Holtzman’s ‘football’ transition game

Bob Holtzman with U.S. Women’s National Team player Lauren Cheney.

As the U.S. Women’s National Team progressed through each round in the FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011, ESPN bureau reporter Bob Holtzman was pitch-side after every match to ask the questions on the minds of U.S. fans.

He had a front row seat as the ESPN reporter embedded, since early June, with the U.S. team as it captured the imagination of fans at home.

Holtzman is a general assignment reporter. He’ll soon be transitioning from soccer to the NFL beat.

Based in Cincinnati, he primarily handles stories that are featured in the network’s award-winning news and information franchise — SportsCenter, Sunday NFL Countdown, Monday Night Countdown, Outside the Lines, Baseball Tonight, NBA shows, ESPNEWS and others.

Recently, Holtzman took time from a busy schedule and travel in Germany to answer questions for Front Row.

FR: What has covering the U.S. team and the 2011 Women’s World Cup been like?
Holtzman: Covering the US team has been very enjoyable. Because women’s soccer doesn’t get much national coverage the players have been great with us. (U.S. striker) Abby Wambach told me she never gets tired of doing interviews during the World Cup because ‘It’s only for a few weeks every four years.’

FR: What was your biggest opportunity and challenge coming into the Women’s World Cup 2011?

Holtzman: Like most people, I played soccer as a child but had never reported on it. Learning the game, the terminology and the players has been a lot of fun. A couple of months ago I didn’t know the difference between a field and a pitch or a [Christie] Rampone and a [Megan] Rapinoe. I have also been impressed and pleasantly surprised by the quality of play and the speed of the game. Of course, the opportunity to see Germany — Dresden and Heidelberg — has been especially beautiful.

FR: What are the differences the covering U.S. Women’s National Team versus reporting on the mainstream U.S. sports leagues and teams?

Holtzman: Accessibility is the biggest difference. Here, the players and coaches are willing to chat almost whenever you’d like. I was out for a jog in Dresden, Germany, and ran into [U.S. team] head coach Pia Sundhage, who was jogging as well. We ran together for a few minutes and talked about the following day’s starting lineup against Brazil. I’ve never done that with Joe Torre or Bill Belichick.

FR: What’s it like living in Cincinnati and covering the Bengals?

Holtzman: Over the years, I have really enjoyed living in Cincinnati and covering [wide receiver] Chad Ochocinco and [quarterback] Carson Palmer. I find “Ochocinco” thoroughly entertaining and somewhat misperceived. Palmer is one of the most grounded and honest professional athletes I know. Unfortunately, since many assume the team will release Ochocinco after the lockout ends, I don’t expect to be covering either of them in Cincinnati anymore.

FR: How will you transition back from a long summer of soccer to football and baseball?

Holtzman: The best thing about being a general assignment reporter is that I have the opportunity to cover a variety of things. The worst thing is I don’t really have a slow season. I am enjoying the World Cup, but after I get home to see my family and the NFL settles the lockout, I will be ready for a busy fall.

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