The I-5 Corridor
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Behind the scenes for Jake Zivin's call of Messi's historic MLS debut
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Behind the scenes for Jake Zivin's call of Messi's historic MLS debut

The former Portland Timbers broadcaster was on the mic for one of the biggest moments in MLS history.
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After making the call that was heard around the world, Portland’s Jake Zivin needed a beer. 

It’s one of the best parts of this business. After the game, after the roar of the stadium remains just as ringing in the ears, that first hotel drink with coworkers is a sweet reward for those traveling around the country for sports.

Now, imagine those bubbles after calling Lionel Messi’s Major League Soccer debut for Apple TV, the one where the Argentine legend netted the game-winner in the 94th minute for Inter Miami. 

Here it is. Messsiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii. Could it have been any other way? Maaaaagnificent

It was the biggest moment of Zivin’s career. And he absolutely nailed it. 

So you can imagine the disappointment of making that call, the one that’s now been heard, literally, hundreds of millions of times, only to find the hotel bar closing up upon arrival. 

Life can’t be perfect, right? 

Well, it might be for some. 

“When I get back to my hotel room there was a bucket of six beers waiting for me on ice,” Zivin said. “It was my anniversary Friday night and my wife Amanda had them put the beer there…All of us — there was a lot of people working that game — needed a beer together, you know what I mean? And I had six. So I changed, I came downstairs and I’m carrying this bucket of beers.” 

Zivin thought he’d be the hero. Turns out, it was instead the colleague who convinced the bar to reopen. 

“Shout out to our bartender at the Westin Fort Lauderdale,” Zivin said. 

The I-5 Corridor caught up with Zivin two days after the Messi call to find out what it’s like to become a part of history. 

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It’s Sunday, you’re in Columbus right now and have another game to call tonight. How are you feeling? That had to have been the coolest moment of your career. 

Zivin: I just didn’t want to mess it up. Some people may like it, they might not. I don’t know. But at the base level I think we didn’t mess it up. That’s number one. The goal is always to just get it out, punch it and get out quick enough to let the moment soak in. That’s my style. I think that’s our style. And I think we were able to do that. 

Obviously it was the wildest night of my professional life. The third-ever game I called for the Timbers was the double-post game in 2015. Kanas City. Amazing knockout round playoff game. And I was like, “I’ll never top this. This is the third game I’ve ever called and it’s the best game I’ll ever call.” 

And this, it’s been topped.

I don’t think Friday night will ever get topped. That moment, it’s ridiculous. If you wrote the movie, that would be the scene. That would be the scene. Exactly how it was written. 

Did you practice your Messsssssiiiiiiiiiii? 

You know, I’m not a believer in scripting out goal calls. I’ll be honest, I did think before, “What would I say?” if there was a moment like this. I didn’t know what I would do in the moment, but again, the number one thing was the nerves of not messing it up. So I did think about it for sure. But I didn’t practice. My voice, which you can hear now, we’ve done so many games. We were coming from the All-Star game where we did the skills competition and the all-star game back-to-back. I’ve been on the road since July 11. I was so worried about my voice before the game. I wasn’t talking and was gargling salt water every hour. I just had to get through the game. That’s all. 

You really got deep with that call. It never cracked…

There was a little crack. Not happy about that. 

Yeah, but you sustained it. It’s a weird thing when suddenly someone you know is the voice on something that everyone in the world is watching.

It’s a weird thing to be that voice clip that everybody’s watching. But 52 million? That’s a lot of pressure. Oy vey. Sorry to the 52 million that had to listen to me scream about Messi. 

What was it like seeing him on the pitch and being able to control how you watch him? How was it to actually call a game of his? 

It was almost easier in a way. When I get in trouble I think it can be when you’re not expecting something to happen. And that’s maybe when you get out of your voice. That’s when your voice can crack. If it’s like a wonderful goal out of nowhere that you weren’t expecting, that’s when you get in trouble. Something that John Strong told me early on when I was with the Timbers was to always expect the goal. In every moment be ready for it because other wise your voice will struggle. Well, with Messi, every time he gets the ball you expect him to dribble through five people and score, right? You’re always going to be ready. You’re always going to get your voice to that level of anticipation the moment he touches the ball. 

For more, I-5 Corridor paid subscribers can listen to my full interview with Zivin in the podcast player above.

— Tyson Alger, The I-5 Corridor

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