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11 Questions: Ross Devonport

By Marion Cole, 08/14/20, 9:30AM EDT

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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 staying outside of the immediate organization for an interview with soccer & rugby analyst, Ross Devonport. Similar to my interview with Chris Mackowiak last week, Ross is the steady voice you hear adding commentary and flare to the Greenville Triumph home broadcasts.

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

Funny enough, I already have a podcast! I've been involved with rugby since I was born--my dad played top-level rugby back in England for Wasps, who are now in the top professional Premiership League. Back then, they were just an amateur team; rugby didn't turn pro anywhere until 1995 but still got thousands of people in the stands watching. I spent every other Saturday watching Wasps, and Sundays playing rugby for one of my local clubs. I remained involved in rugby when I moved to Florida, and I'm now a referee and serve as the vice president of the Florida Rugby Referees Association for assignments. So I assign all of the referees in the state. I also got to call Rugby ATL games with my Triumph play-by-play guy Chris Mackowiak this past season -- something we hope to be doing again in 2021!

Back to the podcast, though, so back in June I was talking to a good friend of mine, Charlee Velazquez, who runs RugbyFL.com. We were chatting about how annoyed we were regarding the lack of general promotion of rugby in our state. So, with his video and tech background and my broadcasting experience - and the extra time we had on our hands with no rugby going on here right now - we decided to start a podcast called Talking Florida Rugby or TFRO. We are up to 11 episodes so far, and have talked to coaches, players, USA internationals and referees, it's been really fun. We do it as a live video on Facebook and YouTube every Sunday night at 4 p.m. ET and also post it to all podcast apps so people can listen on demand.

If I didn't have a rugby podcast, I would probably have a show about AFC Bournemouth, my favorite team in English football, or perhaps one on "ska," my favorite type of music.

Wow. I have so many questions I want to dig into about this but I'll leave it at two: What's your favorite part about hosting a podcast and, the obvious question, what is "ska?"

My favorite part about doing the podcast is that I get to introduce people and their stories to those who might not know about them. 

And I'm always happy to teach people about ska! It originally started in the 1950's in Jamaica as a predecessor to reggae. It's a danceable type of music that combines lots of other styles. While it became big in Jamaica and in the UK in the late 1970's thanks to Jamaican immigrants, it didn't really get noticed much throughout the U.S. until what we call the "third wave" of ska which was during the mid-90s. Most people who listened to popular music back then will be familiar with No Doubt, Reel Big Fish and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, for example, who all brought ska to mainstream radio at that time by combining it with a bit of punk music. A funny story about how I got into ska initially: I was working at a summer camp in Boca Raton, Fla. in the mid-90s, and the camp counselor across the hallway from us had his kids dance to a song called "Fakin' Jamaican" by the ska band, Skanking Pickle. That camp counselor was actually Chris Carrabba, the now lead singer of emo, alternative band "Dashboard Confessional."

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

Like Chris Mackowiak and Doug Erwin, I've always been into video games. I got into the old version of Animal Crossing on my 2DS during the pandemic as the system and game are a lot cheaper than on the Switch! I've also been playing The Golf Club 2019 a lot on the Xbox One as I'm a big golf fan. Plus the new version of the game comes out August 21 so I might be way into that by September! My kids, Liam is 13 and Amelia is nine, also get me into other games like Overcooked and the Lego games, which are just about enough of a challenge for me. I've tried playing the serious first-person shooting games, but my brain just doesn't move fast enough! I also enjoy hitting the links in real life and taking naps and getting down in YouTube wormholes on the occasion, especially when it comes to live music.

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

While I try to behave myself during the week when it comes to food, as I've been on this sort of carb cycling thing of late, I am always up for a great meal. We have so many options here in South Florida, especially when it comes to Hispanic food like Mexican and Cuban. Picking one meal over all the others is a very, very hard task. I would probably say one that really sticks out as being memorable is when my wife and I went down to South Beach in Miami to eat a special meal for my birthday. A visiting Indian food chef was doing this special dinner at the fancy Setai Hotel. South Beach - and especially 'fancy' SoBe - is most definitely not my normal scene, but it was nice to dress reasonably nice, meaning pants rather than shorts for me, and eat some amazing food.

Do you remember what you ordered?

I didn't actually order anything because it was a set menu prepared by the chef. So I guess, technically, he ordered! Interestingly, the Setai now has an in-house Indian restaurant called Jaya. I'm sure whatever I had was amazing. Indian food is huge in the UK, and I've continued my love for mild curry here in the U.S.

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

This is an easy one. Back in 2017, I was asked by Mike Freedman, the executive producer for Vista Worldlink, which is the company that produces all of the Greenville home games as well as other USL games and various sporting contests, if I wanted to try some broadcasting. I had worked with Mike at CBSSports.com, but I was a writer/producer back then and had only done ONE video which was the match where USA surprisingly beat Spain in soccer back in 2009. They basically just grabbed me and a co-worker/friend of mine, Sergio Gonzalez, out of the office and threw us in front of the camera that evening on the sole basis that we knew soccer. Honestly, I'm hoping that video has been lost somewhere in the internet forever, as I'm sure it was awful and Sergio would agree.

Flash forward to April 2017, my first USL game was Rio Grande Valley hosting Tulsa with Matt Pedersen, a veteran of the broadcast industry. He was amazingly nice and supportive, but I was still a complete nervous wreck. I honestly didn't stop shaking until about the 60th minute, and you can definitely tell by going back and watching that game just how much of a mess I was. I've learned a ton in the years since then about how a broadcast works, and while I still get nervous now and again, I think I've improved my skills a lot. I've even had enough confidence to do some play-by-play for one of my local NCAA Division II universities down here, Nova Southeastern, doing soccer, basketball, baseball, softball and volleyball so far.

I can absolutely relate to that. Being in the booth is just different, and still being newer in the industry, I consistently get quite nervous -- which being in a Vista booth is a whole other world not being able to react off the organic crowd energy. Have you figured out why calling a game in the booth is so much different than coaching it or playing it or simply talking about with your friends?

When I started at Vista, I'd never called a game from the stadium, so I didn't know any better. Now that I've done some stuff for Nova Southeastern, I see why broadcasters love to be on-site because you can turn your head and see whatever you want on the field. You're not relying on the cameraman or producer, even though they all do a great job for us. When you're at the game, you can sometimes hear what the players and coaches are saying as well and get a good look at the tactical side of the game. With Chris and I, we've become so comfortable with each other over the last two seasons that sometimes we need to get a little less conversational and dive into the nitty gritty of the game a bit more.

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

This depends if I'm coming home from somewhere or if I've been home all evening. The go-to late-night routine after a night out is the traditional staple of Taco Bell. A chicken quesadilla without the sauce, or a 7-layer burrito are my usual choices. At home, I'll enjoy a piece of cold pizza if there's one around or for whatever reason, a simple piece of bread with butter and peanut butter always hits the spot at that time of night.

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

I mean, it's been such a crazy world over the last six months, I think I've learned enough mind-blowing things - both bad and good - to keep me going for a lifetime. But, to keep things light, I'll go with this gem that I uncovered down a wormhole while I was prepping for the Tormenta game recently:

Greenville’s Lachlan McLean and Tormenta’s Devyn Jambga both played on the 2016 SIU-Evansville team, alongside Andrew Kendall-Moulin, who played for Chattanooga last season, and Austin Ledbetter who is currently with Phoenix Rising. They lost in third round of the NCAA Tournament that year, 2-1 to Wake Forest, with Jon Bakero, who is a current teammate of Austin Ledbetter in Phoenix, scoring both goals for the Demon Deacons. Ledbetter scored the SIUE goal. Jacori Hayes, who was formerly with North Texas briefly in 2019, had an assist in that game. You know who was also playing in that game? Ian Harkes, John Harkes's son, and former Triumph defender Kevin Politz, who is now with Hartford Athletic in the USL Championship!

Also on that stacked Wake Forest team that went on to lose to Stanford in the title game were USL players Luis Ardugo who is with Inter Miami, Bruno Lapa with Birmingham Legion, Logan Gdula with Charleston Battery, Brad Dunwell with OKC Energy, Hayden Partain with San Antonio FC, Ema Twumasi with Austin Bold and Sam Raben who is playing with Sporting KC 2. Goodness.

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?

As unlikely as this is to actually happen, I would say Liam or Noel Gallagher from one of my favorite bands, Oasis. That would have me pretty excited, even in my mid-40s! They've been a big part of my life since the mid-90s, and while I haven't got to see them live as much as I would like.. five times not being enough. One of those occasions was at Manchester City's stadium in the band's hometown back in 2005, which was an unforgettable night. That was a crazy trip in general, as the London train and bus bombings happened the same day we left the UK. Luckily we were in a taxi instead of on public transport that morning.

If I had to choose someone from this side of the pond, I think it would maybe be Bill Murray. He seems like the nicest bloke as well as being one of the funniest people alive.

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

My brother and I have been lucky enough to attend four Open Championships -- 1994, 1996, 1998 and 1999 -- but the ending to the 1999 edition at Carnoustie in Scotland is etched in sports history forever. Unheralded French golfer Jean Van de Velde had a three-shot lead walking to the 18th hole, right as my brother and I were heading to the exits. We decided to at least stop on 18 to watch him tee off. If he hit the fairway, we said we would continue walking down the hole and head back to where we were staying. Instead, he pushed his drive WAAAAYYYY right. His next shot hit the grandstand, and he then followed that up by hitting his next shot into the stream. He ended up making a 7 on the hole, which forced a playoff that he ended up losing to Paul Lawrie of Scotland. Van de Velde’s collapse is listed by many as one of the biggest choke jobs in sports history, and I was there to witness it.

I thought you would've chosen a rugby contest?

A close second choice would definitely be attending the Rugby World Cup Final last October in Tokyo. My dad and a friend had been out there a few days in advance for the game, but his friend fell ill and had to come home. So, my dad bought me a flight out there to join him at the final which unfortunately England lost to South Africa. But it was still an amazing 25 hours in Japan!

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

The Ryder Cup, no doubt. While seeing England in a FIFA World Cup final would be amazing, the chances of (A) seeing that and (B) getting a ticket are pretty slim. As I hail originally from England, I'll always cheer for us or Europe vs. America in anything, and the Ryder Cup just seems like one of the most amazing atmospheres a sport fan can experience in three days. Golf fans are normally pretty quiet and reserved, but at a Ryder Cup that pretty much all goes out of the window. Chants, flags and everything! Attending the Masters would be a very close second as Augusta is such hallowed golf ground, and I really want to know if it's actually as green as it looks on television. A practice round would honestly suffice, but I haven't been successful in getting tickets through the lottery yet!

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

I've played goalkeeper all of my life, so I'm usually the one between the pipes trying to stop the PKs. Honestly, every goalkeeper loves penalty kicks because you can only be the hero. You know, you're never really expected to stop a well-struck penalty. If I had to take a kick though, I think I'd rather be number three. That way the most pressure isn't on me by taking the first or the fifth. I'd honestly just hammer it down the middle anyway and so I wouldn't be as concerned about placement, only keeping it below the bar!

11. Last week, I spoke with your ESPN+ and Vista Wordlink partner, Chris Mackowiak. He wanted me to ask you, "If you could play another soccer position besides goalkeeper, what would it be and why?"

Of course, every goalkeeper wants to be a striker! Throughout my minimal time out in the field, I've honestly found myself pretty adept at finding the right spot in the box at the right time, although I'm not the best of finishers especially not with my head. All of us in the goalkeeper's union always dream of doing what Jimmy Glass did for Carlisle in 1999, when he scored in the last minutes to keep his team in professional football! You got to give it a watch if you haven't seen it:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DCuQ37m2dQQ

Next week, I'm speaking with the man in charge: club president, Chris Lewis. What would you like me to ask Chris?

How does being the president for a pro soccer team differ from being the president for a pro hockey team?

 

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