Amy Rosenfeld: “Those new challenges are exciting because at this stage of my career, I really have done a lot of different things. To be able to now have a new challenge is daunting and intimidating, but in the same vein exciting.” (Photo courtesy of ESPN)

By Michael Lewis

FrontRowSoccer.com Editor

Amy Rosenfeld never considered herself a pioneer for women sitting in the producers’ chair running sporting events.

All she ever wanted to do was to help soccer raise its profile in the United States.

Yet, her presence, a successful one over decades has helped open the door for women in a profession which was strictly male bastion for many years.

“I think of it more as being a pioneer, having the great gift of being able to be impactful, hopefully in the sport in this country,” Rosenfeld said. “To have maybe played a small part in its growth is very rewarding.”

Rosenfeld, who helped establish important TV standards in Major League Soccer’s early days, said she was fortunate because she was treated very well by her peers and co-workers.

“I think I lived a charmed life because when people would say to me, ‘Wow, what is it like being the only woman in trust or when it’s one of a few women, who were producing it?” she said. “Not only did I not face any sort of negative response, I actually think people kind of went out of their way. I felt like I had a whole bunch of big brothers. I was very, very well taken care of. But by no means am I saying that’s how it is for everybody.

“I recognize, boy, that sure isn’t everybody’s experience. I know that, so I do feel very, very lucky. It’s interesting. I’m very proud to have been involved with soccer in the beginning [of MLS] in this country.

“Soccer was very, very important to my father.”

Rosenfeld, 55, was the youngest child in her family by 12 years. She was the only child who did not attend business school and work on Wall Street. Her father was a portfolio manager.

“It was okay that I didn’t get an advanced degree and go work on Wall Street,” she said. “I worked in sports, and it’s specifically I worked in soccer, which was his great love.”

“My earliest memory with my father was going to Boston to watch soccer on closed circuit television at a hotel in downtown Boston.”

She started with the New England Sports Network, working sports before Michael Cohen, the first ESPN executive producer of soccer, helped launch Rosenfeld’s career. Starting in 1997, she produced New England Revolution games while helping out with D.C. United and the MetroStars.

Her star rose from there.

At ESPN, Rosenfeld worked and was coordinating producer a myriad of tournaments and events, including the World Cup, Women’s World Cup, FIFA Confederations Cup, UEFA European Championship, U.S. Soccer men’s and women’s team and the English Premier League.

And it wasn’t always in soccer.

Rosenfeld also was a producer with the WNBA, the NCAA Men’s and Women’s College Cup, and Olympics men’s and women’s soccer on NBC (2000 and 2004).  She also produced NCAA men’s and women’s basketball telecasts, NCAA Men’s Frozen Four, NBC’s Winter Olympics and ESPN’s Winter and Summer X Games.

Of course, soccer was her first love. Rosenfeld and her NBC office filled with MLS and soccer stuff, pictures, paraphernalia and souvenirs.

“It’s very weird to not be associated with MLS anymore,” she said. “Tim Twellman and I would always go back and forth when I used to be at ESPN, before the game, after the game. Sometimes I would text him quickly and halftime. It’s hard. This is the first time since ’97 I haven’t been involved with MLS. That hurts. That’s hard. I still watch at times but I’m not in that role anymore, and it’s different.”

Rosenfeld has experienced some memorable moments, but not necessarily on the pitch. When former Italian international goalkeeper Walter Zenga coached the team in 1998-99, he produced an unforgettable scenario in the locker room.

She was supposed to interview Zenga and grab a couple of sound bytes.

“I will never forget where he was standing next to,” she said. “It was the most absolutely gorgeous espresso machine I had ever seen, and it was taking up a lot of space. it took up a huge chunk of the room. Zenga offers me an espresso and we had only like 15 minutes with him. So, he starts making me an espresso and then he’s not happy with the roast.

“He does a different espresso and he’s tasting all of the espresso cups that he’s making for me and spilling them out and starting over. For half an hour, he’s making this damn espresso. Now he must have been wired. He could have circled Venus at this point.”

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Amy Rosenfeld in the truck at the MLS is Back Tournament in 2020 (Photo courtesy of Amy Rosenfeld)

Back in the early days, sometimes production trucks were tardy, which caused many a producer great anxiety while putting the telecast in jeopardy. Dallas Burn producer Jim Feldman was going to take the feed from the Revolution at a game in Foxborough, Mass. but there was one slight problem. The Burn’s truck hadn’t arrived.

Trucks usually are at games eight to 10 hours prior to kickoff. Four hours beforehand that day, trucks were absent.

“The trucks start pulling in,” Rosenfeld said. “There’s is a very good chance we’re not going to get on the air. The security guy was trying to park the truck.”

Slowly.

Very slowly.

“He was like, here nope, come another inch. Nope. Come another inch,” Rosenfeld said.  “We’re all standing outside, not sure if the game’s going to get on the air. And the security guy is basically like micromanaging how many inches he’s from the fence. I’m like, ‘Dude, you got to just park the thing.’ We got to go.’ ”

And the show finally went on.

“That’s why I have gray hair these days in trying to park the trucks before games,” Rosenfeld said.

In the 2010 MLS Cup in Toronto, supporters threw toilet paper on the sky cam and it started to drop on the field.

“I think my heart was sinking about at the same speed that the sky cam was dropping,” Rosenfeld said.

At the 2013 MLS all-star game, referee Hilario Grajeda wore a head-mounted camera so fans could see what he did for 90 minutes as MLS played Roma.

“MLS was great about innovation,” Rosenfeld said. “We developed ref cam, which was not great. It was certainly not for the faint of heart in terms of like motion sickness.

FIFA referee overseer Pierluigi Collina “happened to be watching the game because it was Roma,” Rosenfeld said.

“Seven seconds into the game he was reaching out to MLS and basically banning ever doing ref cam again,” Rosenfeld added.

Not every memory could produce a laugh.

In 1999, ABC was scheduled to televise the MLS all-star game. It was a big, big deal, being on network TV at the time as MLS was only four-years-old.

But fate intervened. A plane piloted by John F. Kennedy Jr. was missing over water.

“The associate director at ABC in New York says to me, ‘They found the luggage.’ We knew that meant first of all; it was horrific. This was a catastrophic situation. But it also meant we were getting off of ABC.”

JFK, Jr. and his wife perished in the plane crash.

The game was switched to one of the ESPN channels.

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Amy Rosenfeld when she produced a soccer game in Guatemala. (Photo courtesy of Amy Rosenfeld)

 

Rosenfeld’s next challenge is well, an Olympian task. On July 6, Rosenfeld was named senior vice president of Olympics and Paralympics production.

“I absolutely loved and still love ESPN,” she said. “This was never about anything. That was the hardest decision of my life was to make this move.”

Instead of overseeing and worrying about one sport and 32 teams at a World Cup, Rosenfeld’s responsibilities will involve 28 sports, many held simultaneously.

At ESPN, Rosenfeld said she learned to multi-task when she juggled several sports. It certainly didn’t hurt she had exposure to the Summer and Winter Olympics.

“I was proud of what I did on curling,” she said. “It became a big deal.

“I was one of hundreds, thousands 1000s of sort of low-level, mid-level staff for those Olympics,” Rosenfeld said. “I would parachute in and do the Olympics and go on with the rest of my life. It’s a real full circle moment for me to be able to now come back play a pretty impactful role.

“Those new challenges are exciting because at this stage of my career, I really have done a lot of different things. To be able to now have a new challenge is daunting and intimidating, but in the same vein exciting.”

When Rosenfeld left ESPN, she thought she have left American soccer behind, but she will return to familiar territory when the U.S. men and women compete at the 2024 Paris Olympics.

“I was so excited to call U.S. Soccer when I took the NBC job to say, ‘Guess what? I’m back in the U.S. Soccer game?’ That was really great and to have both the men and women qualify this time around. I immediately said everybody at NBC, ‘Oh, we are we’re going to make a big deal.’ Words you never really hear – we’re going to make as big the men as we do the women. That was pretty cool.”

 

Here are two related stories:

HOW IT BEGAN: Early days of MLS TV certainly had its challenges

A TRIPLE THREAT: Davis started as an analyst, became a play-by-play announcer and hosts a weekly radio show