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“I think that the people sitting at home are going to lap that up when it finally starts in July 2021,” NBC Sports’ Rebecca Lowe says of the Summer Olympics, which last month were postponed until next year because of the coronavirus pandemic. “You know, I think it’s going to be poignant,” she adds of the Games. “I think it’s going to be emotional, and I think it’s going to be unlike any Olympics we’ve ever seen.”
Due to the global health crisis and the subsequent shuttering of all sports events, Lowe won’t be traveling to Japan this summer. At the same time, as states nationwide instituted restrictions to flatten the curve of new COVID-19 cases, NBC Sports’ Premier League Fan Fest in Philadelphia was put on hold with the current Premier League soccer season suspended indefinitely in the UK.
Still, Lowe, a British expat, has been busy from her home in California.
Staying in with her husband Paul Buckle, the former head coach at the USL’s Sacramento Republic FC, and their son Teddy, Lowe has launched a Premier League “Group Chat” podcast with co-hosts Robbie Earle, Kyle Martino, Robbie Mustoe, Arlo White, Lee Dixon and Graeme Le Saux. Additionally, with the fate of the UK football (soccer) season still to be determined, the seven-year NBC vet has launched the online and interactive Breakfast With Becks show on the weekends.
In this world and industry in flux over the coronavirus situation and the U.S. now leading the globe in confirmed cases, Lowe spoke with Deadline about the fate of football, family time, her new projects, and how she thinks sports fans will bounce back.
DEADLINE: Now several weeks into shuttered stadiums, pay cuts and more, when will the Premier League come back?
LOWE: Oh, that is the big question, isn’t it? It’s the question that I think anyone who works in the Premier League is asking themselves every day, despite the fact that none of us have the answers. The Premier League doesn’t have the answers, either, and I think that’s because there are no answers right now in this situation, across the world, in any industry. We do not have a timeline on this, and if you’re somebody who likes to know what you’re doing and when you’re doing it, that’s very difficult. I think that most football fans would agree that if we can keep the integrity of 2019-2020 season, see it out, that all around will be the best thing.
DEADLINE: Besides the obvious issue of the coronavirus crisis, what could hobble that?
LOWE: Unfortunately, there are certain deadlines. You know and as has been reported, July 12 is the deadline by which, if the season isn’t completed, then there is a rebate owed to broadcasters across the world from the Premier League. So it’s a very difficult balance right now for the Premier League. They have to literally go according to government guidelines. So, in that way, it’s straightforward.
DEADLINE: What do you say to those who say these very well-paid players and rich teams aren’t doing enough to help those on the frontlines, or who have lost their own jobs?
LOWE: Premier League football, Dom, can often be an easy target because they look like they live in a bubble. You know what? They don’t. I would tell you, I’m married to a former footballer. The vast majority of players in this world come from working-class backgrounds, so they know hardships, and yet they have worked their backsides off to get to where they are and they are some of the first people to put their hands in their pocket to help others.
So, trying to get 20 Premier League captains on Zoom to discuss what each club’s going to do, they’ve just done that, but it takes a while to organize. So, to answer your question, I don’t know when it’s going to come back. I know they’re going to do everything they can to bring it back, irrespective of how that affects next season, as in 2020-2021. But in the meantime, what I do know is that the Premier League is blazing a trial for all sports and for all groups, really, to show what can be done in a crisis.
DEADLINE: In that vein, clearly there is no football, or soccer as they say here in America, on right now. But you have the podcast with the Robbies and team and you’ve launched a new weekend digital series. How has that been going?
LOWE: (laughs) Well, it’s been interesting and a real learning experience.
LOWE: We had to shift gears pretty quickly as events occurred in the world of sport and elsewhere. It’s funny because the content that we’re producing is a mixture between the news of the day coming out of England with regard to the Premier League. We’re talking about that a lot in the podcast, but a lot of the other content we’re doing is kind of what Premier League players are up to.
And then the Breakfast With Becks show is a very lighthearted interaction with our viewers, and normally, if you watch our show and the football usually — I know you do, Dom, every week — we put out an interaction, a call for action. Breakfast with Becks is picking up on that with a new question every week.
DEADLINE: So, two weeks in, how’s it going?
LOWE: Interacting with our viewers every weekend morning is always one of my favorite parts of the show. I love receiving and seeing all their social media posts – and in the first two weeks of Breakfast With Becks we asked for people’s breakfasts and dogs dressed in Premier League kits!
With the breakfasts well, I was certainly educated! With the dogs — let’s just say people didn’t stick to the rules. We had a cow. I kid you not. I think everyone is going a bit stir crazy and I don’t blame them! But I’m really looking forward to interacting with new ideas each week until we can do it back live on Premier League Mornings.
DEADLINE: Speaking of things going back to some degree of normal, after weeks of speculation the Tokyo Olympics were pushed to 2021 because of COVID-19 concerns. As a member of the NBC Sports team that was set to be on the ground at the Games, how did that affect you?
LOWE: In a variety of ways, to be honest.
DEADLINE: What do you mean?
LOWE: Well, I was just starting to gear myself up to have a conversation with Teddy about the fact that mommy’s going to go away for nearly a month, Now, I didn’t have to have that conversation, which is obviously a good thing, But, when I do have it, then I’ll be going away for, you know, a month and then another month very quickly in succession next year.
But you know, that’s not a negative. It’s a positive, and I’m looking forward to that span of time because, wow, we’re going to be treating people across the world, and certainly in the U.S., to a show of sports which they will have spent a long time without. If we can come up with new ways and do everything that NBC always does so well, I think that the people sitting at home are going to lap that up when it finally starts in July 2021. You know, I think it’s going to be poignant. I think it’s going to be emotional, and I think it’s going to be unlike any Olympics we’ve ever seen.
DEADLINE: Talking about emotions, you mentioned your son and your husband and not traveling as much right now as you usually do. I know for our little one, she is loving the time with us all here all the time, which certainly is a bundle of joy unto itself. How has stay-at-home been for you guys?
LOWE: You know, Dom, as a family, my husband and I, we are naturally very positive people. We’re also lucky enough to live in California where the sun shines a lot more than it does in a lot of areas of the world who are trying to deal with this right now.
It is also a big change for two people who both work very hard. My husband is a consultant and travels a lot, and obviously, I travel for my job. So, actually, to be home with our little boy at the moment with no end in sight for that, is not a bad thing. We are loving it. Now, of course, it’s difficult in lots of ways too, partly because Teddy, who turns 4 in a couple of weeks, doesn’t understand what’s going on.
DEADLINE: Has he asked about it?
LOWE: He knows that everything’s closed. Parks are closed. Everything’s closed. So, for a nearly 4-year-old, that’s quite a lot to take on. So we’re just trying to keep him busy. For me, for us, the main thing is the mentality and trying to connect with everybody back in the UK.
DEADLINE: What is that like for you, that distance right now with that part of your family so out of reach?
LOWE: I’ve got to be honest, it does scare me, Dom, but there’s nothing I can do about that. I think in this situation, we have to try our hardest to just get worried about the things we can control.
DEADLINE: How does that work for you guys?
LOWE: Let’s get worried about what we’re going to have for dinner. Let’s get worried about the fact that we can’t go out. Let’s get worried about we need to get a mask. Let’s get worried about those things that we can control. So if I start worrying about the fact that I can’t get on a plane if I need to get on a plane and go home, that doesn’t solve anything because I can’t control that.
So, for instance like the news, we try to take a little time every day to catch up on it, usually at the end of the day before dinner. Other than that, we stay away from that and focus on Teddy. Just focus inwards, really, on Teddy and in and around that, do our conference calls, and get the work done that we need to do and tag-team where that’s concerned and get outside.
DEADLINE: How are your family back in UK doing?
LOWE: I appreciate you asking. Everyone so far, so good, but what I would say is that it seems to be getting closer and closer. So I spoke to my dad recently, who’s just lost a very dear friend he’s known for 60 years…50, 60 years, to the virus. So he was not himself then, and you know, that brings it home. Every time I speak to my parents and my family over there who are all following the guidelines as best they can, you find something else out.
DEADLINE: Shifting back to work for a sec, and I know this might seem to pull back the curtain a bit too much, but with the harsh realities of the coronavirus crisis, do you think the podcast and Breakfast with Becks is having an impact with fans?
LOWE: I understand you asking that, I would ask it myself if the shoe was on the other foot, and I will also tell you, I really think it means a lot to our fans and to me.
LOWE: If I can have some sort of interaction with the people who are used to watching me on the screen, just now in Instagram or on YouTube or elsewhere then that might buy them a few days and some connection to a sport that they love. My aim is to get people talking, trying to bring some normality back.
For me, I am busy, which is great, because that’s what I want to do and that’s how I like to be. There’re other things in the pipeline with NBC Sports and I’ve got more ideas myself that we are talking about. The more I can do, the better just for the people watching, because, you know, of course, football isn’t that important. We know that it’s not that important right now …
DEADLINE: Rebecca, I disagree, I think football, sports in general are very important …
LOWE: That’s true, it does still mean a lot to people, but you know what I was trying to say. Amongst the daily grind and the grim news, football is often an escape anyway. So maybe more than ever now, people are still looking for that escape. What we’re trying to do is give them some sort of joy, some sort of light every day.
DEADLINE: How’s the reaction been?
LOWE: As passionate as I know football fans, our fans, are, I have to say, I wasn’t really expecting much. But there’s a lot of messages coming back to me through Instagram saying please keep it up. People are saying “this is just so great to see you guys’ face when we watch the podcast or to hear from you.” And people send me stories and I tell some of those stories on Instagram, as well. I think it’s just because with everything closed and so many things not happening and so many things not on their television, we can still be in their lives, and that seems to be something they’re really responding to well.
So I’m trying my hardest to keep on top of that. I’m starting to see those stories as part of the job right now, and it’s developing. With every day, I’m also doing shout-outs to healthcare workers. Ultimately, I’m just trying to kind of, I don’t know, just create a space of positivity as best I can. Partially because, lot of people that send me messages are saying that everywhere they turn is negativity. So just to have something football related to NBC Premier League related just helps them, you know, just get through the day, quite frankly, is the very least we can do.
DEADLINE: Do you think when we get the all clear and can return to work, to school, to a part of how our lives used to be, that fans will return to the games, to the stadiums? The other day, I was listening to an interview Dr. Anthony Fauci, and he was talking about when this ends. He said that people will go back to work, schools will open and gradually restaurants too, but he made a particular point of saying he felt that large stadium sports events would take a little bit longer. That there’s too many risks, which is why the stadiums might be ordered to be empty, but also there’d be a lot of fear on the part of fans to actually attend anyway, at least for a while.
LOWE: Now I disagree, Dominic. Of course, Dr. Fauci is one of the leading experts in the world on this and knows a lot more about the situation than me. However, from my perspective, and its a personal perspective, if I was still in the UK and I had a season ticket, the first thing I would do is go to the football.
That would be the first thing I’d do, because once the government and the medics say it’s OK to go, what people desperately want is what they cannot have and what they haven’t had. So maybe going to a bar might come secondary because we can all have a glass of wine at home. But what we haven’t been able to do is go to a football match and go to an NFL game and go to Major League Baseball or whatever it is, and I think they’ll be coming back in droves.
I may be proved wrong, but the gusto with which I know I’m going to attack my life when I’m allowed to again makes me feel like that’s what the rest of the world will do.