Off-the-wall Questions and Answers, Queries and Anecdotes from goalkeeper and "Survivor: Africa" winner Ethan Zohn.
Before people knew him for his fame and fortune, the 28-year-old native of Lexington, Mass., was a professional soccer player who earned his chops first at Vassar College and then in the D3 Pro League with the Cape Cod Crusaders and Hawaii Tsunami before a stint with Highlanders FC of the Zimbabwe First Division. Now living the bachelor life in NYC, he also serves as an assistant coach at Fairleigh Dickinson University in lovely Teaneck, N.J. Now that the reality show frenzy has calmed a bit, the curly-haired goalie-turned pre-tax millionaire has shown that what is Survivor's loss is soccer's gain.
For the 2002 World Cup, Ethan will be acting as an online "roving reporter" from Korea, giving U.S. fans a behind-the-scenes look at the players on and off-the-field via the web. "Ethan Zohn's Zone," an online World Cup Journal developed by Philips Electronics, will feature daily video reports, journal entries and online chats to give fans a true feel for the sights and sounds of the world's biggest tournament.
Center Circle: I'll try to keep the "Survivor" questions to a minimum, but there a few things that I have to know, so here goes. Who was the most annoying person on your show? Frank? Brandon?
Ethan Zohn: "For me, it was probably Clarence. You remember him?"
CC: Yeah, it seemed like you guys got along pretty well.
EZ: "We really didn't; he just bugged me. He started off on the wrong foot by stealing that food and everything, and then after that I just couldn't really forgive him. He would just be playing up to the camera, and one time we saw him painting his abs with paint to them look better. I just don't think he was there for the right reasons. I mean, some of the (stuff) that came out of his mouth was just shocking. He was definitely annoying, but we had to keep him around for his strength. Once the merge came around, we just got him out of there, which was our plan originally. But Brandon was pretty annoying too, don't get me wrong."
CC: So who do you still keep in touch with? Big Tom? Lex?
EZ: "Yeah, I stay in touch with a lot of people surprisingly, but mostly Lex, Tom and Kim Johnson. On a regular basis I talk to Frank, I talk to Theresa, I talk to Jessie, and over e-mail I talk to Carl, and I talk to Kim Pallard. We all definitely stay in touch. I think it's great."
CC: I was wondering because on the reunion shows people always say, yeah, we keep in touch, we talk all the time, but I was wondering how much of that is actually true.
EZ: "No, it's true. I mean some people obviously don't get along with other people. If you take sixteen strangers there are bound to be some that don't get along, but we're all on good terms. We realize that it was a game, and now that we're back everyone's doing their own thing."
CC: Ok, Jeff Probst: pretty cool guy on cheesy reality show, or cheesy guy on pretty cool reality show?
EZ: "A really cool guy on cheesy reality show. It's funny because everyone's like, ‘He's such a dork!' But you have to realize that the guy makes something so, as you said, incredibly cheesy ... not that cheesy. That takes a lot of skill to do that, you know? If you put some other host there I think it would be a totally different show. Off the camera he's funny, he's sarcastic, he's crackin' jokes…."
CC: That's good to know, because you really can't tell on the show. If I had to hear that guy say, "The tribe has spoken, bring me the torch" one more time… I mean come on.
EZ: "Exactly. He realizes how cheesy it is, and he even kind of mocks himself, which is great."
CC: What was the first truly extravagant thing you did with the winnings or the first thing you did that you wouldn't have done otherwise if you didn't have the cash?
EZ: "Well, I took my mom to the Bahamas. But to tell you the truth, I really haven't done anything major with it just because I've been so friggin' busy I haven't even had time to spend it!"
CC: So you haven't even gone out and bought, I don't know, any fun electronic toys or something like that?
EZ: "Actually, it's funny you said that because four days ago I bought a phat little digital video camera to bring to the World Cup! It's literally the size of my palm and it takes still digital photographs and it takes video. It's unreal."
CC: Did you have any "old friends" who dialed you up after you won the million? Like old girlfriends, old teammates, anybody who just came out of the woodwork?
EZ: "I've definitely had people come out of the woodwork, but it was in a good way. It was more of a 'How are you doing, I haven't talked to you in ten years, congratulations' type thing. But I definitely got one e-mail that was like, 'I don't know if you remember me, but I sat next to you in Mr. Yellin's earth science class in eighth grade.' It was pretty funny."
CC: Yeah, I figured you would have at least one of those. Ok, we're off "Survivor". So you played with both the Cape Cod Crusaders and the Hawaii Tsunami as part of the United Soccer Leagues. What was your take on minor league soccer?
EZ: "I had a great experience as a player. I loved it, I had a great time. But you know, every club is obviously not wealthy, and they have trouble getting people on staff, and it's not organized as well as it could be. There's just no generating funds, which is why this new contract with Fox Sports World is great. They signed a 25-game deal with Fox Sports World with the A-League. I think we should take pointers from every other nation that exists on how to run a soccer league and use promotion and relegation, and we're not doing that."
CC: Did you ever entertain thoughts of playing in the MLS?
EZ: "Oh yeah, I would have loved to have played in the MLS just because it's the highest league in the U.S., but I knew I'd never be at that level really. When I first started playing I was like, ok, I'm gonna give it a year and if I make it, great. And that's truly one of the reasons why I went to play in Zimbabwe, because playing Division II A-League or D3 (Pro League) in the U.S., you don't get that professional atmosphere, you don't get that feeling. And I'll tell you, all I needed was one game in Zimbabwe and I was like, alright, I can stop playing now, I've felt it. I walked on the field and there's fifty thousand people screaming. No minor league player will ever get that feeling in the U.S. I mean, the most I've probably played in front of here is maybe, like, five thousand."
CC: And that's even rare in the MLS to get fifty thousand, unless it's an All-Star Game or some special event like a World Cup qualifier.
EZ: "Every Sunday they had between forty to fifty thousand fans. Even playing in the reserve matches, which I did most of the time, I got, like, fifteen thousand people coming to watch. It's just that professional atmosphere is what I was searching for, to feel like you're a real professional, to warm up before games… I don't know. I think for a lot of guys (in the D3 Pro League), obviously the pay isn't good, but it's an extracurricular activity for a lot of these players. The motivation and the drive just isn't there because you have to go to work and come to practice after work, or you gotta coach camps all summer to make enough money to get by. Over in Zimbabwe, if you don't play, you don't get paid. You don't eat, you know? So the issues are really hardcore, and there is such a motivation and such a drive to actually play beyond the team, beyond the fact of playing it's like their life."
CC: So, following in the footsteps of the great Andrew Shue, huh?
EZ: "Yep, he started it."
CC: I know that on the show, one of the highlights of your experience was when you went to the village to hang out with the kids and play hacky sack and kick a ball around. Being around people and teaching the game, is that one of the reasons you want to get into coaching?
EZ: "Well, I've been into coaching for a while. I've coached at Fairleigh Dickinson for four years now, but with the youth, that was one of the major reasons why ... I mean when I came back I pledged that I was gonna do something good with my money that involves soccer and children. Originally I wanted to start an inner city youth soccer league in America, but I realize that it was too big of a task."
CC: Yeah, that's a pretty grand project. But then there's the "Soccer in the Streets" program:
EZ: "Right, so instead of doing that, I started my own non-profit organization dealing in Zimbabwe. It's called Grassroots Soccer. What we do is we go to Zimbabwe and educate the professional soccer players in Zimbabwe about HIV and AIDS. Then in turn, they educate Zimbabwean youth about AIDS prevention. Our theory and goal is that instead of having these white Peace Corps people come in and deliver this message to these children, we'll have these local heroes, these soccer players that everyone looks up to and admires and respects, go into the schools promoting this anti-HIV, anti-AIDS message. You know, it's like Michael Jordan going into Harlem. No one's ever tried to educate through sport (in Zimbabwe), so that's what I did with a lot of my money. We're going over in September, Andrew Shue's on board. If you check out the website, you can get more information on it."
CC: I know you're also working with "America Scores", and now you're doing stuff for Philips Electronics over in Korea. What do you think is in your near future within the sport? Are you going to keep coaching?
EZ: "I'm going to stay involved with soccer somehow, someway, but hopefully this little thing at the World Cup will open some doors for me. I think it's a little bit of a test for me, because originally I was like, I want to work at ESPN, I want to color commentate, I wanna do this, but then I realized I've never done this before! I have to practice, I can't just jump right into it. No one's going to give me a contract without showing myself, so this is perfect for me because the Philips Electronic thing is a stepping stone; it's just big enough exposure. I'll be interviewing players and parents and friends and the cooks and everything. I'm really excited because I'm really hoping that it will be able to open some doors. You know, maybe I will be able to do some commentating, maybe start at the WUSA or the USL, and then move my way up to ESPN. Ideally that would be a great future."
CC: So how exciting has it been to have hooked up with the U.S. team and be going to Korea? I mean did you ever think that this would come out of your experience?
EZ: "Oh no. I mean I have access that no one really knows. Phillips Electronics, I guess because they sponsor the men's team, they hooked me up big time! I mean, I'm gonna be at training sessions, I'm gonna be at meals, I'm gonna be interviewing their moms and their sisters, I'll be interviewing coaches, trainers, players. It's the closest I'll ever get to playing in the World Cup. It's unbelievable. And no, if you asked me if I'd ever thought I'd be able to do this before, I'd say basically no. This is a dream come true for me, it really is, and I'm very grateful to whoever made this work."
CC: Who's your favorite soccer player in the world?
EZ: "In the world? Well, I'm a big fan of Zinedine Zidane, but he's hurt right now. I think he's quality. Figo, I love watching him play. And to tell you the truth, Keller and Freidel. They're (really really) good. I enjoy watching them play, and just to know that they were born and raised in the U.S. and learned their skills here, I like that even more. It gives us a little bit of validity to the U.S. program, and both of those guys are big time in England."
CC: Speaking of being "big time", if everyone truly has fifteen minutes of fame, what minute would you be in?
EZ: "That's a good question. I think my fifteen minutes is up!"
CC: No, come on…
EZ: "No, I'm telling you! Okay, my fifteen minutes may be up. However, I think I've created another fifteen minutes in a different market. How's that? Like my Survivor (stuff)? That's done with, there's a new winner already, I'm swept under the rug. But I'm just psyched that I have the soccer to start everything over again. You know, now is a chance for me to get another fifteen minutes and hopefully do it in the soccer world."
CC: What was the last concert you went to?
EZ: "Well, I went to the Grammys and got basically a little smorgasbord of every artist in the world and that was pretty crazy. Oh, and I saw Marc Anthony a few nights ago at the Miss Universe pageant because I was a judge there."
CC: Ok, so here's a spontaneous question: was hosting the Miss Universe pageant one of the highlights of your post-Survivor celebrity?
EZ: "Well if you notice, Portugal, Korea and Poland did not make it in the top ten. No, I'm just joking. It was pretty fun. I mean it's just ridiculous is what it is. You know, I told all my friends I was going and they were all like, oh my god, of course you are…"
CC: They were like, when will it ever end? What else are you gonna get invited to?
EZ: "Exactly. But it was a lot of fun."
CC: Would you rather be stranded on an island with Colleen from season one, Elizabeth from season 2, or Jessie from your season?
EZ: "Colleen. Definitely."
CC: What's something that all the past "Survivor" viewers and future "Ethan Zohn's Zone" viewers out there don't know about Ethan Zohn?
EZ: "Well, I'm very superstitious. I go above and beyond the means of preserving things. If something good happened to me, I'll wear the same underwear, shorts, shirts, socks, put it on in the same direction, I'll eat the same breakfast. I'm pretty superstitious. And coming into the World Cup, if our boys do well, you might be seeing me in the same clothes every day."
CC: I thought your cereal bowl idea (in which the bowl is divided into one half for milk and the other half for the dry cereal) was brilliant, and I was wondering if you ever followed up on any of those ideas?
EZ: "Actually I'm working with a woman right now to get that thing up and running. But that's just the tip of the iceberg! You guys just wait."
CC: So what's next for you? Where do you see yourself in ten years?
EZ: "Like a 'Where are They Now' special? Well after my porn career dies off… No, but ten years in the future I'm gonna be a big time soccer guy, whatever it may be, if I'm announcing, if I own my own team, if I'm coaching at the MLS level, something along the sorts, it's gonna be soccer. If I save the world through my organization, you know, my name will be in conjunction with soccer somehow, someway for the rest of my life."
Table of Contents
1) Armchair Midfielder ("Nike Road to Korea" according to Larry King)
2) Word Association (w/ MNT goalkeeper Brad Friedel)
3) At the Movies (w/ MNT midfielder DaMarcus Beasley)
4) Queries and Anecdotes (w/ Philips World Cup reporter and "Survivor: Africa" celeb Ethan Zohn)
5) Making it to the Show (w/ MNT defender Steve Cherundolo)
6) Mark That Calendar (The Opening Round -- June 5, June 10 and June 14)
7) Point/Counterpoint (w/ Soccer Broadcasters Ty Keough and Rob Stone)
8) "You Don't Know Jack (Marshall)" (General World Cup trivia)
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