The Houston Roughnecks begin their debut season in the XFL (2.0) on Sunday, February 9, at TDECU Stadium on the University of Houston campus. Their first opponent is the dreaded L.A. Wildcats with kickoff at 4 pm. Tickets, starting at $24 for the lower bowl, are available online.
The game will be televised nationally on FOX (that’s Channel 26 in these here parts). But even better, this game and the entire 10-game season will be broadcast on ESPN 97.5 FM. The station’s morning host John Granato will handle play-by-play duties. Here are 10 questions for the radio voice of the Houston Roughnecks.
CultureMap: What will be your main challenges in calling XFL play-by-play?
John Granato: I don’t foresee much in the way of challenges. Meeting with XFL people, they’re doing everything to make it a first-class presentation. We’ll have everything we need. I haven’t done play-by-play in a while but I’m very confident in my ability. It’s always been a dream of mine to be the voice of a team so it’s more exciting than anything.
CM: How did you get the job? Did you audition?
JG: Actually, I got a call out of the blue from team president Brian Michael Cooper. He said they wanted me to do it and I said yes. I’m thrilled they had this kind of confidence in me.
CM: The press box is pretty far up and away at TDECU Stadium. Will you have a spotter in your ear?
JG: Not in my ear. There’ll be someone sitting with us up there working stats and making notes but no one in my ear. It’s on me to know the players and the situations.
CM: When was the last time you did play-by-play?
JG: I did a lot of stuff when I was at Channel 51. We produced UH and Rice football, basketball, and baseball games. It was a while ago, but I haven’t forgotten.
CM: Have you memorized the rules that are different from the NFL, for example extra points and the kicking game? What do you think of the different rules?
JG: We’ve gone over them, but it’ll definitely be different. I like a lot of the stuff. The games will go faster. There’ll be more offense. Kicks and punts are way different and that will take some getting used to, but just because it’s not traditional doesn’t mean it’s bad. I hope everyone keeps an open mind. Who knows? Some stuff might be better and adopted by other leagues.
CM: Are you going to practices to get to know the players?
JG: Yes. I’ll be there a lot.
CM: Is June Jones good for quotes and easy to work with, or is he a [New England Patriots head coach] Bill Belichick mumbler?
JG: He’s not Belichick, thank goodness. He’s been very receptive to helping and promoting the game and the team. We all have to do our part to get the word out. That’s why I’m essentially writing this column for your lazy ass. (Ken’s note: that’s 1, Granato.)
CM: Did you watch the original XFL in 2001? What did you think of the product back then? Has the XFL learned from its past?
JG: I did not watch the previous XFL. I really thought it was too gimmicky. This iteration is not. XFL commissioner Oliver Luck has done extensive research about what people want to see. It’s real football but it will differentiate itself from the NFL. It’ll be faster and hopefully a lot of fun.
CM: How will an XFL broadcast differ from a typical NFL broadcast?
JG: I think we will be a lot more casual. In the first meeting I had with the team, they said they chose me for a reason. They don’t want stodgy and formal. We’ll have some fun.
CM: Will you use the same irreverent personality from your morning show on ESPN 97.5 FM, or do the Roughnecks want you to play it straight?
JG: I plan on being myself. I may be criticized for it, but I don’t care. This is meant to be entertaining not life or death drama. I’ll work hard but I’m going to have fun.
I’m sure I’ll work a lot harder than you and actually do my own work instead of making others do it for me.
I’m done writing your column now. Send me my per diem. (Ken’s note: that’s 2, Granato — you know what happens at 3.)