Over my eight years covering the Seattle Sounders, there probably hasn’t been a more frustrating player to interview than Clint Dempsey. It’s not that he’s a bad interview, per se, it’s that he rarely provides anything approaching real insight. Dempsey, especially in group settings, tends to have a set of talking points and rarely deviates from his script.
Every now and then, though, we get to a see a different side. One such time is an interview he recently did with Steve Zakuani that first played during pregame of the Houston Dynamo match.
Although Dempsey did talk about his emotions following his heart issues that ended up keeping him off the field for the Sounders’ run to the MLS Cup, the real highlight came when he was asked about misconceptions about him:
“The way the world is, you can’t always be completely open with everybody. You have to be guarded sometimes, just to protect yourself. ... I always kinda felt that I had a chip on my shoulder, growing up the way I did, dealing with some of the things I did. I think it kinda makes you who you are and through your experiences, you kinda become more guarded because you’ve been hurt before or something like that. I don’t think I’m always as completely open with everybody, that’s not how life is. For the people who know me, I’d give them the shirt off my back because i know what it’s like to need something and someone to help you out.”
That it’s Zakuani who’s able to get Dempsey to open up makes sense. Zakuani can relate to Dempsey in a way most other interviewers can’t, and the two actually roomed together during the early part of preseason training this year.
But to chalk this up simply to Zakuani’s familiarity with his subject is a bit unfair. There are lots of former players — even former teammates — who have interviewed Dempsey and never gotten insight on anything like this level.
Zakuani is again showing that he’s not only capable of providing great analysis, but also at making interview subjects feel comfortable enough to let down their guard. It’s an underrated skill, and it has me feeling even more excited about Zakuani’s future in media.