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Sakovits Pioneering a Place in Esports, Traditional Sports While Covering Soccer – The Esports Observer

The crossover of mainstream broadcast talent as it relates to covering both traditional sports and esports has been virtually non-existent. Nowhere do you see the likes of Erin Andrews, Joe Buck, Bob Costas, and Holly Rowe in the booth, so to speak, for both types of events. Instead, for whatever reasons, you see a separation with no crossing of the streams. However, those times may be changing. Fox Sport South’s Jillian Sakovits, who is a host and sideline reporter covering Major League Soccer’s Atlanta United FC, will also be a part of the broadcast team for the upcoming ELEAGUE FIFA 21 North America Regional Online Cup QA Round 4, which starts on Saturday.

As part of the EA Sports FIFA 21 Global Series, Sakovits and other members of the talent team will watch as teams from all over North America compete in order to qualify for the North American Regional Playoffs. And much like the teams competing in this event, just getting here was a challenge for Sakovits.

“It’s been a long ride with a lot of twists and turns and ups and downs,” Sakovits said. “I started over a decade ago at a local TV station near where I grew up in New York — News 12. It all started there.”

What Sakovits would go on to describe was a situation where she had no contacts and no inside information to help her land any position at the new station. Coming from the small town of Millbrook, N.Y., there wasn’t a huge media presence. But instead, it was a cold call she made after seeing a job announcement that connected her with a sports director with an eye for talent named Walter Fowler, that would put Sakovits on her career path.

“I called the sports director and asked, ‘Are you taking anyone?,’ because I had sent my resume, like all college students, to every place on the planet,” Sakovits said. “My parents are normal state workers and they didn’t have an in and I couldn’t get an in. This guy took me in, it was called News 12. And from there I was an intern production assistant, editor, producer and eventually they put me on air occasionally.”

“The reality was that we needed the help, just like any other newsroom back then,” Fowler said. “But what happened when she got there was what set her apart. She was like the “Radar” O’Reilly of the place. I’d be ready to ask for something and she would already have it done. She had things before I could ask. You feel fortunate to work with people like that.”

Sakovits went on to become an editor at MLB.com and a host for the NHL.com. And then as fate would have it, one phone call and a flight to Portland was all it took for everyone to see Sakovits’ talent.

“There were a couple Major League Soccer fans that I worked with at the NHL gig and I was kind of trying to do some more with that,” Sakovits said. “MLS was said to be looking for people, this was around 2014-2015. And then, next thing I knew, I had a conversation with someone, six months goes by, heard nothing, which is usually how it goes. And then a phone call.

That phone call centered on MLS and the Portland Timbers and how they, along with their head coach Caleb Porter, wasn’t sure whether the team would make the playoffs and need covering. She went to cover a team on the bubble. When she came back, she had been at the forefront of covering the MLS Cup Champions.

“I was asked if I wanted to jump on a plane to Portland to see this guy and see how it all pans out,” Sakovits said. “That felt so big time, so I was like, ‘Yup.’ And then the Portland Timbers go on to win the MLS cup. And that’s how I really projected into the soccer space. I played soccer my entire life, pretty competitively in high school, and then at a club level in college. And that was it. And then, you know, when you get your name known in the soccer space, gaming was on its upward rise, I knew I wanted to get into gaming.”

And while more than a few of the reasons she wanted to get into covering FIFA as an esports title were professional, there were a lot of personal reasons as well.

“I wanted to particularly work in FIFA coverage because, for me, it reminded me a lot of all the reasons I love sports and I love covering it,” Sakovits said. “It’s so pure and on any day, any person can succeed. You don’t need to be a professional player for five years. Like we’re seeing now with the qualifiers, you can be in your first major, you can be a kid who maybe, otherwise wouldn’t have an opportunity to travel and you can sit in your bedroom and you can become a champion. I pursued it for those reasons.”

A love for both the game and virtual game combined, having herself played four years in high school on her varsity team and then the club team at SUNY Oneonta, and with the honed talent of a veteran broadcaster, Sakovits thrived in the space. Already having worked 2 FUT Champs Cup and four qualifiers this year for the FIFA 21 competition, Sakovits is a shining example of what happens when perseverance, hard work, and talent meet now one and a half years in esports. 

“This event is going to be great,” Sakovits said. “The gaming community is so inclusive and fun, especially the FIFA folks and I cannot wait to get it started.”

The ELEAGUE FIFA 21 NA Regional Online Cup qualifier will start on Saturday, and can be seen on its Twitch and YouTube channels.

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