to me. Because I love the game, there aren’t many teams that I dislike.

The only thing I don’t like about the Premier League, this will be slightly controversial, is that there are some teams that shouldn’t be there. Wigan Athletic should not be in the Premier League. They are a tiny club. You can make an argument that Blackburn shouldn’t be there. I like clubs like Wolves getting there. Teams that have a history. If you look back at their banner era, they were a big football club. Newcastle United, for all their shenanigans and comedy capers that happened with their ownership, they are a proper football club. Sunderland are a proper football club. Blackpool are a  proper football club actually as were Burnley. But teams like Wigan, Bolton, I wonder what they add. West Brom is a proper football club. I like to see the real solid clubs up there. But there are 92 and that’s the beauty of our system you can live the dream. You can be Wimbledon and go from four to one down to four again.

There are a lot of people that hate every other club, literally hate every other club. And if you show any sort of desire or liking for another club, you are termed disloyal. You don’t switch. If you switch, honestly you are a plastic fan. I tried when I was 9, my dad took me to a game with Manchester United against Leicester. It was the First Division (the precursor to the Premier League) and I was trying to be a Man United fan ... my dad bought me a douve set. And Leicester scored in the first half and I just instinctively jumped to my feet and started howling. Dad just looked at me and said "You’re not a United fan are you?" I kind of just went well obviously not. We won 3-0 that day and my brief flirtation was over with. I just stuck with the team I know will never win the Premier League and never win the Champions League, but they’re my team. 

S@H: There seems to be a tendency on the part of the soccer establishment to totally disregard statistics and different ways of looking at the game. You seem to be open to that kind of analysis. Where do you think that comes from?

AW: I’m open to it to a degree. "Moneyball" by Michael Lewis kind of opened my eyes to the idea that there is secret, hidden data that can be collected. But I do essentially think that is really an American thing.

Americans -- that’s a sweeping generalization -- want to quantify things. They want there to be a number that tells them how good a player is. James Riley, to me he’s a right back that gets up and down that is brilliant defensively, very fit, great anaerobic capacity, but I couldn’t say he’s a 7.3 or whatever. It’s hard to put a number on it. I think that's where some lay American fans struggle with soccer. There’s just not enough statistical analysis.

Now it is growing. I’m always interested in corners -- the amount of corners that are taken -- because the corner is not the attacking weapon that it’s perceived to be. I’ve been in stadiums where there’s a wonderful opportunity to cross the ball into the area and the winger has flubbed it and it’s gone off the defender for a corner. And people (are all excited). But in reality the corner is twice as far away and now the defense is back in numbers. We're probably less likely to score from that position than we were from the original position which was an attacking position.

I’m open to looking at it, but it’s hard on a broadcast when you have a list of statistics and someone asks "What do you make of that?" Well, you’ve got shots, shots on target. We know that you can have 20 shots and notscore because we’ve had that this year and you can have one shot and score. So it doesn’t really say anything does it? It says that you’ve had more shots. I do have an open mind to statistical analysis provided it’s a bit deeper than we tend to go at the moment. 

I don’t think (soccer) lends itself to it because it’s such an imperfect game. It’s essentially a game of turnovers, isn’t it? Completed pass, define a completed pass. If you have a long pass that is headed on by a teammate, is that a complete pass?

Baseball is so beautifully ... the geometry is so prefect, it’s easy to quantify. (American) football is a game of yard, yard, yard, yard. Completion, carry, two yards. Look at a soccer field now, look at the lack of lines on the field. It’s a hard game to quantify. But I’m open to things like assists because it tells a tale. I’m open to things like shutouts. But lets not go too far.  

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