Archive for June, 2014

Our Soccer Experience

Posted in Uncategorized on June 22, 2014 by amylawrencepxp

One of the things that makes the United States of America a GREAT nation is our diversity. Within our borders, 317 million of us…and we’re all different. Our freedom allows us to be different, and we cherish that. It means we have 317 million opinions and points of view, and collectively, we rarely agree on anything. Of course, that means a myriad of conflicts; but life would be boring if we all thought, felt, and acted the same way. Ha! When it comes to sports, the rash of opinions and variety of perspectives keeps me in business. Very rarely do I come across another fan who roots for all the same teams as I do or who agrees with my ideas across the board with no exceptions. As sports fans, we’re passionate, proud, irrational, illogical, and defensive when it comes to our teams. Of course that means I regularly get accused of bias by some crazy fan: “disrespecting” or “doubting” or “hating” his team. Umm, no. I don’t have that kind of energy! But understanding this rampant diversity only added to my enjoyment of our World Cup debut in Brazil.

My favorite thing about the US victory over Ghana was the wave of collective spirit and fervor that gripped the nation for those two hours. One of the mantras for this American squad is “One Nation, One Team.” I could feel that! It was almost like time stopped while the result hung in the balance. The tension, nervous excitement, and enthusiasm for the Red, White & Blue was palpable and so much fun to witness in every corner of the country: from private viewing parties to hole-in-the-wall bars crammed full to outdoor venues with thousands watching huge big-screen TVs. For a couple hours, we forgot about our differences. The only thing that mattered is the one thing we share: loyalty to the USA. We all cheered wildly when Clint Dempsey scored the first goal 30 seconds into the match, even if we were caught off guard. We all grimaced when Jozy Altidore pulled up lame with his hamstring injury. We all fretted over the amount of time the Black Stars possessed the ball and cringed over their shots on goal. We were all crushed when Ghana tied the game late in the 2nd half, and we all went into orbit when John Brooks found the back of the net with his header four minutes later. Stoppage time nearly killed us as we pleaded with Team USA to hang on. And when the last few seconds finally ticked off the mysterious clock, we celebrated wildly, thrilled to share that moment with the stranger standing next to us.

Just as entertaining as watching the game (and trying to explain to my dog why we couldn’t go for a walk until after the final horn) was following the flow of the match on twitter. It turned into a veritable stream of consciousness, especially in the late stages where our collective hearts were racing. Every momentum swing or key moment unleashed hundreds of comments until everything US Soccer was trending. Awesome! My twitter feed is full of athletes and other sports figures, analysts, and media colleagues…I can’t remember tweets about anything else. That NEVER happens. Even during the Super Bowl or other major championship, our rooting interest is split. Or some of us don’t root at all. The closest thing to our US Soccer experience is the Olympics; but even on that stage, our attention is pulled in multiple directions by various sports taking place at the same time. And the passion just isn’t the same across the board. We may not care about soccer nearly as much in between World Cups; for a variety of reasons, the game doesn’t have the same mass appeal as our own football, basketball, baseball or hockey. But this is the grandest international stage in sports, and there’s no denying we’re caught up in the global excitement, pageantry, and passion.

There’s still plenty of room on the US Soccer bandwagon. Not all 317 million Americans were interested or tuned into the match with Ghana. But with a victory over Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal, a first place finish in the Group of Death, a spot in the Round of 16 or a trip to the World Cup quarterfinals for just the second time since 1990…we’ll have to shove over and make room. This is one of those rare occasions when it’s socially acceptable to jump on a team’s bandwagon even if you haven’t been a fan all along. The more, the merrier and the sweeter the experience. I savor this chance to root on Team USA alongside millions of my closest friends as we share the same mind and the same heart for a few precious weeks.

“I believe…I believe that…I believe that we…I believe that we will win! I believe that we will win!!”

It’s Personal

Posted in Uncategorized on June 5, 2014 by amylawrencepxp

Seven straight days without watching TV. Seven straight days with no playoffs games or conversations about sports. Seven days with very little time spent on social media. Blissfully unaware and didn’t care for the first time in more than a decade. Honestly, I didn’t even know that was possible for me, but my recent jaunt to Southern California was more than just a vacation. It was another big step toward making my personal life a priority in 2014. It’s my number one goal this year, no matter how strange or odd it seems.

For most of my adult life, everything personal has remained firmly on the back burner. Of course, nothing’s more important than family and close friends, and I drop everything when they need me. When I have downtime, I spend a lot of it visiting, calling, texting, emailing, keeping in touch with and praying for the people I love. But in order to succeed in this career of mine, it’s required the very best of me: mind, body, soul, and spirit as well as all the time I could devote to it. That’s meant working long hours, odd schedules, nights, weekends, holidays…and juggling multiple jobs at once. I’ve navigated months with only a single day off, and I’ve stayed awake 30-plus hours more times than I can count. My record is a 46-hour stretch of nothing but working, driving, working, and driving. Little scary. Only by the grace of God.

Despite all the twists and turns, missteps and mistakes, I know I’m right where I’m supposed to be. I don’t harbor any regrets. I wouldn’t go back and change it if I could. BUT I also know it’s the right time to make personal my top priority. More than a year after joining CBS Sports Radio, my career is no longer incubating. I don’t need to “mother it” the same way. And for the sake of long-term health, sanity, and balance, I’m rearranging in 2014. We all know tweaking and pruning can be difficult, especially when it’s established mindsets and patterns that require attention. For months, I’ve kept two major steps in mind, and I recently took them both.

After six years as the radio play-by-play voice of the Hartford women’s basketball team, I’ve given up that job. Talk about a tough step to make! Of all the cool opportunities I’ve had in my career, basketball play-by-play is my favorite, hands down. It’s my niche, my comfort zone, my happy place, my adrenaline rush. No matter how tired or stressed out, the second I launch into play-by-play, all the distractions and noise in my brain fade into the background. It takes me back to those nights as a teenager when I listened to radio broadcasts of the Celtics and fell in love with the idea of describing games with such precision and skill that fans don’t feel like they’re missing anything simply because they can’t see the action with their own eyes. Giving up my Hartford gig was painful. It’s hard to imagine not being on the sidelines when next season tips off. It’s also been more than a decade since I didn’t have play-by-play locked into my winter schedule. But commuting four hours to home games and putting more than a thousand miles a week on my car in addition to my full-time job got to be too much. I never commit to anything halfway; I always give it my whole heart. So sleep, exercise, and healthy eating habits all took a backseat to maintain that schedule from early November to mid-March. Any kind of personal life was virtually non-existent. As hard as it is, I know this is a necessary step for my future. I also know sometimes you have to close one door before you can find the next open door with its new opportunities. I loved every second with the Hartford Hawks, on and off the court. It was a privilege to represent the university and head coach Jennifer Rizzotti and work with some amazing young women. I had the chance to call conference championships, NCAA tournament action, 20 straight victories, upsets over undefeated Duke and other ranked opponents, buzzer beaters, games from Cancun, and broadcasts inside packed arenas where you could barely hear yourself think. All priceless experiences! Not only did those six years make me a better play-by-play announcer, but I gained some lifelong friendships. I’m so thankful for those people who root for me as I move onto the next stage in my career. What a blessing!

The second major step (at least for me) in making my personal life a priority was taking a vacation from sports which is decidedly different than just getting out of town and not working for a week. To travel cross-country and visit friends I rarely get to see was amazing. To REALLY leave sports behind without being anxious over what I was missing? A whole new level for me. I didn’t watch one second of playoff action or the NFL Draft and didn’t flip on the TV for a full week. Even more impressive, I didn’t tweet about sports at all. Ha! Believe it or not, it wasn’t difficult. After the first couple days, I forgot to wonder what was happening in the sports world…almost like a huge cleansing breath for that part of my brain. Maybe I thought I couldn’t afford to take the time away and still be credible on the air. Maybe I wasn’t confident enough in myself or my job security to put sports aside for that long…until now. Despite the doubts of some on social media, I enjoyed a vacation full of everything BUT sports: eating and laughing with friends, traipsing around the San Diego Zoo for eight hours, hiking, running, walking, exploring the top of a mountain, taking pictures, swimming, sleeping, and relaxing. Maybe it shouldn’t have taken me so long to get there, but it was well worth the wait. (Thanks, Brittany and Beth!)

I’ll admit there’s a part of me that wonders if I’ve lost the ability to make my personal life a priority. What if I waited too long? Or worse yet, what if I stink at it? What if I’m only really good at working? But I know I have to try. I’m a firm believer that it’s never too late to change your course and try something new. And so with all the faith I can muster, I take this new personal fork in my road, full of anticipation for what’s on the horizon.