By Michael Lewis
Glenn Davis just might be an anomaly as a broadcaster.
Like many former professional soccer players, the New Jersey-born Davis entered the broadcast booth to become a TV analyst.
But he has taken it a step further. He does play-by-play, which is a different planet than working as a color announcer.
Davis also has a radio show, “Soccer Matters with Glenn Davis” that airs on KFNC in Houston and KTXX-FM in Austin. It is the longest-running soccer radio show in Texas.
“I feel very comfortable hosting,” he said in recent interview. “I feel very comfortable doing play-by-play. If somebody said to me, ‘Hey, we need you to do analysis, analyze the game because somebody’s sick, I could jump in and do that in a New York minute very confidently.
“I’ve also had radio shows for 20-something years, so that’s also helped to fine tune me. I think the two mediums to work off each other and teach yourself to become a better wordsmith and clarity and economy of words. All these things that I think we need to have as people that are talking about the sport on television.”
A Chatham Township, N.J. native, Davis played and learned the beautiful game as a youngster under legendary Scottish coach Tom MacDonald. He play the sport at Boston University and then at Davis & Elkins College, where he was an NAIA All-American.
Davis, 62, played professionally with the Pennsylvania Stoners in 1983 in the American Soccer League, which was the second tier to the North American Soccer League. The ASL was replaced by the Houston Dynamos (yes, with an s at the end of its nickname) in the United Soccer League (no relation to today’s USL) in 1984. He also played with the Columbus Capitals (American Indoor Soccer Association) that year before joining the Fort Lauderdale Strikers in the American Professional Soccer League in 1988.
Glenn Davis is the Houston Dynamo play-by-play announcer. (Photo courtesy of Glenn Davis)
“Definitely a lot of great players and great characters in those leagues,” Davis said.
The likes of Peruvian legend Nene Cubillas, England captain Dave Watson and former Dallas Tornado and Atlanta Chiefs striker Jeff Bourne, among others, played in those leagues.
“The NASL was in trouble and people were just trying to find a way to keep playing and working,” Davis said. “Those guys have those stature. And then there were young guys out of college like me that wanted an opportunity. So we were willing to do almost anything.”
Davis’ introduction into announcing came from the outside.
“I didn’t really have aspirations,” he said. “It basically was like what happens to a lot of people. There’s an opportunity, there’s a break, you realize there is something that you enjoy. So basically, I just got a break.”
That break came in 1994 from a team called the Houston Hotshots, who competed in the Continental Indoor Soccer League. Their games were being broadcast on Home Sports Entertainment, which eventually became FOX Southwest. At the time, Davis was coaching and running a youth soccer club. One of the parents suggested to Hotshots co-owner Giorgio Borlenghi that he could use Davis as an analyst “because I was coaching at the time,” Davis said.
“I had aspirations to take coaching as far as I can take it,” he added. “I was enjoying it totally. So that’s how the break occurred. They asked me to do the games.”
He partnered with announce Bill Land, who went on to announce Dallas Burn games and who is currently the play-by-play voice of the San Antonio Spurs.
“I couldn’t have been involved with a better guy,” Davis said.
“I found I enjoyed it. Definitely knew I had a lot to learn. Had a lot of wonderful people around me that were willing to help me and encourage me and really the rest is kind of history. I just began to get more and more work. I was doubling it with you know, the youth soccer coaching. And then at one time, I decided to go into it fulltime.”
When FOX Sports World began, Davis continued to work as an analyst on MLS and college games before he was asked to do play-by-play on Bundesliga game. He didn’t know if he could do it, but he was convinced by the powers that be that he could.
“I had a lot to learn, obviously,” he said.
That opened the door for Davis to work Serie A matches from Italy, teaming with former New York Cosmos and U.S. international Rick Davis (no relation). Moreover, Davis was getting plenty of repetitions and improved as an announcer.
“This really helped to polish me,” Davis said. “Can you imagine you’re learning on the Italian Serie A? The play-by-play role and analyst are just so different. It took me a while to find that level, where I was distinguishing better between the two. But I love both the roles.”
By then, Davis had become an analyst with the Burn. He eventually transitioned to play-by-play.
He spoke with several announcers in the industry, including the legendary JP Dellacamera, and Michael Cohen, an executive producer who has worked in just about every soccer league in the United States and the World Cup and Olympics.
With many U.S. men’s national team players retiring in the early 2000’s, Davis was told it would be best for him to move on to describe the action instead of commenting on it.
He listened and decided to make the jump, which he did quite successfully.
“Michael did suggest focussing on it and but I think that all was going to occur naturally,” Davis said. “At the time there was a glut of soccer commentators. I wanted to specialize in play-by-play because I thought it would make me put me in a unique area. Let’s be honest, I also knew that a lot of name guys were going to retire, big names, in U.S. Soccer. Of course, they were going to take a lot of the analysts roles. So, I thought from a career perspective, this was going to give me a better chance to have a longer career and soccer on television.”
When the San Jose Earthquakes moved to Houston for the 2006 season, Davis was offered an opportunity to do play-by-play.
“We got the gift of the San Jose Earthquakes in Houston, because they were one of the better teams in the league at the time,” he said. “I was doing a national package for HDNet, which was Mark Cuban’s network. Marcelo Balboa and I think did that for six years. Michael Cohen suggested both of us to do that package. That was a great package. There were no commercials. And so I was doing play-by play.”
Regardless of the position he tackles, Davis enjoys his job.
“I love the whole process. I love the preparation. I love the game day prep,” Davis said. “It’s the closest thing you can do to playing. You go through your rituals, your routine. You talk to coaches. You look at the two teams. You watch the two teams play [beforehand via video]. I just enjoy the whole process. It was the thing that I enjoyed so much. Then it was game day, and you really want to deliver for the fans, the players, the league, the organization.”
Davis understands his roles. As a play-by-play guy, sometimes less is more, much more.
“Announcers aren’t supposed to be the show in soccer. We’re there to enhance it,” he said. “There’s a lot of great commentators that I was looking in all sports. You don’t have to over talk. I don’t know how much everybody can absorb if you’re throwing a tsunami of words at them all the time. I do think people like to just hear the natural sound. That’s why I think the whole process of knowing when to lay out and let the audience maybe reboot itself is important. I always very much liked some of the calls where people spoke a little bit less.”
As color announcer, Davis had similar thoughts, although analysis and opinions need to be done on the fly. He said an analyst must put “your thoughts together quickly because people don’t want to listen to a wind bag.”
“People want to get the message, get good information, maybe see something they haven’t seen,” he added. “That’s what I like to see from an analyst; how and why things happen and point some things out that maybe I wouldn’t have noticed.”
Glenn Davis and Eddie Robinson (Photo courtesy of Glenn Davis)
What made the Dynamo broadcast booth unique was that both announcers were former players. Eddie Robinson, the analyst, was a center back for the San Jose Earthquakes and Dynamo over an 11-year career before he retired in 2011. He scored in his lone match as a U.S. international in 2008.
Robinson started teaming with Davis in the booth in 2012.
“I think the greatest thing out of this is we’ve become great friends,” Davis said. “We talk fairly often during the week. We get together ay meals. We’ve talked about things that were happening in our personal lives. The great thing is an amazing friendship came out of it. Eddie’s equally as passionate about the game as I am. We love to talk about it.
“I’ve always liked that he’s very truthful manner in calling a game. Obviously, from gaming perspective, and we’ve grown together as a partnership on television. You can get comfortable with your partner because everybody knows exactly what each guy’s going to do. I mean we very rarely step on each other.”
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