Wednesday, July 19, 2006

This is a funny little account of how I ended up chatting with former US national team member, Alexi Lalas.

Last year some friends and I were having a discussion by email about some of the worst players ever to represent the United States in the World Cup. The list went something like this:

Worst US National team players to represent the US since 1990 (in order):

  1. Jeff Agoos
  2. Alexi Lalas
  3. Cobi Jones
  4. Bruce Murray
  5. Frank Hejduck
  6. Chris Armas
  7. Tom Dooly
  8. Clint Mathis
One of my friends, Greg reminded us of a memorable moment during Alexi Lalas' early broadcasting career.

FYI - NBC (or some network) was trying to get their feet wet w/ this new sport they were having to cover - soccer. So, they asked a US Player they thought could identify w/ the young "grunge" audience of the nineties to be in the studio as a color man of sorts. There Lalas was...sitting opposite Sports Announcer Great Jim McKay (1972 Olympics)...and he went ballistic! I don't remember it all, but the straw that finally sent them to commercial was when McKay asked Lalas a simple question and Lalas responded that he didn't know the answer...but that it was a good question and the answer ought to be available...and easy to find. So, while still on camera he yells at the studio "research gophers" hidden off camera..."RESEARCH!!!" to get them looking into the answer as, of course, he was on camera. It was classic. He had a FANTASTIC four minutes. Flustered, McKay called for an immediate commercial and when they returned, McKay said, "Well, I think we're a bit calmed down here..." and you look over to Lalas who sat head down like a four year old who was just told that Santa isn't real. He wasn't allowed to say another word on the show...and obviously...he was never invited back. Classic. I will forever love Lalas for my vicarious, albeit brief, moment of television history. I mean...who HASN'T wanted to send the young broadcast interns scurrying by yelling, "RESEARCH!!!" ?

Someone mentioned that Alexi was the GM of the New York Metrostars (now the Red Bulls) at that time and that we could try to contact him for a copy of the broadcasting clip. Sounded like a good idea so I took a guess at his email and sent him an email:

Hi Alexi,

My friends and I were discussing a list of the worst US national team players ever to represent the US in a World Cup. Congratulations on your second place finish. As you can see however there is quite a push for Bruce Murray to bump you down the list. On review of the list I could personally see you finishing behind both Bruce and Cobi.

We were also wondering if you can direct us to any footage of your early broadcasting experience with Jim McKay. By accounts it was quite eventful and some of us would like to watch it if it is available.

Thank you.

The old flannel wearing Lalas may have been a slacker, but the new corporate Alexi Lalas replies to his emails promptly!

What a wonderful honor and a great way to end the year. You've proven that the holiday spirit burns bright in US soccer fans across this great nation. As for the unfortunate incident with the great Jim McKay, I must explain. Much of my behavior during the 90's, on and off the field, was fueled by a rebellious streak and an affinity for fine tequila. Unfortunately, I do not have a tape of the incident and my memory is clouded. I will admit to, in a moment of uncontrollable curiosity, inappropriately touching Mr. McKay’s hair in an effort to prove its authenticity. Beyond that, it’s all kind of a blur. It’s been a pleasure to entertain you over the years, and for what it’s worth, if you held a gun to my head, I may put myself on top of your list. Be well and have a great holiday. Alexi

He replied! We were all giddy with excitement. It was cool that a nationally recognized soccer figure would actually respond. Plus it was great that he was able to have a laugh at his own expense (we certainly did). So I decided to run with it:

Hi Alexi,

I found this photo on the web and we where trying to determine when this match was played. Can you remember this? I figure you can since every US match versus Mexico is memorable.

My friends and I planning on taking a picture of ourselves with a life size cutout of our new favorite US player (you) at our local soccer pub in Oregon. If we send you the picture, would you be willing to sign it for us to hang up at our pub?

That is unless you would like to visit us and have that picture taken live. We can offer you all the free beer and food you can eat and if you are up for it, a lively indoor soccer game also. We are pretty dang good and welcome all challengers. Or you can play with us if you like (trust me, this is a big honor since Im very picky about who I play with).

Now, we were obviously old buddies! My new best friend shared a little about his experience forever captured in that photo and agreed to sign it for me.

Oh the humanity! That SOB, Ramon Ramirez kicked me where it counts. This would have been around '96-'97 at the Rose Bowl. Send the picture through, it would be an honor to sign it. If I make my way to Oregon I will be sure to stop in. Alexi

Unfortunately he couldn't make it into Corvallis to accept my invite. Alexi has since moved back to the LA Galaxy as President and GM. He's been really busy so we sort of...uh... drifted. Alexi if you are reading this, the invite to visit Corvallis is still standing. We promise you a great reception and plenty of fans.


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