Some soccer discussion won’t make people forget about what’s happening in the world. The spread of the coronavirus is dominating the news and has halted pretty much all of North American sports.
But talking about soccer — and sports in general — can be a pleasant and worthwhile distraction that allows fans to shift their minds to something more fun. That’s something Fire TV analyst Tony Meola is witnessing from his role on SiriusXM FC’s ‘‘Counter Attack.’’
‘‘Our talk on the radio is just hopefully to give people a couple of hours of an opportunity to listen to something, if they have the time, to get away from everything that you see on TV,’’ Meola told the Sun-Times. ‘‘There are still soccer stories there. People still want to know how teams are getting on and how they’re dealing with all of this.’’
In late March, the soccer chatter should be about the exploits of national teams as they prepare for their next tournaments or qualifying for a big event. European leagues are hitting their crescendos as spring approaches, and the season is just getting started in the United States.
But thanks to the coronavirus, news stories are different. The questions are about whether European leagues can award trophies and how those seasons can finish. In the United States, the Major League Soccer season has been paused and the Fire still are waiting to make their return to Soldier Field.
Of course, there aren’t any games to discuss and most news developments are related to the pandemic. ‘‘Counter Attack’’ is using the time without matches to look back at the first 25 years of MLS. And Meola, a U.S. soccer luminary who was the starting goalie in two World Cups, is grateful for the ability to talk soccer in this unprecedented and scary situation.
‘‘It’s definitely a nice diversion from what we’re doing personally here every day,’’ he said. ‘‘There are not many people that have the outlet to really enjoy very much. I love the game so much. I love knowing what’s going on in the world of soccer.’’
The games eventually will return, and Meola eventually will get back to talking about what’s happening on the field. He’ll be able to analyze how the Fire are doing under coach Raphael Wicky and whether all their new acquisitions are coming together in what is an incredibly important season for the franchise.
His voice, already known from his career in soccer broadcasting, eventually will feel more familiar on the Fire’s WGN-TV and ESPN+ broadcasts. Meola also will get back to working with frequent partner and Fire play-by-play announcer Tyler Terens, then with Arlo White when his schedule allows.
When that’s happening is unclear. Meola, however, is eager for the restart.
‘‘I can’t wait to call a live game,’’ Meola said. ‘‘I can’t wait to analyze a Champions League game on the radio. I can’t wait to get back in the booth and do a Fire game, an MLS game. That’s the most fun you have in this business. I’m looking forward to that day.’’