It first started as an inside joke. Then it became a single tweet. And now, it’s a reality.
Starving for football. Missing his Black & Gold family while in isolation. The radio voice of LAFC Dave Denholm went about doing what he does best: calling matches. The only catch? It all took place in his head.
This Saturday. pic.twitter.com/8ZyxBfy52a— LAFC (@LAFC) May 13, 2020
Aptly dubbed the Faux Trafico, Denholm, with help of ESPNLA 710 producer Mario Ruiz, called an entire match between LAFC and the Galaxy. Set to air at the same time the 2020 rivalry would have kicked off at Banc of California Stadium (May 16 at noon), the virtual call features walkouts, lineups, two 45-minute halves, a halftime break, and, of course, Denholm’s famous goal calls.
To find out more, including how the idea became a reality, I spoke with Denholm for a Faux Trafico Q&A:
I saw the tweet you sent out again recently about your wife asking if you could call a game in your head, was that true? Is that how this all started?
That tweet was not a lie. I think it was right around the first MLS game of the year. She just asked kind of off the top her head, we were talking about about my job. And she asked me, “Do you think you could call a game without seeing anything?” At first, you’re like no. But then you start to think about it a little bit. It didn’t really affect me that much right then. I kind of just blew it off and tucked it in the back of my head. I was like, “No, I don’t think so.” It just seems like it would be too hard, 90 minutes of that keeping track. I kind of blew it off a little bit. But then the lockdown happened, and I got real bored. I’m not going to lie. And I miss sports. I miss LAFC. And I miss MLS. And I miss soccer. So, I kind of half-hearted tweeted it out. There was no intent behind the tweet. More it was just a pretty funny joke, I guess. At least for my sense of humor. And people really responded to it. But even that didn’t really change my mind. It was kind of already planted before the tweet that maybe I’ll try it just for my own giggles and my own fun and sense of just to see and not tell anybody. So, I threw the tweet out as a joke. Not trying to take the temperature of anyone or see if anyone was interested. But as long as I knew the lockdown was going to continue. And I am more bored. And I’m ready to do something. It was the perfect storm.
Then I talked to Mario [Ruiz], my great producer, and he was like, “Yeah! You should do it.” That pushed me along more. And my wife was like, “Yeah, you should try it.” That’s when I decided I would.
The other day my wife asked me if I thought I could do 90 minutes of soccer play-by-play without an actual game going on. Just make it all up.— Dave Denholm (@TalkSoccer) March 14, 2020
I think I am getting close to trying it. #Ilovefutbol #playbyplay #LAFC #MLS
So, was Mario telling you to go for it the tipping point? When do you decide 100 percent you’re going to do it?
I think probably the tipping point was just before talking to him. I was probably talking to Mario just for confirmation. And maybe he put it completely over the edge that I decided to do it. But I still wasn’t really even 100 percent. I talked to Mario and thought maybe I should try it. So, it pushed me further. At that time, we’re talking still in March. At that time, I knew the lockdown was going to be for a while and I could see what was going on. And I knew it wasn’t going to be ending next week or anything. I think Mario’s positivity and energy towards it though did push me to where I thought I was going to try it.
Ok, you have to tell me about the name. It’s so perfect. How did it come about?
Obviously, we were looking for something we could hashtag and be social media friendly. And really just name it for us. Again, this was just for me to do to see if I could. But my wife came up with it as we were kind of brainstorming. We like to do that. We’re pretty good coming up with names for stuff if we need something kind of catchy. And she came up with Faux Trafico. You know how it is, Vince. Once you come up with a name for something, it just sticks. And that’s the only thing we could go with.
So, you’re all in, you have an idea and you have a name, but how do you prep for something like this?
It’s funny, I put in just about the exact amount of prep as I would for a real game. Maybe a little bit more to be honest. Not to figure out what was going to happen because I went into this completely blind. I had some just vague notions - I didn’t want it to end 0-0, I’m not going to do 90 minutes of this at 0-0. But really, I had no path, no plan. I prepped like it was a real game. I got all the teams ready and the notes. In fact, normally teams have seven substitutes, but you can only use three. I prepped for all 18 players that I thought would be on the rosters for both teams. And I did my notes for all of them even though, of course, eight out of those 36 can’t possibly see the field. I kind of just went with it that way. The idea was that I’m going for it. So, I made my prep notes. One thing I had to add was a field grid. That way, I knew where everything was. That’s a little different than I would do for a normal game. But that’s it. I wrote out where the players were positionally on what looks like a little field on a piece of paper, just so I could keep track of both halves. That was the only real difference. But other than that, I did all my prep like I would for a regular game, statistically speaking and referees. All that stuff.
What about bringing the enthusiasm and drama that we’re used to hearing from you to the calls? How did you get yourself in that mindset?
I did feel silly initially. But that went away probably three to four minutes in. That’s probably because once I decided to do it, I went for it. And I don’t mean the day of, I mean like a week before. Once I committed to it, I was just like I’ve got to do it. So what if it fails? Then nobody will ever hear it and I’ll know it’s not really possible for me to do it. It’s hard. I just wanted to see it. At that point, I started to get more pumped up. And I’ll be honest with you, I think the reason I was able to do it was because I was nervous. Like I would be for a real game. I truly was. I remember I did it on a weekend day and about an hour leading in, I started doing the stuff I would do for a normal game. I had my meal at the same time I would for a pregame meal. I went over my notes like I would. I was walking around to get the energy loose and kind of lose some energy like I normally would at the Banc. I kind of just let it become a real game. My wife was really gracious in that we have an 18-month old, so she just kind of disappeared for a few hours with her and gave me the run of the place so I could broadcast it in my own home and yell and scream like I had to and not bother anybody. So that was really nice. I just had to immerse myself. You mentioned method acting. That’s funny because I just really went for it. And I think it shows.
Two-part question: What was the hardest part and what was the easiest part?
The easiest part was just the physical part of calling a game. Because honestly, I ran into some issues with my voice like I do sometimes calling normal games when they’re really exciting – a little bit of a tease there. But I had all my stuff ready. I had all my throat lozenges and my hot tea ready. So, I got through that. I think the easiest part was once I got into it, it was fine.
I think the hardest part was actually having to take a break at halftime because you’re kind of on a roll. You’re just like ok, I’m doing this. And it’s not really but you’re going with it. Then you take a 15-minute break, which I did at halftime, and it was hard to get back into it. The hardest thing was I screwed up. I forgot to start the clock for the second half. I had to catch up. I didn’t stop anything because I committed to doing it plausibly live. I had to just in my head add time correctly. I started the clock about a minute late. That was probably the hardest part.
In the end, what’s the big takeaway from all of this for you? Was it cathartic in a way?
I forgot about the fact that I’m missing MLS and soccer for a few hours. That was nice. I hope that’s kind of what happens to people who listen to it, if I’m being honest. It’s one of the reasons I did it. Just to kind of remember what it’s like to go to a game, to do all the prep, and not because we’ve been gone that long but just to get the feeling again. It was a nice release. A nice little getaway for a couple of hours. And I hope that’s what it is for the fans who listen.