Wichita, Kansas natives Mike Romalis and Tim O’Bryhim (Make This Town Big: The Story of Roy Turner and the Wichita Wings) join host Tim Hanlon to talk about their current book – and upcoming documentary – focused on the improbable story of the Major Indoor Soccer League’s smallest-market (Nielsen-ranked #66) club that became the first major league professional sports team in Kansas history. The MISL’s Wichita Wings defied conventional logic, as world-class soccer players from places like England, Denmark, Argentina, and Ecuador enthralled jam-packed Kansas Coliseum crowds with a fiery brand of play that made them a perennial playoff contender and one of the league’s most successful franchises – replete with a veritable “Orange Army” of rabid fans that became the envy of their big-city rivals across the league.
While the meteoric rise of the United Soccer League’s FC Cincinnati franchise caught many pro sports observers by surprise, keen observers of soccer’s unique history in the Queen City note that the foundation of the team’s current success actually dates back to 1972, when an ambitious little club called the Cincinnati Comets won the American Soccer League championship in the team’s inaugural season. Cincinnati writer/photographer/native Ronny Salerno (The Extraordinary Story of the Cincinnati Comets; Fading Ads of Cincinnati) joins Tim Hanlon to delve into the curious story of this surprisingly notable squad, whose motley cast of characters included:
- Dr. Nico “Nick” Capurro, a strong-willed Italian-born surgeon and county coroner whose passion for the sport led him to not only buy a Cincinnati ASL franchise, but also become its head coach;
- Julio “Ringo” Cantillo, a 16-year-old Costa Rican midfield phenom who immediately became the team’s (and league’s) most valuable player – despite still being a high school student;
- Jim Scott, the long-time king of Cincinnati morning radio, whose simple offer to help with some publicity mushroomed into the presidency of the team – and later the ASL itself;
- Bob Cousy, the legendary basketball hall-of-famer, who Scott recruited to become ASL commissioner – despite a mixed reputation in the Queen City, and an admitted ignorance about the sport of soccer; AND
- Lamar Hunt, the patron saint of AFL football and the then-nationally ascendant North American Soccer League, whose dogged efforts to get the Comets to move up to the NASL came up short.
Fox Sports soccer rules analyst and newly minted National Soccer Hall of Fame inductee Dr. Joe Machnik (So You Want to Be a Goalkeeper; So Now You Are a Goalkeeper) has done just about everything across the American soccer landscape in his 60+ year career. As a player, coach, referee, administrator, match commissioner, and soccer camp (No.1 Soccer Camps) pioneer, “Dr. Joe” has had a direct hand in helping achieving some of the sport’s major milestones in the US at virtually every level – amateur, collegiate, professional, and international. Entwined within that legacy were memorable stops in oft-forgotten places like the original Major Indoor Soccer League, the scrappy American Indoor Soccer Association, and the chaotic early days of Major League Soccer – all of which host Tim Hanlon obsessively grills Machnik on in this episode, including his:
- Instrumental role in crafting and codifying the professional indoor soccer rulebook for the MISL;
- Championing of the MISL’s novel move to hire full-time professional referees;
- Indisputable memory of the 1981 MISL All-Star Game at New York’s Madison Square Garden, and its role in helping birth Arena Football;
- Coaching travails with the once-mighty New York Arrows, depleted by major player trades and an ownership change;
- Frequent bus rides in the decidedly minor league AISA; AND
- Fortuitous friendship with an AISA arena owner in Rockford, IL that led to a pivotal role in stabilizing the launch of Major League Soccer.
Award-winning British documentarian Daniel Gordon (Hillsborough; 9.79*; The Game of Their Lives) joins Tim Hanlon from London to discuss his new ESPN Films 30 for 30 feature George Best: All By Himself – and the enigmatic soccer star whose life story it depicts. Gordon reveals:
- Why he was attracted to the story of George Best, despite others’ previous attempts to tell it;
- How Best’s early-career interviews with the British media while at Manchester United became a hauntingly predictive narrative device for the film;
- Why the vibrantly ascendant mid-1970s North American Soccer League became an attractive alternative to Best’s post-ManU European wanderings;
- How the meteoric rise and subsequent fall of the NASL itself became a metaphor for Best’s life and career – including the irony of his Budweiser-sponsored NASL “Goal of the Year” in 1981; AND
- The complex legacy Best left behind, despite his later-life admonitions to “remember the football.”
This week’s episode is sponsored by Audible!
ESPN Films 30 For 30: Hillsborough - buy DVD here
ESPN Films 30 For 30: 9.79* - buy DVD here
ESPN Films 30 for 30: Season 2 (including Hillsborough & 9.79*) - buy digital video here
ESPN Films 30 for 30: Season 2 (including Hillsborough & 9.79*) - buy DVD here
National Soccer Hall of Fame inductee and three-time ABC-TV “Superstars” champion Kyle Rote, Jr. joins Tim Hanlon from his home in Memphis for an in-depth and wide-ranging conversation about his trailblazing journey as America’s first true native-born professional soccer star.
Along the way, Rote, Jr. reveals:
- How a fortuitous heart-to-heart with his famous football star-father helped convince him to choose soccer over football for his pro career;
- How a standout Rookie of the Year season with the 1973 Dallas Tornado helped thrust him into the North American Soccer League’s national marketing spotlight;
- The remarkable impact of winning a made-for-TV athletic competition against the biggest stars of the “traditional” sports world;
- The unique relationship he developed with the New York Cosmos’ international legend Pelé, and the public relations narrative the NASL built around them;
- How lucrative marketing endorsements made up for embarrassingly low-paying player contracts;
- The serendipitous story of how he helped rescue an MISL team from the “hell” of Hartford; AND
- The unmistakable higher power that continually guided him through the ups and downs of professional athletics – both on the field and off.
This week’s episode is brought to you by our friends at Audible!
National Soccer Hall of Fame legend Rick Davis joins Tim Hanlon direct from his family-owned/operated Ellsworth Steak House in Ellsworth, KS for a revealing conversation about his pioneering career as one of America’s first pro soccer superstars. Among the many highlights, Davis discusses:
- The circumstances that vaulted him from AYSO youth soccer in Claremont, CA to international fame with the NASL’s star-studded New York Cosmos;
- The priceless on-field, in-game tutelage of world-class players like Pelé, Franz Beckenbauer and Carlos Alberto;
- The challenges of balancing the often-conflicting demands of both club team and the US Men’s National Team;
- The double-edged sword of the indoor game; AND
- The NASL's controversial “Team America” experiment in 1983 that helped hasten the demise of the league - and cost Davis at least one friendship in the process.
This week’s episode is sponsored by our friends at Audible!
This week, Tim Hanlon buckles up for a wild ride through the tumultuous early years of the original Major Indoor Soccer League with sports PR veteran Michael Menchel, in our longest and most anecdote-filled episode yet! Menchel takes us on a head-spinning audio journey across some of the most memorable (and forgettable) franchises in professional indoor soccer history – including stops in Long Island, NY (the Arrows trade for Pete Rose!), New Jersey (scoring champ Fred Grgurev’s unique approach to car maintenance!), Houston (the “Summit Soccer” borrows its name from the arena it plays in and its players from the NASL’s Hurricane!), Baltimore (the marketing genius of Tim Leiweke!), and Hartford (what the hell is a “Hellion”?). Plus, Menchel: hits the road with Frank Deford; spends a year outdoors among the Caribou(s?) of Colorado; has a bad day in Rochester, NY; and “settles down” in St. Louis wondering when and where the NFL football Cardinals will move next. Thanks to Audible for sponsoring this week’s episode!
Syndicated morning radio personality Terry Hanson (The Big Show with John Boy & Billy) joins Tim Hanlon to discuss the formative years of his renaissance career in sports and media, across three of the original North American Soccer League’s more memorable franchises. Hanson waxes nostalgic about doling out “Americanized” first names to the Serbian-infused roster of 1976’s Rochester Lancers; moonlighting in the Washington Diplomats broadcast booth with play-by-play pros Jon Miller and Don Earle; and marketing a reborn, Ted Turner-owned Atlanta Chiefs team that no one seemed to want to watch play outdoors, but everyone flocked to see play indoors. Thanks to Audible for sponsoring this week’s episode!
Perennial NASL and MISL soccer all-star Clyde Best (The Acid Test: The Autobiography of Clyde Best) joins Tim Hanlon from his native Bermuda to discuss his 1970s/80s soccer adventures in the United States, emanating from his stellar, but challenging beginnings with England’s First Division West Ham United. Best recalls his first matches in a five-team 1969 NASL, when the Hammers spent the summer masquerading as the Baltimore Bays; recounts a hot and steamy friendly a year later at New York’s overcrowded crackerbox Downing Stadium, matching his childhood idol Pelé goal-for-goal; describes his magical first full season in the States, winning both the NASL’s outdoor and indoor championships with the Tampa Bay Rowdies; and waxes nostalgic on his subsequent career stops in Portland (Timbers), Cleveland (Force), Toronto (Blizzard), and Los Angeles (Lazers).
The Acid Test: The Autobiography of Clyde Best - buy book here
America’s most famous professional sports cheerleader “Krazy” George Henderson (Still Krazy After All These Cheers) joins Tim Hanlon to discuss some of the wackiest adventures from his 40+ years of live performances – and how a self-described shy, mediocre schoolteacher ultimately followed his passion to a unique and storied career converting passive game-day attendees into cheering fanatics. Henderson (along with his signature drum!) recounts how a school field trip to an Oakland Seals NHL hockey game led to his first sustaining professional gig; describes how he and the NASL’s San Jose Earthquakes changed the face of professional soccer in the mid-1970s; recalls how his success with the NFL’s Houston Oilers almost led to banishment from performing at pro football games; and breaks down the chronology of the formative elements of his most famous in-stadium creation – The Wave.
Krazy George: Still Krazy After All These Cheers - buy book here
Legendary Soccer America columnist Paul Gardner (The Simplest Game: The Intelligent Fan's Guide to the World of Soccer; Soccer Talk: Paul Gardner on Soccer) joins Tim Hanlon to wax nostalgic on his unlikely journey from fledgling British pharmacist to America’s most persistently influential soccer commentator. Gardner recounts the chaotic formation of the modern professional game in the US during the 1960s; recalls how ambitious sports entrepreneurs like the International Soccer League’s Bill Cox, and greedy corporate owners like the United Soccer Association’s Madison Square Garden were quickly chagrined by the machinations of soccer’s international governing body; describes how a complex Welsh-born, player-turned-NASL-commissioner curiously nudged him into national TV game commentating; remembers when he first recognized pro soccer had finally “arrived” in America (ironically, while out of the country); and suggests that a revised US corporate tax code may have helped hasten the demise of an already-wobbly NASL as the 1980s beckoned.
The Simplest Game: The Intelligent Fan's Guide to the World of Soccer - buy book here
Soccer Talk: Paul Gardner on Soccer - buy book here
Pelé: The Master & His Method - buy or rent digital video here
Pelé: The Master & His Method - buy DVD video here
Former Dallas Tornado defensive stalwart Bobby Moffat (The Basic Soccer Guide) joins Tim Hanlon to reminisce about life in the 1970s North American Soccer League, and how his commitment to nurturing the game’s grass roots in the Metroplex became the envy of US soccer enthusiasts during a tenuous decade for the sport. Moffat recounts how not-so-glamorous off-the-field jobs helped him and most of his teammates make ends meet; how Dallas’ 1971 marathon overtime-riddled championship season helped usher in needed tie-breaking into NASL games; how the Tornado became the last-minute exhibition foil for Pele’s 1975 New York Cosmos national TV debut (despite having played a league match 1,800 miles away in San Antonio the night before); and why the NASL “lost the plot” when it came to capitalizing on the indoor game.
The Basic Soccer Guide - buy book here
Fellow defunct pro sports enthusiast (Fun While It Lasted, Minor League Paper) and former Boston Breakers General Manager Andy Crossley joins Tim Hanlon to discuss his rollicking ride on the Women’s Professional Soccer league roller coaster in the late 2000s, and why the second major attempt at professionalizing the women’s game in the US fell apart after just three seasons. Crossley recounts why Harvard’s archaic on-campus football stadium became the oddly natural choice for Breakers home games, the moment when he first recognized the WPS business model was doomed, how an Internet telephone entrepreneur’s obsession with the US Women’s National team hastened the league’s demise, and why he doesn’t expect any Christmas cards from Hope Solo anytime soon.