Q&A with the Spirit ESPN Radio Broadcast Team

Washington Spirit  |   May 15, 2024
Q&A with the Spirit ESPN Radio Broadcast Team Featured Image

On May 15, 2024, the Washington Spirit announced it would broadcast games with ESPN 630 AM, marking the club’s first-ever radio partnership.

The crew consists of Bram Weinstein in the play-by-play role, Gaby Vincent as the color analyst, and Mike Minnich providing additional commentary and serving as an alternate for Weinstein and Vincent. Weinstein comes to the Spirit broadcast as the radio voice of the Washington Commanders, a role he has held since 2020. Vincent, who played four seasons in the NWSL, is a former Spirit defender who retired in 2022. Minnich, one of the leading NWSL historians, served as the original Spirit television broadcaster, and has broadcast experience at the professional and collegiate level.

We met with Bram, Gaby, and Mike to ask them some questions about the historic Spirit partnership and what fans might expect from the broadcast.


Q: Bram, I’ll start with you. What are your background and credentials for this role?

Bram: So, I’ve been an on-air broadcaster for, this will age me, going on 25 years now. I have been calling Washington Commanders games at the NFL – I’ll be heading into season five this fall. I was on their broadcast team back in the early days as a sideline reporter, and I have been on air locally on-and-off for a quarter century with an eight-year gap where I was at ESPN mainly as a SportsCenter anchor but also as a limited play-by-play announcer.


Q: Kicking it to Mike. Walk us through your credentials for why you fit this role.

Mike: I’ve been calling soccer for about 20 years now, including a year with the Washington Freedom, and then I was the play-by-play voice on YouTube streams for the Spirit. Since then, I’ve done play by play at Vista (producer of NWSL matches) for league-wide games on Paramount+ and on Twitch from 2017 to 2021. I also do college broadcasting as well. At West Virginia University (WVU), I am the voice of the women’s gymnastics program. I also have called volleyball, women’s basketball, and wrestling. I’ve called a little bit of everything. More recently, I did color for the 2023 NCAA men’s soccer tournament.


Q: Gaby, what is your background?

Gaby: I have played soccer my whole life, probably since I was like four or five years old. I played collegiately at the University of Louisville for four years. Then, I played in the NWSL for four years. My first team was the Utah Royals. I played my first two seasons there in 2019 and 2020. Then, the team became Kansas City, so I moved to Kansas City and played with them for a year. My final season was for the Washington Spirit, so that’s how I am here now.


Q: For each of you: What do you bring to the table in your various roles – as a play-by-play commentator, as a color analyst?

Mike: I think for me, I’ve been with the league the whole time, so I have a good feel for the players, the story lines, the history, and specific to this club, I’ve been the Spirit’s main broadcaster for four years previously. I’m in Year Two where I’ve been helping out with stats and research for the club, and I’ve followed the Spirit all the way through.

Gaby: I’ve played with a lot of these people, and I’ve played against a lot of them. I’ve watched a lot of the games, and I think being a player who has been in these circumstances, at these trainings, participated in these games, I think I have a unique experience that I am excited to share with the audience.

Bram: For me I think this is a really great personal opportunity to you know diversify my personal reach in the community, and I see the growth of the sport, I see the growth of this team. I grew up in the region, and I have always been in sports broadcasting because I love what sports does in our community, that it really unifies, and I think there is an opportunity here with this team and this league, to really bring in a whole new generation of fans. It’s really exciting, and as the dad of a teenage girl, it’s extremely exciting to see what’s happening in women’s sports entirely. To have any role in that – and this is a privileged role — I am honored to be in this role with this team, specifically. It is really just an amazing, amazing opportunity.


Q: What drew you to this position? Why are you interested in calling Spirit games?

Gaby: I mean how often do you get to do ESPN Radio for a team that you used to play for? A team that you grew up with as a child, going to their games, watching all these people thinking they are my heroes. I feel like this is a dream come true. And especially, representation really matters. So, to be a Black woman, to be a queer woman in the space, be that representation that maybe I didn’t see growing up, or maybe I didn’t hear growing up, and maybe somebody can listen to the game now and think, “Oh, maybe I could do that one day.” I think that’s what’s really special to me. What the Spirit is building with Michele (Kang) — how much she’s investing in the game globally, it’s just really exciting. Whatever I can contribute to make the experience better for everyone, create more accessibility, I am happy to. I am really excited to be a part of it.

Mike: I think it’s really cool to go back and say, “In 2013, I was doing preseason games with my own equipment, an audience stream that maybe a couple dozen people listened to the first game, and now we are going to be on radio in the nation’s capital.” That’s pretty cool to see. Also, I think radio is such a personal connection. It’s a lot more one-on-one than TV. Going off of what Bram was saying, connecting one-on-one with fans, with people that maybe don’t know the sport that are just browsing on radio, I think it’s easy to find games when you are just channel surfing, “What is this? I’ll listen to this,” and then you get hooked on it.


Q: What can fans expect from the radio broadcast?

Gaby: I think it’s going to be fun. I think fans are going to have a great time listening to the broadcast. I think we are going to be critical and very technical about what is going on in the game, but I’m really excited to bring that personal touch, that personal insight. I’m going to use my voice, my flavor of how I communicate with people that are equally excited about watching a game as I am – and just bringing those personal stories. Maybe players that I have had the privilege to play with or against, bringing that insight and bringing the humanness back to sports, reminding everyone that we are humans, and these players are humans. They’re grinding, they are working hard and they are people at the end of the day.

Bram: I think the league and the Spirit have seen exponential growth, right? Just this past month there’s 15,000 people at Audi Field to see the Spirit play. So, this is an opportunity to tell their story. This broadcast is an opportunity for us to share with the world exactly what fans want to know about this team, as opposed to being shaped by the coverage from outside of it. I think there is a high level of responsibility in doing that, and I take that responsibility very seriously. This isn’t my broadcast; this is their broadcast. I am here to tell their story in the best way possible.


Q: How are you preparing for this role?

Mike: Gosh, where to start with that? I’m someone who watches every Spirit game, watches most of the league on top of that. I’m constantly thinking, what’s the storyline here? What’s the research I can do? I have every box score from every game, so what I am bringing is the ability to say, “This is the first time this has ever happened,” or “This is the first time the Spirit has ever done this.” That is something I really enjoy doing – bringing the milestones, the history, to life to a league that’s over a decade old now. We are starting to get that statistical tradition and historical facts.

Gaby: I am doing a lot of preparation. I am talking to (Bram and Mike) and other broadcasters trying to get some pro tips because I am very new to this. So, I am trying to absorb all the information I can. I have been practicing a lot. I watch a lot of games, and I am just talking to myself. I was at the Spirit game last weekend, and I was talking to myself. Just getting used to saying the things that are going on in my head and saying them out loud, sharing them in a way that is understandable for people.

Bram: I am trying to get to know the team as much as I can by coming out to practice, meeting them, spending as much time as they are willing to give, talking to Gaby and Mike and learning about the team through their unique points of view. Spirit Communications has been kind to hook me up with some of the best voices in soccer, and I plan on speaking to them because learning about the rhythms of the game is probably the most important thing for me – to have the correct energy at the correct time when you’re calling a match. And until you do it, it’s hard to get used to it. All sports are very different, they all have different rhythms, and I plan on speaking to some of the best in the business to learn how they think about that, how they go about that, and hopefully fans hear that in the Spirit matches.


Q: What does it mean to be a part of one of the first NWSL radio broadcasts?

Bram: I mean that’s what’s really special about it. The League is ready for this, this team is ready for this, the area is showing the demand for this, and it’s an honor to be a part of the start of this – what I hope will be a long relationship with the team and the community as this thing grows. I am really just honored by the opportunity to be the first to do it.

Mike: It’s something that you hope for and something that you hope will happen down the road, and here we are down the road, and it’s happening. So, it’s really neat to be someone who had a folding table and my own equipment, and now we are going to have people listen to us internationally, nationally, and locally on the radio, and that’s amazing.

Gaby: I think for me, being a little girl, growing up playing soccer. What was the league like at the time? As a teenager, was there a league at that point? My years in the NWSL, it kind of being very unstable, there was always this residual fear: “Is the league going to fold? What does this mean? Why can’t we do this? Why can’t we do that?” Learning from all the players who had all that experience from when the league was not ready for something like this. And so to be on the other end of it and still be able to contribute in a different way, it honestly makes me emotional because we have always deserved this, and now the infrastructure is there and the resources are there. I am really honored and excited to be a part of it, and I think it’s only just going to continue to grow, and hopefully all the teams will soon have radio broadcasts.


Q: What are you looking forward to as part of this partnership with ESPN Radio and ESPN 630? Having them as a partner, what does that mean?

Mike: I think it’s the biggest name in sports. To be associated with it on the radio side, it’s a dream, and it’s really special to have those letters in front of you. To be on the same station (ESPN 630) that has Tony Kornheiser’s show on it, you know that’s pretty neat as someone who grew up following sports in DC.

Gaby: I would say the same. I feel like for so long people were like, “Yeah, support women’s sports,” but we need the opportunities. We need stuff like this. We need actual deals. We need more women’s sports on radio, on TV. We need more women’s sports on all platforms. I think having ESPN give that credibility that the time is now, there’s no more excuses, we are going to amplify women’s sports at the same level we amplify men’s sports.


Q: How do you guys envision all three of you working together as a team throughout the year?

Bram: That’s always a work in progress, but I think typically it just takes a few goes, and you learn each other’s habits and the way each other thinks. My goal is to tell the story of the game and at the same time, put Gaby and Mike in a position to shine because they are the stars of the broadcast. That’s my hope, and that’s the way it should work.

Gaby: I get great vibes from both Bram and Mike. There’s good chemistry, and I feel like everyone’s mission is the same. You can tell everyone is genuinely very interested in this and wants to do it for the right reasons, so I think that as a foundation has already put this project in good motion. It’s going to be a good partnership.


Q: Gaby, how will your prep be different as a color analyst compared to as a player?

Gaby: It’s not. I’m going to stretch and warm up… (Laughs) I will have to perform but not having to physically perform has given me a little ease of anxiety, but I still plan to treat it like it’s a gameday. That’s how I treat everything in life. Every big moment, I’m like, “Okay just prep like it’s a gameday.” So, I definitely plan to do that, but I think taking the pressure out of actually performing, I’m going to let the players do that hard part, and I am going to do my prep.


Q: Gaby, what’s it going to be like to call a game at Audi Field for a team you used to play for, at what used to be your home stadium?

Gaby: I think it’s going to be emotional because a lot has changed in the last few years for me. I will be playing a much different role, but I think being able to still – what Bram was saying earlier – still be a part of it and still feel like I am involved in something special is going to be really emotional but really fun for me. I am already imagining myself after the game and being super excited and telling my parents, ‘I played so well! I mean. I called so well!’ I think it’s going to be a good feeling.


Q: For Bram, how are your years calling the Commanders, having that local tie, how does that prepare you for being the voice of the Spirit, another DC team?

Bram: I take being from here and wanting to put something that the team, the league, and the area is proud of very seriously. I over-prepared. So, in this case, it is not a sport that I called before, but I am going to spend a lot of time trying to prepare as much as possible to do the best job I possibly can until we kind of intimately get to know the team as the season progresses. I am very excited about it. Like Gaby said, ‘How do you warm up for this?’ I go to sleep at certain times, and I eat certain things in the morning and the whole game day process is very regimented in a way to prepare as if I am literally performing. That, to me, is the only way – over prepare, be ready, get your body ready to perform at its highest. If you do that, most of the time, things turn out okay.


Q: Finally, for Gaby, is there anything you haven’t shared that you felt when you were offered this position?

Gaby: I just want to emphasize that representation matters. The fact that my friend, Darian (Jenkins) is doing something similar and seeing that, seeing a former player that looks like me, seeing them do it makes me feel confident that I can do something like this. That is another reason I wanted to take this opportunity, so if someone else sees, they know they can also do it.

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