2013-2022: If this is farewell, then there's a few I need to thank
Updated: Feb 18
On Wednesday night, the Colorado Rapids host San Jose Earthquakes at DICK’S Sporting Goods Park, as the 2022 MLS regular season winds down, and whatever the outcome of the game it is sure to be a rather sad evening.
I will go through the same routine I’ve gone through the past 9+ years, and many hundreds of games. That will involve copious amounts of research, note taking, watching video, listening to interviews from both teams, and trying to retrieve a nugget of info that will help elevate the broadcast just a little bit more.
I will then iron a shirt, pick out a tie, make sure hair and makeup is as it should be, and then make the 30-minute drive to the stadium.
This time, though, it will all have a slightly different feel about it, because this is likely to be the last time I share the TV booth with one of the legends of the sport in this country.
It will be the last time I walk in to find Marcelo Balboa already sat in the booth, feet on the desk, and staring out onto the stadium field.
It will be the last time we get mic’d up and share a joke or two, banter back and forth with one another, catch up on what the other has been doing, ponder about the lineup, the weather, his shoes, my socks, and whether our ties matched or not.
I’ll do a check of the pre-built graphics, before we’ll then rehearse the open of the show for timing purposes. And then, if we manage to do that in one take, we’ll still have time to grab some food, trying desperately not to spill any on our clothing.
It will be the last time we make the five-minute walk from booth to our pregame set on the concourse, during which I’ll no doubt see moms and dads stop their kids and point, mouthing ‘that’s Marcelo Balboa’. Or they’ll ask for a photo - which I often take - or have him sign their jersey.
We’ll walk back to the booth. I am always first as Chelo’s status means the journey is broken up with well-wishers.
We will, for the final time at DSGP, remind viewers of the lineups before settling in for one final 90 minutes at what has become our second home.
It will be business as usual for the duration of the game. When the final whistle blows, we’ll go through the postgame analysis and reaction, and - once off air - will record something which will go out on Altitude TV’s social media channels.
And then it’s over. We will unhook our mic packs, remove our ear piece, take off the jacket and tie, and pack away our notes and paperwork, while colleagues dismantle the lights and cameras.
We will still have a couple more road games to do, but no more will we team up in Commerce City for a Colorado Rapids home game.
There will be huge sadness, but also many wonderful memories.
I’ll miss the shake of his head as I come out with some random stat, as well as the occasional shove indicating ‘he told me so’ when he calls a sub right or gets the stoppage time minutes correct, or when Robin Fraser says at halftime exactly what Chelo has been banging on about for much of the first 45 minutes!
Timing is everything. He knows my voice better than I do. Rarely do we talk across each other because he claims to know my intonation and breathing patterns, allowing him to determine exactly when I’m about to stop talking.
That comes from having to listen to me in his ear for 10 seasons!
I’ve never underestimated the role Chelo has played in helping me do my job. If truth be known, I’ve clung to his coattails (wouldn’t dare try and cling to his ponytail), and for that I’m grateful.
I was only supposed to be here for two seasons, then three. This is my 10th, and a great friendship has emerged from that extended stay.
And so, while we’ll not share a booth at DICK’S Sporting Goods Park ever again, we will still find time for old man’s footy on a Sunday. He may even pop along to watch my son James play and will undoubtedly tease my two daughters when he next sees them.
You see, though our professional partnership is entering stoppage time, such is the relationship we’ve formed I’m sure we’ll keep in touch even once the studio lights go dark one final time.
I can’t shower Chelo with all this gushing praise, much to his embarrassment, without also making mention of the tremendously talented TV folks who have patiently worked with us. I’ve always found it odd that the people in front of the camera are referred to as ‘the talent’ when in truth the talent is all behind the scenes.
Mike Rigg’s name springs to mind. He was a huge influence and guide in helping re-shape coverage of the club, the league, and the sport. And more recently there's been great support from Andy Kilman, but there have been many, many others. Jenny, Alyssa, Scott, Travis, Doug, Kenny, Erin, Andrew, Tabor, Caroline, Julia, Tom, Stan, Luke, Samie, Stian, Hannah, Rich, Dan, Fritz, Chris, Daryl, etc.
To the coaches and players, thank you for every ounce of your time. Special mention to Drew Moor, Dillon Serna, and Clint Irwin, who were there from my first day.
And to Tim Hinchey, who took a massive leap of faith in hauling me across the pond after the briefest of conversations at the Emirates Stadium 10 years ago this month.
To media colleagues like John, Brian, Mark, Dan, Brendan, Marco, Matt, Nick, Jake, Abbie and Chris. Always supportive. Thank you.
Stadium staff, especially those on security who always wish me well on the broadcast, or inside those who greeted me with a smile and a compliment on my choice of tie.
And then there are the incredible fans. All, without exception, have been extremely kind to myself and my family. To Mark, Joan, Allan, Eric, Megan, Dave, Jason, Richard(s), Jon, Colin, Pauline, Jess, Rapids Foreign Legion, Hannah (and Hannah's mom), C38, and so on, and so on. I have appreciated you more than you will ever know and cannot even begin to express how amazing you have been in embracing the entire Fleming family.
My family, of wife Nicky, daughters Jessica and Charlotte, and son James. They have been by my side every step of the way. It was a tough decision to move more than four-and-a-half thousand miles, leaving behind all that we knew to begin a new life in Colorado. They continue to be my greatest supporters, and I couldn’t love them any more if I tried.
A kid from a small village in southern England really has been made to feel very special by so many welcoming, warm, and genuine people. I'll take with me so many wonderful memories.
In closing, this role has been one of the greatest honors of my professional career. I’ve never taken it for granted, always felt privileged and fortunate, and often slightly embarrassed by the kind words, and though I wish myself and Marcelo could go on a little longer, I’ve had a good run.
Here’s to one last, wonderful night at DICK'S Sporting Goods Park.
Take care and, again, thank you.