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11 Questions: Chris Mackowiak

By Marion Cole, 08/07/20, 5:15PM EDT


Welcome back to 11 Questions presented by Piedmont Natural Gas -- a weekly questionnaire series designed for you to get to know the people that make up Greenville Triumph Soccer Club. Each week, our own Marion Cole will ask someone from the organization the same ten questions, but the eleventh question will be from the previous interviewee. With players, coaches, and front office staff involved, we hope to bring you a fun look inside our club!

This week, I'm joined by an outside, yet very important member of the Triumph Soccer Club, Chris Mackowiak. Chris serves as the team's ESPN+ play-by-play announcer each week as well as the voice of several other League One matches. 

1. If you had a podcast, what would it be about and why?

If I was going to start a podcast, I would definitely do something regarding sports. Away from being my main line of work and a hobby as a fan, sports offer so many changing storylines and new ideas while also providing a historical component through a variety of leagues, divisions and conferences. Narrowing the topic down from there is the tough part. I’m a huge college sports fan. Growing up and still now, I’m a big fan of SEC football and Big East basketball. If not one of those two avenues, I would try to create a podcast around NCAA Division III Athletics. My alma mater Salisbury University competed in that, and having covered sports there for four years, there are so many incredible stories to still be told across the nation in Division III. I would love to grow the media spotlight on the smaller universities and colleges across the United States with that.

2. How do you decompress after a long week of work or training?

I would have to say that video games are my go-to here. They helped especially with the stoppage in play during the on-going pandemic. Honestly, I became a bit addicted to the new Animal Crossing game in recent months after my girlfriend bought it. I had a lot of fun building my own soccer stadium and tailgate area on her island. Mostly though, I’m a big Naughty Dog gaming fan, so I love to play through the Uncharted series and, of course, The Last of Us. I was able to play through The Last of Us Part II right before the USL leagues hit the pitch again this summer, and I highly recommend it.

As someone who loves video games but also the production side of sports, what do you think about the future of e-sports?

I think it is an area that will definitely continue to grow. It's really amazing how much it has already grown with arena's not being constructed that are completely dedicated to e-sports. Honestly though, I have not gotten into e-sports yet really. I had a taste of it during this summer's stoppage in play for all of the soccer leagues. I think a lot of the leagues did an amazing job getting their feet wet in the e-sports landscape with tournaments involving FIFA and Rocket League. For current professional clubs, I think e-sports can offer a great way to keep fans involved during offseasons, alongside, of course, expanding their fan base.

3. What's the most memorable meal you've ever had and why?

I’m a huge foodie, so it is very tough to nail this down. I graduated college in December of 2018, and I remember going with my family to a local brewery in my college town named EVO -- short for Evolution. They always have excellent food, and my parents raised me as a beer aficionado. I think I had their mussels that night cooked in their beer broth, but mostly it was a fun night to just be with my family and celebrate. I’m sure that I would always have a different answer to this question anytime that you ask me.

4. What was the most nervous you've ever been?

Anybody that truly knows me knows that I’m very controlling, not in a bad way, I hope. I’m very independent, and I like to be in control of things or projects that affect me. This leads me into my most nervous moment. It was probably when I had my wisdom teeth surgery a few years back. I’ve been fortunate enough not to have any major injuries or medical complications throughout my life, so I never required surgery until then. That made it a weird and scary moment for me, especially considering I’d be putting my health in the hands of someone else. Not knowing what was going to happen was a freaky thought for me, which led to stress the whole week before it. But happy to say that the stress was unwarranted, and everything went great.

5. If you're up at 2AM on a Saturday night, what are you eating?

This is probably a typical Saturday night for me considering I’m usually broadcasting some League One soccer late on a Saturday night. Just like for any fan, the broadcaster feels a lot of adrenalin from the match, which keeps us up for quite a while. Unfortunately, if I’m eating at 2AM, I’m probably over-snacking. My go-to is always pretzels. I also have a major sweet tooth, which means chocolate is the other option. Combine the two and the bag will be gone in a quick few minutes. 

So something like trail mix is pretty dangerous for you? The combo of sweet and salty. Have you ever had the Target brand of Monster Mix? It's got peanut butter balls and chips, pretzel sticks, m&m's, raisin and peanuts. To die for.

That sounds amazing! Yeah, trail mix has always been a go-to as well. That sweet and salty combo is definitely what I was alluding to. It's something that always is a quick filler if you need it. On that topic, I love dried fruit mixtures in trail mix. I'm always available for some dried pineapple and banana trips. Any kind of trail mix, really, is always a must for long road trip. 

6. What's something you learned recently that blew your mind?

I wouldn’t say this blew my mind recently, but it definitely did last summer when I found out about it. One thing among many that I do love about talking with head coach John Harkes every week is that I get another view of the players, to get to know them a bit more. About mid-way through last season, Harkes mentioned that Omar Mohamed was fasting due to a Muslim holiday while playing a match that week. At the time, I never really thought about that as a broadcaster. It’s incredible how players are so well-disciplined with their religious beliefs and spirituality to continue to play so well while adhering to their cultural traditions. This occurred again this past week as Omar and Abdi Mohamed were fasting alongside J.J. Donnelly ahead of the match at Forward Madison. Before mentioning it on this week’s broadcast versus Tormenta, I found that the fasting was due to the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Adha which began on July 30th. Personally, I have an incredible respect for these players and I really admire them for their discipline in life. They have to be incredible people to have in the locker room.

Do you think that's one of your favorite parts about being a broadcaster in sports? It's definitely one of mine -- this continuous intertwining of culture, beliefs, traditions and how that can shape locker rooms and teams. 

Yes, I definitely agree with that. Every player has a life story and personality that adds something special to the team overall. Those are stories that I love to tell and bring out as a broadcaster. Alongside that, I see it as an opportunity to learn something new everyday. I go down the rabbit hole quick a bit when prepping for broadcasts, since I'm always looking for those different angles for both players and the clubs overall. What I really enjoyed about covering collegiate athletics as a college student is that I could walk across campus and get to know several of the players and coaches in their day-to-day lives off the field.

7. Triumph SC announces they're bringing a celebrity to the next match and wondering if you have enough time to say, "Hello." Who's the celebrity you're most excited to have at a match?

Another tough question, but I’ll have to go with Tom Hanks. I’ve never had the opportunity to meet him in person, but he has always sounded like a fantastic human being. I love a number of his movies, but I can never get enough of Forest Gump. The pairing of Forest Gump's story interwoven around historical moments is an incredible movie of historical fiction. Anytime I see that movie on TV, I always put it on. Tom Hanks is definitely someone that I would be starstruck about, and I’m sure he would be a great person to watch a Triumph match with as well.

8. What's the most memorable sports moment you've had as a fan?

It’s time to buckle in for one of those magical Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup stories. Since their inaugural season in 2010, I have been a huge Philadelphia Union fan. That is probably my largest fandom at the moment. My dad and I would always buy tickets to sit, well stand, in the supporter's section with the "Sons of Ben." Nothing is better than being at a match cheering on your club as a group for 90 plus minutes. It was back on June 30, 2015 that my dad, sister and I went to the Union’s match against rivals D.C. United in the Open Cup’s Round of 16 that year. It was a dreary day, so of course, that led to a weather delay just after opening kick. It started to down-pour. I’m used to standing out in the rain at matches. I take it in just like the players, so my jersey and scarf were both drenched, while my dad and sister had ponchos on. During the delay, we went into the tunnel under our section with the "Sons of Ben." Through the whole delay, the drum kept banging and chanting ensued. Soon after the game resumed, a Union player received a red card, which led to D.C. scoring a goal soon after. So, the Union were down 1-0 and down a man entering the half. In the second half, they notched one back from midfielder Eric Ayuk. Then, in the 67th minute, the Union subbed-on fullback Fabinho to play as a false nine at the top of the formation. It was 12 minutes later that the man-down Union found Fabinho on the run into the left side of the box. Running towards the end line, Fabinho scored a top-shelf goal to give the Union the victory. One of those magical Open Cup moments that will always stick with me.

9. What sporting event have you always wanted to go to and why?

This would have to be something in college football, so I’ll go with the SEC Championship Game. Nothing beats the excitement and fandom of SEC football and I’m sure that I would feel that the most at this event. I grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, and I kind of latched onto SEC football because my aunt and uncle went to the University of Georgia. If any Triumph fans decide to respectfully not like me after hearing that fact, I completely understand. I’ve only been to one UGA game in my life, so I’ve gotten to see Sanford Stadium, but the next step would be heading to Atlanta.

WHO'S THAT COMING DOWN THE TRACK? My biggest life regret is not forking out the money to go watch them in the Rose Bowl against OU. 

IT'S THE MEAN MACHINE IN RED AND BLACK. Honestly, that's in my top-three sporting events that I will always remember watching on TV. Any time that game is being replayed on TV, I turn it on. I will always remember the roller coaster of emotions that the game put me through, but I will really miss watching Rodrigo Blankenship take field goals, especially after the ones he hit that year and in that game.

10. If you're part of a PK lineup, what number are you taking your penalty kick? 

My personality is very much all about taking a step back from the situation to analyze things. I think the most success for me would come near the end of the lineup, so I’ll go with fourth. I think this would give me plenty of time to judge how the opposing keeper is doing on the day alongside what his tendencies are. I’ll choose to let someone else take the final run-up. There’s enough pressure being fourth, let along being fifth.

11. Triumph midfielder Colin Stripling wanted me to ask you, "Who is your favorite announcer and do you have any pregame warmups before getting on the call?"

My favorite announcers are probably J.P. Dellacamera and Al Michaels. My appreciation for Dellacamera’s broadcasting has come through my love of soccer. I have learned a lot from listening to him broadcast and work, and it also helps that he has been the Union’s play-by-play voice since essentially the beginning. I have always enjoyed listening to Al Michaels’ work as well. I developed a greater love for his broadcasting after reading his autobiography a few years ago. One thing I have taken away from that is to always be at your best because you never know who is watching. He has had some luck on his side to be in the middle of numerous historical moments, but that luck has been paired with his ability to always be at 100 percent his best. I would say that my warm-up for the broadcasts happens days in advance. That will include phone calls with both head coaches alongside filling out my broadcasting board with all of the facts and figures I could possibly need during a broadcast. It takes a few hours to put together honestly, and I only use about 10 to 20 percent of the info on-the-air. However, I am always prepared if something crazy should happen during the match.

Next week, I'm speaking with your ESPN+ cohort and GTSC color analyst, Ross Devonport. What would you like me to ask Ross?

You have some background as a keeper. If you could choose another soccer position to play, what would it be and why?

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