Ray Hudson, beIn Sports’ lead soccer analyst, might just be the most unique sports broadcaster in the world.
Barcelona megastar Lionel Messi didn’t just sidestep two Real Madrid defenders and launch a game-winning goal in Sunday’s El Clasico, he did it with such poise that “you could drop a tarantula into his shorts and he’d still be cool,” per Hudson’s spontaneous analysis that instantly went viral.
No one describes a sports match quite like Hudson, who two days before his now-iconic call spoke at length with Awful Announcing about his broadcasting career, his devoted Twitter following, his pursuits outside soccer and how he frankly finds conventional calls of games boring.
“I want it to be an experience where I do justice to the likes of Messi, Cristiano [Ronaldo], Andrea Pirlo and people like that,” Hudson told Awful Announcing. “The descriptives that are more of the regular expressions, some of them don’t do justice.”
Though beIn Sports is a relatively obscure channel, watching a Spanish La Liga match called by Hudson is such an interesting experience not just because of what happens on the pitch, but also because we never know what’s going to come out of his mouth and how he’ll depict a goal, a pass, or a moment that would be overlooked on a conventional broadcast.
“We’re seeing this game now played at a level that our grandfathers and fathers couldn’t have imagined,” Hudson said.
And because of that, he believes that how the game is analyzed should be elevated with a larger descriptive palette.
“A lot of commentators maybe approach the game as if it’s another cookie-cutter game. And it’s not,” Hudson said. “And we should give the fans and the players that sort of respect and admiration when something they do is just spellbinding.”
Hudson’s diverse and expansive vocabulary came through his life’s experiences, he said. His English teacher helped him develop his linguistic repertoire. His father read him Charles Dickens when he was a child and “had a wonderful way of encouraging me to be elastic with the English language.”
“You dip into a reservoir of life’s experiences, and not just on a footballing level, on an entertainment level,” Hudson said. “Where something that I’ve read or something that I’ve seen that’s off the charts and something that you would never think about comes out in your mind.”
Hudson, 62, began his playing career with Newcastle United and eventually migrated to America, where he played in the North American Soccer League and American Soccer League. He slowly transitioned into a career in coaching, where he led the Miami Fusion and D.C. United in the very early days of Major League Soccer.
As a coach, Hudson was always involved as a spokesman and a representative, and he became comfortable on stage and in front of the camera. He then started called Spanish and Italian league matches on GolTv alongside Phil Schoen— who he still calls matches with today— and MLS matches with the same stylistic flair that he uses now, something most viewers had never seen before.
Sometimes Hudson plans out a word or phrase that would match nicely in a certain situation, like a pass or a header, “but it’s still go to be within your heart, within your head.”
And when Hudson sees something occur in real time, he’s able to immediately come up with something that no one had ever heard of before. A key to that is what Hudson referred to as linking the absurd, like someone’s left foot and a Star Wars lightsaber.
“At times of pure emotion, it can be a wonderful connection of what the people at home are seeing themselves,” he said.
As is widely known, the people at home watching beIn Sports are shown a feed of most matches while Hudson and Schoen call the game from a studio in South Florida. Hudson has called beIn Sports games on location in the past, and said that the network plans to have him call more broadcasts on site in the future.
On-location games Hudson has called has “gone over gangbusters,” he said. “It certainly brings an element, to me, of heightened excitement.”
But he’s also completely fine with calling games with headphones on in the climate-controlled comfort of a studio.
“Sitting in the studio, looking at a cold television set with a pair of headphones on, you have to have a serious link and love to the game for the emotion and the descriptions to come out and not just be a par-for-the-course type effort,” Hudson said. “The game demands it. The people deserve it.”
When he’s not calling soccer matches, Hudson has a weekday morning radio show on SiriusXM FC called “The Football Show” with Schoen and others and loves to read books at his home while hanging out with his cat, Charlie. He also has a tremendous love of horse racing, though he doesn’t go to the track as much as he used to, he said.
“That was always an equal passion of mine,” he said.
Hudson is often seen on Twitter, joking and debating with his 85,000 followers. The first line on his Twitter bio: Verbal gymnast.
“It makes you relate to the people who are really behind the game, and that’s the fans,” he said. “And it’s good and entertaining and fun to exchange viewpoints.”
Another passion of Hudson’s is in art, where he listed Francis Bacon and Joan Miro as his inspirations. He loves drawing and painting, though he said he wouldn’t dare show his work to anyone else. Once or twice a month, he said, Hudson expresses his favorite plays, players and moments on the pitch through art, though they all go into the trash can afterwards.
Hudson is often touched by the fans that come up to him and tell him where they were when they heard some of his signature calls, or how their loved ones tried to “pull a Hudson” on goals or plays they made on their own on the pitch.
Just a couple of days before Hudson spoke with AA, he said that while trying to find parking at the beIN Sports studio, a woman in a black Mercedes pulled up alongside him. As Hudson grew nervous— perhaps, he thought, he was trying to park in a spot he wasn’t supposed to— the woman opened her window, with Hudson not knowing what would happen next.
“I expected her to be giving one of those ‘you can’t park this’ sort of thing, and she says ‘Ray, Ray, MAGISTERIAL!!” and she says ‘I’ve always wanted to say that to you.’ And that just struck me that it came from the least likely source.”
Now when people in the U.S. watch La Liga matches, they don’t just watch to see Messi and Ronaldo, but they also tune in to see what Ray Hudson, the most unique broadcaster we have, will say next.
“We’re watching performing arts,” Hudson said. “And it’s nice to be able to timeline certain situations that are just, I wouldn’t say beyond description, but are moments of such athletic magnificence. And to be able to decorate them with the descriptive that does it justice is something that I’ve been very proud of.”