Enlightened Roth Re-Defines Competition
The next time Yogi Roth presents a thorough analysis of the Pistol offense on a Pac-12 Networks broadcast, it may be because of what he discovered exploring the shady streets of Rio de Janeiro.
Don’t see the connection? That’s OK. Although Roth hopes each and every one of you will reach similar levels of enlightenment someday.
Roth is not your typical college football analyst. He’s not your typical human being, for that matter. Inspired by open-minded and globally-centered parents, Roth has spent a hefty chunk of his young life exploring distant corners of the globe in an effort to ingest a variety of people and cultures.
It’s not mainstream tourism. Roth believes there is a connection between competition and self-awareness, and the proof is in the soccer ball he has carried under his arm to places like Rwanda, Peru and Congo.
“Whether I am exploring how the Spread or the Pistol offense works, or exploring another country, I have to do that,” said Roth, who will be part of the Pac-12 Networks’ coverage of spring football. “That’s innate, like water to me. I’ve been in these areas where there is a lot of trouble, and these people aren’t born to hate. Their competition is wanting to live good, healthy lives. The simple joy of competition to them is surviving daily.”
Roth’s thirst for travel is founded in two motives – a hunger to be authentic and discover others’ authenticity, and an interest in exploring the definition of competition over a spectrum of cultures. For most of his trips, Roth visits underprivileged or torn societies without an itinerary – and not many earthly possessions other than a soccer ball.
“The power of a soccer ball has really helped me,” Roth said. “I’ve seen it in Africa. I’ve seen it in Bombay, and pretty much every city I go to. I went to a dangerous part of Rio where there is only one way in and one way out, and I literally walked in kicking a ball around. The next think I knew I was rolling with the community.
“The power of a ball and a smile go a long way,” he said.
Roth’s travels have helped him formulate his own definition of competition. He’s watched families struggle to secure meals on a daily basis. He’s seen farmers work tirelessly to protect a family’s way of life. He’s seen children fight simply to stay alive.
Those observations have led Roth to believe competition is not so much defeating an opponent, but maximizing one’s own potential.
“I think people misunderstand what competing is,” Roth said. “It’s not really to beat somebody else. It’s your inner self, your desire to do something well. You have to compete to do that. When I go on my trips, it keeps me in touch with who I am as a competitor. That’s the power of sports. That’s the power of a ball.”
Roth fulfilled his own idea of competition by walking on as a wide receiver at Pittsburgh. He later was part of Pete Carroll’s coaching staff at USC. Still just 31, Roth hopes to sustain a long broadcasting career.
“As long as I can keep it rolling,” Roth says when asked how long he wants to be a broadcaster. “I love it. There are two things I get to do – talk about a game and coach the viewer. I used to coach four quarterbacks at USC. Now I get to coach four million viewers. I take pride in that.”
Of course, it’s a perfect gig for Roth because it’s seasonal. Yes, there are on-air responsibilities in the offseason with recruiting and spring practice. But the schedule should allow him to continue to learn about competitiveness all over the world.
Next up on Roth’s travel wish list is sailing around Cape Horn in South America and traversing the Saint James Walkway in New Zealand. Then, it’s back to Africa.
“I’ve only seen a sliver of it,” Roth said. “Those people are the ones competing on the big stage. Africa is always at its tipping point. It can be out of control in a heartbeat and ridiculously amazing at the same time. I like that tension, when things can turn at a moment’s notice. It’s so unique to be in a place like that.”
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