Interview The Reporter
Posted by tonybiscaia on January 7, 2012
In the interest of helping Revs fans understanding of where news comes from and how it got there, we decided to interview former RevsNet alumni Brian O’Connell, at right with Mrs. Chaka Daley:
RevsNet: Brian, in a fairly short time you have gone from being an unknown minor league batball wannabe reporter to a prominent writer for a Major League Soccer magazine, TV and internet sports outlet, ESPNBoston. How did you navigate that?
BRIAN: I have no idea. Seriously. To the best of my knowledge, there were no bribes involved, so all I can say is that I must have somehow convinced the right people along the way that I knew what the heck I was doing. “Like legit,” as my 13-year-old cousin would say.
RevsNet: “ESPN Sportswriter Brian O’Connell” has the sound of that sunk in yet? After your amazing success at climbing up the soccer media ladder what will be your next challenge, are you already working on it?
BRIAN: Hahaha I never thought I’d get to ESPN so it’s still kind of surreal. I’ve never really dwelled on it and thought to myself, “wow, I get to write for ESPN,” because to me, it’s still writing, which is something I love to do. As for my next challenge – it’s hard to pinpoint one. I’d love to do anything that involves expanding soccer coverage for MLS through different mediums like TV, radio, or podcasts. My dream is to be the Adam Schefter of MLS. That dude is everywhere.
RevsNet: What do you do with all that ESPN money? Do you have a general yearly contract, or do you get paid by the article or word count?
BRIAN: Pay off my credit cards and student loans! As far as my arrangements with ESPN, it’s a yearly deal, but I hope to be back next year. I’ve really enjoyed writing for them, and they’ve really done a lot in the past year to give the Revs their proper due.
RevsNet: You are also now a leader (and president) of a local historical institution, the New England Soccer Hall of Fame. Please tell us about what you do there, and how you are working to make it to bigger and better or at least more visible to the sporting public consciousness?
BRIAN: What don’t I do is the real question! Not to take anything away from the rest of the board, but the president’s job is to really highlight and promote the organization whenever possible. Although I preside over our meetings, I also act as official spokesperson/ambassador whenever we do outside events like the National Soccer Hall of Fame inductions. So it’s really about spreading the word, more than anything else. One thing we’ve got to do is become more visible around New England, and in the past year, I think we’ve done better. We had over 100 attendees to our induction ceremony in October after averaging between 50-60 in the past three years. The ultimate goal is to build a museum to display the hundreds of exhibits we’ve collected over the years. The sport’s roots run the deepest here in New England, and I think that a museum is long overdue to honor soccer’s history right here in New England.
RevsNet: Which Revs player, media member or team official has been the most influencial in your career?
BRIAN: Revs player – I’ve always enjoyed talking to Jay Heaps, and I’m not just saying that because he was just named head coach. During his playing career, he’d be the first guy I sought out in the locker room because he always provided great insight. Even then, you could tell he was a student of the game. He knew exactly what went right, what went wrong, why it worked, why it failed, etc. Media member – why, the incomparable Tony Biscaia, who opened the door to soccer media six years ago (Ed: Thanks Brian, your check is in the mail.) He gave me a shot at something I had never done – soccer writing – and not only allowed me to grow as a writer, but showed me the ropes as a media member. If I don’t meet him, I’d probably still be writing about baseball, which isn’t a bad thing because I love baseball. But I just couldn’t see myself not writing about soccer. Just two different levels of awesomeness. I’ve also enjoyed collaborating with Sean Donahue, who not only was someone who I also leaned on early as a newbie soccer writer, but someone who also has a tremendous amount of great ideas. Plus, he’s a heck of a writer. Frank Dell’Apa is the don of soccer journalism here in New England, and he’s always been helpful when it comes to providing insight. Very few people know the soccer writing world better than Frank.
RevsNet: If you were Don Garber for a day, what would be one change you would implement and why?
BRIAN: I’d change two things: 1. goal line technology with the caveat that it didn’t open the door for instant replay. 2. Higher salaries for younger players. If you want the best the country has to offer, make it worth their while to play in MLS rather than jumping ship and toiling in leagues abroad that you’d need a degree in geography to find.
RevsNet: For any aspiring young sports journalists out there, what have you learned that you would like to pass on? Is a college classroom education necessary? After your first hand experience in the sports media world, what could you teach your former teachers?
BRIAN: Above all else, you have to be accurate. Next, you have to be fair. Without those two elements, you might as well be writing a personal journal or posting on a message board. As far as a college education – I think it’s essential, especially today. That’s not to say you can’t get succeed without it. Some people don’t need it, but most of us could use it. To me, getting instructions in a classroom setting and learning from people who’ve been in the business benefited me tremendously. I actually miss the classroom experience. To this day, I still talk to my journalism professors whenever I’m challenged by a situation or story. And in saying that, there’s very little I could teach my former teachers. My two favorite journalism professors have a combined 60 years of experience between them. I doubt I could teach them anything they hadn’t already learned 20 years ago.
RevsNet: Are grammaire and speeling importan or is it just the thought and idea that counts? Do you consciously try to challenge your readers by approaching things from a different perspective?
Brian: The idea’s always important, but if you can’t spell or get the grammar straight, your readers won’t take you seriously. It’s an instant FAIL when it comes to credibility, even if your idea is brilliant. One thing about readers – especially those who follow soccer – is that they’re smart. They really are, which is one reason why I enjoy soccer writing so much. You have to bring your A game when you’re covering soccer. When it comes to columns, one thing I try to challenge my readers to do is read between the lines, especially on an op-ed. Sometimes, it’s what’s NOT being said that is just as important as what’s right in front of you. I also enjoy writing about unpopular opinions (I personally think that neither team should be awarded a point at the end of a 0-0 draw, which may be something I’ll write about in the offseason, as well as the need for an MLS cheerleader swimsuit calendar).
RevsNet: Any questions we haven’t asked that you would like to answer?
BRIAN: Please do. Yes. Why haven’t you asked me what I think about the lack of Portuguese restaurants in Foxboro? I mean, I know it’s not New Bedford of Fall River, but c’mon – is it too much to ask for just one – ONE – within a five minute drive of Gillette?
RevsNet: Thanks for your time and have a marvelous off-season.
PS: Any idea who the Heaps assistant coach will be? Have you interviewed for it yet?
BRIAN: No idea. And I’m too nervous to submit my resume. I mean, what if they don’t like me?🙂