Three Questions with Julie Stewart-Binks originally appeared in the December 4th, 2015 edition of our newsletter, The Raven. Read it HERE.
Our stars of these MLS playoffs: Kei Kamara. Nat Borchers. Julie Stewart-Binks. JSB (and the entire FOX team) have done a phenomenal job broadcasting the playoffs. In this edition of Three Questions, we talk with the former Fox Soccer Report anchor about the stress of sideline reporting, her hometown of Toronto, and, of course, Alexi Lalas.
MiB: Your Fox career started on one of the most legendary football programs of all-time: Fox Soccer Report, filmed in Winnipeg. For the uninitiated, describe the show and your experience working on it.
JSB: Fox Soccer Report was my first full-time gig in broadcasting, and I'll never forget it. It was a unique composition of people, sharing a studio with Global Winnipeg (a local news station), which looking back on it, was quite strange. We occupied one very small corner of the floor, but had some huge personalities. That's the first time I ever used "Fox Family" - from Michelle Lissel to Derek Taylor, Eoin O'Callaghan, Asa Rehman, and the man that tied it altogether, Luke Crofford, we were a bunch of Canadian soccer geeks (minus Eoin) working for an American network. I was hired as a reporter/anchor, but spent most of my days cutting highlites and writing scripts. Some of my favorite memories were cutting highlights of the early stages of Copa Libertadores and Copa America - that'll teach you to learn a new language quickly (or rather, Google translate).
MiB: Sideline reporting is one of the most stressful roles in sports broadcasting. Can you give us a sense of your mission and approach to the craft?
JSB: It's something I'm still very new to, but I've had a LOT of experience in one year. My goal is always to provide the booth and audience with information they can't see or don't know. That's the reason why I'm there, to be the eyes and ears of the broadcast. To start the year, we did more storytelling to help build these athletes as stars to the general public who might not know who David Accam or Shaun Maloney are. Like everyone on our crew, I over prepare beyond belief. You never want to get caught missing out on a story or nugget. We have meetings with about 3-4 players and the head coach of each team before we cover a game. I'll spend as much time as I can trying to come up with unique questions, but since our entire broadcast team is in those meetings, I'll usually pull other players aside, or call coaches midweek for exclusive information that John Strong or Alexi Lalas don't already know. MLS teams have been fantastic at letting me talk to assistant coaches during the game when substitutions are made (why they're made), which really adds another layer to the broadcast.
As for the Women's World Cup, THAT was an entirely different experience. At one point I sat down with a local German reporter to try and flash learn German so I could understand what Nadine Angerer was yelling. I would finagle my way to get a comment from the coaches at halftime even though I was not allowed to do that, and got "red carded" at one point in Edmonton (to which I asked, "does this mean I get to go home?" sadly, it didn't). I once ran down through the bleachers (when I wasn't allowed to walk along the sideline) to intercept Norwegian coach Even Pellerud coming off at halftime to get a comment about Trine Rønning's injury status (which he told me). I relied on my binoculars to read coaches’ body cues and injuries on the bench. I drank Pedialyte on the sideline so I had enough energy. I peppered international coaches with questions in press conferences because that was my only opportunity to talk with them. I had drinks at the pub with foreign press officers. I helped a Japanese newspaper with information on the United States so they would help me out with scoops on Japan. I pushed the boundary as far as I could, and then some. I became a (fantastic) monster.
MiB: Tell us one thing that would surprise us about Alexi Lalas.
JSB: Before this year, I really didn't know anything personal about Alexi Lalas. Now, I've been with him basically every weekend, he's my platonic road husband. He likes Orange Vodka - NOT orange and vodka. He's a big hockey fan, so we get on well about that. He's my bar partner - at the hotel lobby, airport, or Capital Grille. I found out he requests not to sit beside Fox people on the plane, but he reads my mom's articles, so that makes up for it. I guess that's not one, but all of Alexi's road secrets.
MiB: In a past life you were a tour guide on a double-decker bus in Toronto. If we were to make the pilgrimage to your city to watch a Toronto FC game, give us one restaurant we must visit.
JSB: If you could have seen how awkward I was trying to do pseudo-stand up comedy on a double decker bus with a fanny pack on, you'd never let me live it down. I would regularly just end up telling stories about my personal life, and where they happened, because traffic was so bad. There are SO many great restaurants in Toronto this is a tough one. Brunch before the game, in Liberty Village (not far from BMO) go to Mildred's Temple, then you can come back to Brazen Head for some post-match pints. I know this isn't very original but I love Real Sports - an MLSE bar too, fantastic wings, and you can watch the Leafs lose at the same time. Now you've made me miss Toronto.