WNDY-TV Channel 23 will broadcast the inaugural season of Indy Eleven's pro soccer games, starting April 12.
But the station known for airing Butler University basketball and high school sports will face a learning curve like any rookie, as terms such as “dribble” in soccer—advancing the ball with one’s feet—don’t mean the same thing as in hoops.
And try finding a local announcer who knows his “nutmeg,” a term for playing a soccer ball through a defender’s legs—or “upper ninety,” a reference to the inner corner of the goal where the side post and crossbar meet.
“Indy Eleven will be providing the announcers,” said Jeff White, general manger of WNDY and sister station WISH-TV Channel 8.
Actually, there are a number of folks locally who have knowledge of the sport and its lingo and who could provide insightful play-by-play analysis, said John Koluder, spokesman for Indy Eleven.
However, he added, “we’ve not yet made a decision on talent.”
The first Indy Eleven home game is scheduled for April 12. The broadcast will begin around 7 p.m. and could carry on until 10 p.m. “We’re going to have a lot of fun televising the first home game,” White said.
The nine-game spring season will include five home games in all. The team's fall campaign will consist of 18 games. More scheduling details are expected in coming weeks.
Indy Eleven is owned by Ersal Ozdemir, president of local development firm Keystone Group LLC. The team will compete in the North American Soccer League, a rival league to Major League Soccer.
WNDY/WISH production crews will need to get up to speed quickly on soccer to follow Indy Eleven games, which will be played at IUPUI’s Michael A. Carroll Stadium.
There are logistical challenges. For one thing, the size of the playing surface is larger in soccer than in American-style football. While roughly the same length, a soccer field is 70 to 80 yards wide, versus 53 1/3 yards for “pointy ball” (the term soccer fans have for American football).
Also, soccer typically has fewer breaks in action than traditional American games, White noted.
“It is going to be a challenge to execute for the crew, no question about it,” he said.
WNDY will produce all of Indy Eleven’s home games, plus carry a select number of away games. Asked whether the station and the team have signed sponsors, White said those details are still in the works.
The new soccer team has already reached its goal of 7,000 deposits for season tickets. It appears to be reaping pent-up interest in soccer, which became more common in public schools and American youth leagues during the 1970s and 1980s.
Popularity intensified in recent years as more broadcasts of soccer events held abroad became available on cable and satellite television.
WNDY’s coverage of home games “will become the best Indy Eleven commercial possible,” team president/general manager Peter Wilt said earlier this month, noting that there’s a passionate environment in Indianpolis for the sport.
WNDY/WISH has ramped up its investment in local sporting telecasts over the years, including the 500 Festival Mini Marathon. It already has a crew of about a dozen people available for such broadcasts, as well as a mobile production trailer.
The number 11 in the team’s name is a nod to Indiana’s 11th Regiment in the Civil War. Its commander, Col. Lew Wallace, later penned “Ben Hur.”