I started our series of Alexi Lalas interviews last week with his preview of the AT&T MLS All-Star Game, but now we take a deeper look into the conversation that took place with the MLS Hall of Famer and ESPN Analyst.
One of the main founding principles of Soccer WithOut Limits is the ability to make the most of social media to connect and unite global soccer fans to build a community of and for the educated and passionate fans of the greatest game in the world.
A recent article, Players you should be following on Twitter, highlighted our SWOcial movement to help close the gap of communication between fans and players and Lalas discussed the effect of Social Media on the soccer world in another part of SWOL’s exclusive sit down with him.
Thomas Atzenhoffer: How do you feel the lives of soccer players have changed today due to social media as opposed to when you were still playing full time?
Alexi Lalas: My Career would have been cut short had Twitter been around when I was playing. For a number of reasons, not the least of which is that the stuff that I got away with on and off the soccer field. You don’t get away with now, whether it is due to camera phones or Twitter or Facebook or anything like that. I like to think that I would have adjusted but I don’t have that much confidence in myself to be quite honest.
TA: Has social media changed the type of fans that soccer attracts in the United States in particular?
AL: I think when you talk about soccer supporters in the United States, they are educated, they are passionate, they are tech savvy and I think it [social media] has really lent itself to this explosion of the soccer community.
The fans have always been there. We were kind of underground and niche for a long time and the only way that we communicated was over the internet and when social media all came about it was a wonderful away for people to join together and this soccer army that has grown so big… and I think that soccer teams and soccer fans in the United States use social media as well as anyone out there.
It is how we get our news, it is how we communicate and it also lends itself to the international aspects of the game.
TA: Do you enjoy how social media has drawn out even more fans of the game?
AL: I enjoy it because it gives me a different platform on which to talk to people. You know for so long we were just like I said underground and niche and the opportunity now to talk to so many people that love the game, have a passion for the game who have incredible ideas, when you really talk to North American soccer folks you recognize very quickly that they think about this game.
Not just about the kicking of the ball, but the evolution of the game and the business of the game in another way than other sports fans do because there is a perspective behind all the cheering and the passion and stems from having come from the underground.
TA: How has social media changed how you interact with fans and the press as an analyst?
AL: Well look, I am talking to you right now. I’m on Twitter and I talk to people and the ability to communicate and get information is huge. I get much of my information and news every day from Twitter. It is instantaneous and…it has changed the way we digest the news, and the way I do my job.
Having said that, I take into account what people say and I try to talk to people and hear what they are saying, and all the let’s call it “advice” that they give me about how good and bad I am doing. I have to be true to myself and you have got to have a pretty thick skin when it comes to all of this and recognize to take what you do seriously, but don’t take yourself too seriously…
But when I go on air and that red light comes on I have to talk about things I believe in and take a stand and recognize that there is no way I am going to please everybody, and to be quite honest I don’t want to please everybody because that gets pretty boring.
TA: Who would you say are the top three players you follow on Twitter?
AL: Players? I don’t think I follow many players because…players rarely say anything interesting, whether it’s a Joey Barton saying something for effect, I can’t really say I follow many players.
I do follow Dax McCarty, but that’s mostly because he has red hair and that’s more of a ginger connection; we gotta stick tight with the mutant gene guys. I just don’t follow many players because I don’t get anything out of it. When they do say something interesting eventually it will get back to me and that’s the beauty of Twitter
TA: What is your pet peeve when it comes to players and Twitter?
AL: I detest when players come on Twitter after a poor performance in any sport and apologize for it. It is absolutely ridiculous to me as though all of a sudden all of your sins are absolved because you said “sorry” on twitter. Don’t say it, I don’t want to hear it about it, its hollow and it drives me nuts. I want to respond to any and all players that do that and say “Don’t ever do that again!” So that’s my little Twitter rant, there you go.
TA: Who do you think would have been the biggest Twitter user out of the 1994 World Cup team?
AL: Oh my God, I would have been sitting in the back of the bus tweeting. I probably wouldn’t have even gotten onto the field…I would love to have had twitter. It would have been like a loaded firearm in my hand. Now in my older age I like to think that I am a little smarter and a little wiser and my rule is don’t say anything on Twitter that I wouldn’t be comfortable saying on camera. But, when you are a 21 or 22-year-old punk like I was a little while ago, that would have been lost on me.
So I think I would have been a good Tweeter, but you also would have had to be careful of the quiet ones like the Mike Burns, a member of the 94’ and 98’ world cup teams. He is now the GM up in New England. I can picture him actually having an anonymous Twitter account and just blowing up because of the stuff he would have said. So it really would have been fun to see some of the characters we had back in the day, and what Twitter would have done to us both positively and negatively.