FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – After each New England Revolution goal at home, a set of minutemen fire blank rounds into the sky as an homage to the region’s Revolutionary War history.
Also accompanying each tally in New England’s 4-0 home win over Real Salt Lake on May 13? Paul Mariner, the Revs’ color commentator, pretending to shoot a musket while Brad Feldman, the play-by-play announcer, rattled off a goal call.
It’s an isolated moment of the sugar and spice that Mariner and Feldman offer, a relationship that extends far beyond the broadcast booth.
“We probably spend too much time together,” Feldman said with a chuckle during their most recent pregame walk-through, held two-and-half hours before each game in the Gillette Stadium meal room. “We’re on an unlikely odd couple, right? We come from such different backgrounds.”
Mariner went a step further, dubbing their partnership a “special relationship,” and a walk down memory lane reveals why.
Mariner served as an assistant coach with the Revs under Steve Nicol from 2004 to 2009. Feldman, who spends the week preparing video segments for each broadcast, called those games Nicol and Mariner led.
Add in Jay Heaps, the Revs’ current head coach, and the connections become even further engrained. Mariner coached Heaps for six seasons, and Feldman – outside of broadcasting games Heaps played in – called games alongside New England’s current gaffer for two years during Heaps' brief spell in the booth.
There’s a personal life aspect, too, as Mariner was the sole colleague to attend Feldman’s daughter’s bat mitzvah and he stayed with the English football legend during his time at Plymouth Argyle.
“It breaks a lot of boundaries down where we can more or less say anything to each other in the booth,” Mariner said. “We pick our moments because I don’t like when people are cracking jokes all the time, but there’s a time and a place.”
In that RSL game in mid-May, one of those moments came during warmups, when the Gillette Stadium DJ blasted “Shape of You” by Ed Sheeran. Mariner started humming along, and the duo got to talking music.
Mariner whipped out his cell phone and played Feldman a song on Spotify, who can’t help but crack a joke.
“He’s practically a millennial,” Feldman says of the 63-year-old Mariner.
Then, just prior to New England and RSL walking out onto the field for kickoff, Feldman spotted a fan wearing a Walter Zenga jersey. The goalkeeper famously was a player-coach for the Revs during the 1999 season, so Feldman and Mariner share a laugh over what Mariner called a “blast from the past.”
Broadcasting Revs’ games is hardly all fun and games for Feldman and Mariner, though.
They travel to every New England match, home and away, and typically hold a conference call four or five days in advance of each one. They will walk through ideas for pre-game and in-game video segments, like the RSL ones that broke down why Joao Plata and Diego Fagundez are so crucial to their respective teams.
But, true to character, Mariner found a way to weave in a lighthearted moment in the Fagundez bit. About an hour before kickoff, Mariner interviewed the Homegrown Player outside of New England’s locker room, greeting him with a big hug. His response afterwards?
“That, ladies and gentlemen, was the interview of the week right there,” Mariner said.
It’s from moments such as those that Feldman and Mariner are bluntly honest: They acknowledge their broadcasts are somewhat slanted towards the Revs’ market. After all, each show appears on Comcast SportsNet New England in partnership with Kraft Sports Productions, the broadcast arm of the Kraft family, which owns the Revs.
But when they travel for games, they stay on different floors at hotels and take different flights. Even further, Feldman and Mariner said they both actively try not to get too close with players.
Still, they’re just as quick to discuss how they’re the voice of the Revs, with Feldman’s ties to the organization pushing two decades and Mariner’s around 15 years.
“I’m born in New England, raised in this area,” Feldman said. “As somebody who loves Boston and New England sports and the sport of soccer, it’s a great honor and privilege, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that. I always try to remind myself that that’s true.”
Added Mariner: “It’s slightly tilted towards the Revs, but I think Brad and I have to have our integrity intact. We can’t say they were so unlucky in Columbus, because the fans aren’t stupid. The American [soccer] public is sophisticated about the game. You can’t pull the wool over their eyes.”
Mariner expanded on that last point, referring to New England’s 3-3 draw with the Seattle Sounders on April 29. The Revs were leading 3-0 through the 75th minute, only to unravel late and leave CenturyLink Field with a road point.
So, come their broadcast, the fun and games, their unique bond, can wait.
“There’s lots of things people are screaming in Boston in the pub at us and at the team,” Mariner said. “But we have to give a measured view on it … I’m not saying I’m right all the time, but I think I’m right most of the time.
And Feldman, almost on cue: “He thinks he’s right most of the time.”