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January 10, 2012 at 7:26 AM

Keller talks retirement and broadcasting

keller award.jpgPhoto credit: John Lok, The Seattle Times

I caught up with former Sounders FC goalkeeper Kasey Keller the other day over the phone for a retirement update. Here’s the story for Tuesday’s paper, but there was quite a bit left over from the interview.

The 42-year-old Olympia native is expected to sign with the team as a color commentator for the 2012 season, which was part of the conversation, but he also touched on Seattle’s offseason turnover, Terry Boss’ unfortunate retirement and other topics.

Here are some highlights from the chat:

* * *

(Did I hear that you were snowboarding the other day?) “Yeah. Obviously it’s a bit of a sharp learning curve, but we’ve been doing some funny stuff with our relationship with K2. Now I’m a factory rider for K2, which is kind of interesting because I’ve only been snowboarding for about a month. They set me up at the summit and I kind of cruise around. … I still embarrass myself, but I have a helmet on and goggles on, so I’m harder to recognize when that happens.”

(You’ve mentioned earlier that retirement won’t set in until preseason starts, but has snowboarding and some of the other stuff you’ve done in the offseason help that realization set in?) “Absolutely. No question whatsoever. And also having the flexibility of schedules. (It’s great) to be able to look at the snow report and, in all honesty, if it had snowed eight inches last night, I probably would’ve sent you an email and said, ‘Hey, we’re going to postpone this interview until the afternoon because I’m going up to make some tracks in the morning.’ That kind of stuff. Or we’d be talking right now from the chairlift as I’m just getting ready to come down the mountain. That stuff is the other side. What’s kind of fun about moving different directions post-career wise is to have a little bit of flexibility that as a player you truly do not have — this is when training is, this is what time you have to be there and you’re going to leave when I tell you you can leave. That side of the game was something you always knew was part of it, but something that I’ve been looking forward to having a little bit more flexibility with.”

(The Sounders have said you’re close to signing as a broadcaster. Is that a fair assessment of the situation?) “Yeah, it looks good in that direction. … It’s always been something that I’ve done in the past and I’ve felt good doing it. It’s a direction where people have thought, ‘Hey, you give a pretty good interview. Maybe it’s a direction you should look into.’ It’s something that we’ve definitely been talking about over a period of time. It looks like a good possibility that my future could be in broadcasting. Near future, I should say, because I still am in that mindset I talked about a month ago of doing different things and figuring out what feels right. The one thing that has been appealing as I look toward broadcasting is that flexibility of the schedule. Yes, you will be working Saturday because you have a game Saturday, but then you don’t have a game until the following Saturday. Yes, you have to do your research and you have to know who you’re talking about and that side of things — have production meetings — but it’s not necessarily the case where you’re in the office from 9 to 6, or whatever the schedule is. There’s definitely not flexibility there. That was definitely appealing as I looked at the options in retirement because I was so regimented in my schedule and I was looking forward to having something that kind of freed up time.”

(And you also spent time last month with ESPN and FOX Soccer…) “I was in Bristol a few weeks ago doing a big interview for ESPN. I think a lot of people saw I did a Champions League presentation for FOX. I think there are some opportunities in that direction, as well. It’s a weird time for me right now. It’s about decisions. It’s been a long time since I’ve had to make these decisions. Yeah, you’re talking to clubs and you’re thinking, ‘Do I go to Germany? Do I not go to Germany?’, but those things are a little bit more straightforward. This is a little bit different. It’s all about trying to make the right decisions and move the new career into the direction that you wanted to go. I’m looking forward to weighing all the options and seeing what works.”

(You’ve always been a candid guy in interviews. Will fans get that same Kasey behind the microphone as an analyst? Have you thought about how critical you’d be in that role?) “There’s always a difference and it depends on who your employer is. It’s the same thing when I give an interview as a Seattle Sounders player or a men’s national team player or a Tottenham player. What you say in the locker room to your teammates and coaching staff isn’t exactly what you say publicly, necessarily. There’s always going to be that. I remember having that conversation with Arlo when he first got here about the difference of working for BBC, where your job is basically to stir up controversy and get that sound bite, regardless of how. That obviously doesn’t work as an employee of the Seattle Sounders, where, ‘I’m going to go twist up Kasey Keller and get him to say something outrageous.’ That kind of defeats the purpose of the job, so you always have to understand what the parameters of the job are. At the same time, I’m someone that’s prided myself on honesty and I think a lot of people have respected that. It will be there, but there’s a way to do things and there’s a way not to do things. I will, of course, do my best to do it the right way. … But if I’m working for ESPN, maybe the gloves are off a little bit.”

(And it sounds like you’re still keeping open to a future in coaching and front office work?) “Yes, of course. But it’s also a case of not thinking too far ahead. If broadcasting is the direction I choose in the near future, then I want to give 100-percent to that and not be thinking at the same time, ‘Maybe I could be coaching here.’ It’s a case of when I do it, I want to give it my full concentration and it could possibly take some time to figure out the nuances. I don’t expect to step in and be the perfect broadcaster from Day 1. It could be in a year’s time or two years’ time (before I get the hang of it), if that’s the route it goes. I’m looking forward to listening and learning and trying to be the best I can at that. Maybe I could do a clinic here or do a coaching session there. And obviously I’m open when somebody asks me to refer a player that I might know. That side of it is always going to be around.”

(Where are you again when it comes to earning your degree and “A” coaching license?) “My degree (in sociology) done. I completed it in preseason of last year, but I didn’t have an opportunity to go to Portland (for a while). It’s funny — they were laughing at me and saying, ‘You’re the first person we’ve had graduate and wait six months to get his diploma.’ It’s just the way it worked out. That’s nice to have that taken care of. I got my ‘B’ license a couple years ago and it felt a little bit odd going to get my ‘A’ license without actually doing any day-to-day coaching. So it’d be nice to do a little bit more before I go in and do it. I don’t think it’s that big of a deal, but it’s kind of the way I felt.”

(Last time we talked to you we didn’t know who the next goalkeeper would be. Have you had a chance to talk to Michael Gspurning yet or know much about him?) “No. I’m pretty much like most everybody else. I haven’t seen him play or know a whole lot about him other than what I’ve read and what you guys have read. Like so many teams, when a guy is signed you’re all kind of waiting to see how it all works out, and I’m just the same.”

(When did you hear about Terry Boss having to retire due to the concussions and what did you make of that situation?) “I heard about it right away and I’ve talked to Terry several times since. It’s obviously difficult when all along the reason I said I wanted to retire when I did was to go out on my terms. I can’t imagine the frustration when you want to keep playing, you feel like you could keep playing, but obviously you have to look at the big picture, and there’s a situation that comes around the pulls your tag for you. That’s tough. Although I didn’t necessarily have a job lined up when I finished playing, I had a time frame and started to look and make inquiries. Obviously it hit Terry like a tons of bricks, especially at a time where maybe it was, ‘This could be my opportunity.’ It’s not like there’s any good time or any bad time for this to happen, but I can totally understand his pure frustration and difficulty. Again, we’ve talked many times, we’ve been friends and always will be, and I wish him the most success possible in that next career path.”

(You look at the Sounders and it seems like the team has lost a lot of veterans and some leadership. Do you anticipate that being an issue?) “It’s another one of those things when you look at pro sports, three years kind of seems to be a cycle of a core. Then either you’ve won things (or you haven’t) and go, ‘Well it’s time to move things a little bit,’ and I think that’s what is kind of happening here. Yeah, we won three (Open) Cups, but we never quite got that playoff run going and challenge for the title. We had some great seasons, but maybe it was a case of people coming out of contract and this is the opportunity we have to see if we can strengthen stuff. It’s the unfortunate nature of pro sports and, yeah, it is going to be a little bit weird. You look at the players we lost … guys that we would’ve loved to have had, but due to expansion drafts, we lost. Then now with the situation of people moving, the coaches and managerial staff are trying to move in a different direction to move this thing forward a little bit. It’s always tricky because it’s great people, great teammates and great players for the club.”

(Lastly, did I see your representative tweet pictures of you doing commercials in scuba gear? Are we going to see those on the air soon?) “That’s my deal with the Olympia Auto Mall. We’ve been doing some fun stuff with that so keep (a look out). I’ve never dismissed my ability to laugh at myself. We had a lot of fun with this and I think a lot of other people will have some fun watching some of the stuff we’ve done.”

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