On Friday, 92-9 the Game and Atlanta United announced the 2018 broadcast crew for Atlanta United matches. Mike Conti will join Jason Longshore in calling every match of the season. Conti will call the play-by-play action while Longshore acts as color analyst.
Since the 2018 season will be Conti’s first on the broadcast, here’s a Q&A session to get to know him better:
What is your sports background?
I’ve been a big sports fan basically since birth, and I was going to Penn State football games and Philadelphia Flyers hockey games while I was in diapers. Unfortunately, I wasn’t blessed with too much athletic ability, so I have definitely been more of a spectator than a participant. But sports is obviously a huge part of my life because of my job at 92-9 the Game, and I feel enormously fortunate to channel my passion for sports into my profession.
What is your commentary style? (sports commentators you are influenced by)
I will probably be much more “American” than “British” when it comes to my commentary style. This isn’t a result of me trying to be provincial, it’s just the way I’ve always called soccer. I should probably stop here and say that I did a lot of soccer when I was working in Pennsylvania, including a lot of NCAA soccer. So, you will probably hear me use a lot of American terminology, and my play-by-play mechanics may sound similar to, say, Mike Emrick (a hockey announcer) more so than Martin Tyler. That’s not to say I’ll call matches as if they are hockey games, but the mechanics of describing passes and scoring opportunities are somewhat similar.
How long have you been a soccer fan?
I’m probably in a large group of Millennials that grew up playing organized soccer in community parks from a very young age. I think I played from age 5 to when I was a sophomore in high school. I wasn’t very good (my coaches usually stuffed me at left back so I could cause the least damage to my team), but it certainly created my passion for the sport. The 1994 World Cup certainly fanned the flames of my soccer interest, but it wasn’t really until two years later when I understood how deeply someone can love soccer. I was in England during Euro 1996 and after seeing how everyone in that country embraced their team during that tournament, I was hooked. I still remember Paul Gascoigne’s goal against Scotland. Everyone in London was going nuts.
Favorite soccer TV commentator in the U.S. or in Europe?
I am a huge, huge fan of Ian Darke. I have tweeted several times that I believe Ian Darke and Taylor Twellman are the best commentary team ESPN has for any sport. I always felt that Ian has the perfect combination of credibility and passion. Some other British commentators tend to sound a little too stoic for my liking. I think Darke brings a great level of excitement. His calls of the Landon Donovan goal in 2010, Abby Wambach’s goal against Brazil in 2011, and Manchester City’s Title in 2012 are right up there for me as some of the best calls I’ve heard in any sport.
Favorite soccer team other than Atlanta United? (In Europe or around the world)
Honestly, I am more of a “favorite player” than “favorite team” type of guy, though I will admit that my grandfather and cousins (who are from Piemonte) had me interested in Juventus at a very young age. The only teams that I really follow with great passion are the US Mens’ and Womens’ National Teams. Other than that, I am very interested in individual players. Christian Pulisic is my absolute favorite, not just because he is the future of U.S. Soccer, but also because we are both big Penn State football fans.
What are you personally looking forward to the most for the upcoming Atlanta United season?
Without question, I cannot wait to connect with the supporter’s groups and the fans. The passion that has been displayed for Atlanta United in just one year of play has been mind-blowing to me. One thing I noticed last season at the home matches was the true sense of community that evolved. Regardless of race or gender, it was great seeing so many passionate fans support Atlanta United side-by-side, and I hope that I can be a good voice and ambassador for those fans.
Why do you think Atlanta United was so successful on and off the field last season?
Obviously Tata Martino deserves a lot of credit for implementing a system tailor-made for the players that Darren Eales and Carlos Bocanegra gave him. They go out, play fast and score goals. That is such an exciting thing for me, as a play-by-play commentator, because I know they aren’t going to be in boring matches. The fact that they’ve added Ezequiel Barco and Darlington Nagbe to the mix is very encouraging. I especially love the fact that we’re seeing an MLS side bring in a guy like Barco at the beginning of his prime, not at the end of his career. Hopefully other clubs will start following that template.
What were your thoughts when the Atlanta United supporters broke multiple attendance records last year?
I had a feeling that Atlanta United would have a lot of interest, but I was shocked to see attendance routinely exceed 40,000 at Georgia Tech and full stadium sell-outs at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. I’m not ashamed to admit that I incorrectly thought a lot of the allure to Atlanta United last season had to do with getting in the new stadium. In fact, that wasn’t the case at all, as proven by the attendance at Georgia Tech. Atlanta United probably has more local interest right now than the Jacksonville Jaguars have in their home market. Think about that for a second. We’re talking about an MLS side that’s selling more tickets than an NFL team.
What is your message to the Atlanta United supporters ahead of the 2018 season?
I take the opportunity to provide the play-by-play commentary for the matches very seriously, and while I will continue with my role on the Atlanta Hawks and Atlanta Falcons broadcasts, Atlanta United is my top priority and I will continue to prepare and study to the best of my ability. Like I said earlier, I want to be an ambassador and a good voice for the fans, and hopefully you’ll hear my passion as I call matches. I also hope that Atlanta United supporters will be patient with me. I have called soccer before, but nothing on this level, so I am going to make some mistakes and use some less-than-pure terminology. You’ll probably hear me call it a “sideline” instead of a “touch line.” Jason Longshore has been, and will continue to help me a lot. Please trust me that any mistakes I make in the early going will be ones I will try not to repeat.