Yesterday afternoon, I had the privilege of sitting down with Eric Stonestreet. Most of you will recognize him from the ABC series Modern Family where he plays the role of Cameron Tucker. What you may not know is that he is the official Fan Coach of the AT&T #BeTheFan promotion.
Each week, the Coach issues a challenge to all College Football fans. Complete the Coach’s challenge and share it on Twitter, Instagram, or Vine with the hashtag #BeTheFan for a chance to win a VIP trip to ESPN College GameDay.
In the interview, we had the opportunity to discuss a wide range of topics from the College Game Day Experience to the #BeTheFan Promotion and his experiences on the cast of Modern Family.
FanSided: So, I have done a little looking around the internet, and from what I can see you’re a pretty big college sports fan. Is there any particular collegiate sport that you gravitate to?
Eric Stonestreet: “Football really is my number one sport, college and professional. I went to Kansas State University, that’s who I follow. I follow Kansas State University the closest. So, obviously I’m a fan of Saturdays, of all College Football.”
FanSided: Now, you said that you’re a big Kansas State University fan; with your busy schedule, do you ever get an opportunity to make it to a game?
Eric Stonestreet: “Yeah, I went to the bowl game last year, the Fiesta Bowl in Phoenix. Then I made it to I think two games last year. I’m going to be at a game this year in Manhattan as well.”
FanSided: There are a lot of things that go on in college sports, especially at a game. What’s your favorite part of the whole collegiate sports experience?”
Eric Stonestreet: “You know, the student aspect of it is great; the waking up early, getting to the stadium, and tailgating. Just the pageantry that goes along with getting to the stadium, people dressing up and painting their faces and their bodies, and getting to their seats early. You know, a lot of times in the student section it’s first come, first serve so people have to get there early. The band, I love the sound of a distant marching band, the drum cadence in the parking lot while you’re munching on a hamburger, and your hear off in the distance the drum cadences. It’s a great sound of college football. The atmosphere in all sports is great, but there’s just something special about the college atmosphere.”
FanSided: Yeah, especially the dedication from the players and the fans.
Eric Stonestreet: “And, the alumni. Typically, the stadium is filled with people coming back to their alma mater, and obviously some people may live in the town where the college is, but for the most part it’s people traveling across the state. In the case of Kansas, people drive from Kansas City, from Dallas, to Western Kansas, from Nebraska all coming back to their alma mater to support this thing that everyone feels the same way about. It’s a special place, and of course everybody thinks that their college town is the best, but I think Manhattan, Kansas is a great town. They call it Manhappiness for a reason.”
FanSided: As far as the actual game day experience, the going in and painting your faces, and putting on your favorite team shirt, and all that other stuff; what is your favorite aspect of that?
Eric Stonestreet: “Well, I always take the comedic approach. I always think about the poor kids that paint their faces and their bodies up and have to walk away from the stadium after a loss. I always think about them dragging their t-shirt behind them. I personally wouldn’t be somebody that would paint my face at a game, but I certainly celebrate the people that do it. I guess my favorite part is their willingness and desire to be that much of a fan.”
FanSided: Yeah. I’m the kind of person that when I come out of a hockey game and my team gets completely hosed, I’ll sometimes see people taking off their jerseys as they’re coming out of the building, and I just can’t do that. If that’s your team, I’ll walk all the way to my car, even three blocks away, with my jersey on. Because win or lose, they’re mine.
Eric Stonestreet: “The thing fans have to remember is that we are fans, and at the end of the day, we aren’t the ones that left the blood, sweat, and the toil on the field. I always think when a team loses in a dramatic or drastic way; I always think that I’m just glad I’m not one of the players that have to deal with that. I can just go home and sit on my couch and watch the game wrap ups, and not have to deal with the hard work that I did get kind of spoiled.”
FanSided: Obviously, I’ve heard many athletes say that they can hear the things that the fans say in the crowd, and they can hear their fans cheering. What kind of impact do you think that really has on a game? Do you think a stadium or arena full of screaming fans can actually sway the momentum of a game?
Eric Stonestreet: “Oh, absolutely. In football, when the offensive line is dependent on hearing the quarterback, the louder the stadium is. With individual things, I think a good, seasoned, trained athlete is sort of trained to stay in their zone and not hear people yelling insults at them and stuff like that, or not care. At the end of the day, they’re the ones on the field, not the ones in the bleachers yelling stuff. At least that’s the attitude I would take with that sort of scenario. The crowd is an essential part of sports. I think teams feed off the energy of a crowd, and there are many cases and examples where it’s been the difference maker in football games, for sure.”
FanSided: Now, we know that you’re a college sports fan, are there any types of professional sports that you’re really a fan of, and if so, what’s your team?
Eric Stonestreet: My team is the Kansas City Chiefs for professional football, the Kansas City Royals and the Los Angeles Dodgers for baseball, and the Los Angeles Kings for hockey. That’s pretty much what I keep it to, the Kansas City sports. I don’t have a basketball team, I don’t have a professional bowler that I’m a huge fan of, or anything like that.
FanSided: I know what you mean. For the most part, I’m kind of a hometown person too. I like the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Tampa Bay Rays, and things like that. I tend to sway towards the hometown team.
Eric Stonestreet: “Yeah. I mean, I live in LA. I’ve lived in Los Angeles as an adult longer than I ever lived in Kansas City as an adult, so I feel that I’m pretty well within my jurisdiction to consider the Dodgers my hometown. The only issue I would have it if they played the Royals, then I would have to hit the reset button and revert back to where I’m from and root for the Royals, but I think the Dodgers would understand.”
FanSided: Now, as far as the professional sports go, I’m sure your filming schedule is pretty busy with Modern Family and all that kind of stuff. How often do you make it to like say, a Kings game?
Eric Stonestreet: “Oh, I’m a season ticket holder for the Kings. I try to make every game I can. I wasn’t able to go last night, but I’ll be there Saturday night. We’re playing Vancouver. I go to most games. My schedule usually allows me to be done by 5-6 o’clock at night, 7 o’clock at the latest, so I make it to the games. I make it to about 45 Dodgers games this last season so I’m actively a participant in going to sports. I’m going to be at a Chiefs game in November against the Chargers. So I’m excited about that.”
FanSided: In the whole series with AT&T you portray the Fan Coach. As the Fan Coach, what words of wisdom would you have for someone that is about to go to their first college or their first professional game as a fan. What, as the Fan Coach, would you tell them?
Eric Stonestreet: “I think the Fan Coach mantra is that everybody knows that it’s the fans that win a game, not the players. That’s the thing they have to remember when they go into a sporting event. They need to come loud and proud, dressed accordingly with their face and body painted, and screaming from the moment they get in there until the moment they leave. That’s the true Fan Coach’s words of wisdom to all the young fans out there.”
FanSided: Now, obviously, I couldn’t walk away without a quick Modern Family question. In the show, obviously, you play Cam Tucker who is in a relationship with Mitch Pritchett. Now, the two of them seem pretty well balanced. They seem to balance each other out with their personalities, and stuff like that. It really makes for a balanced, loving relationship. What do you think that other people can learn from their relationship?
Eric Stonestreet: “Well, I think that Mitch and Cam’s relationship is just that; it is a relationship. They endure the ups and downs, the bickering and the fighting, and the back and forth. That’s what a relationship and marriage is, is sort of always skirting that balance of love and annoyance with each other. That’s what ultimately drives people together.”
“In a sense, Mitch accentuates Cam’s shortcomings and Cam accentuates Mitch’s shortcomings, but the extent of those two things sometimes will collide. I think that what Mitch and Cam on a greater scale show America is that two people, in this case two men, can provide a warm, happy, loving home for a child, and it doesn’t make any difference what their sexual orientation is, and I think people are coming around to that.”
“There’s no doubt that through Modern Family we’ve had some impact on helping people understand and opening people’s minds and hearts to the idea that a family is a family. It isn’t always defined by what necessarily may be thought of as traditional guidelines. As actors, we’re happy to be able to help do that. Of course, that’s not our main mission. We’re not legislators or politicians. We’re comedians, and we want to make people laugh, and find something relatable in our lives that have happened to them, and I think that we’re successfully doing that.”
FanSided: I definitely have to agree with you there. I was talking to my uncle, who happens to be gay, and he mentioned to me that he really likes how Modern Family portrays a real family, and how two men could be together, and it would be just a normal, loving family, and not some weird sidebar.
Eric Stonestreet: “Yeah. I think that’s what the writers are very conscious of. We get a little negative feedback from sometimes the gay community who says that we argue or bicker too much, but I think anyone in a relationship, any kind of relationship understands that it’s always not hunky dory and lovey dovey all the time, and I think it would be a disservice to the gay community, and to relationships as a whole for us to always be in agreement with everything. That’s just not a realistic relationship. Mitch and Cam roll their eyes at each other, they have problems with each other, and they are embarrassed of each other at times. That’s what a relationship is, and what isn’t in question is they love each other, they have a daughter that they’re raising together, and that’s what their bond is.”
FanSided: So, my last question here is a two-parter, and it has to do with both the #BeTheFan contest and with Modern Family. Taking into consideration everything that you’ve experienced in both of those situations, what has been your favorite part of participating in the #BeTheFan contest, as well as your favorite part of being a part of the Modern Family cast?
Eric Stonestreet: “One of the great things about doing the AT&T commercials is that it’s a full circle moment for me. I started my career doing commercials, so to get the opportunity to go back to that world and advertise for a company that’s such a proud partner of college football as AT&T is, it’s fun for me. Then, when you add in that it’s a tie-in to college football, which obviously, I’m passionate about and a fan of, that adds to it. Then, when you get a creative team and a good director on board and everything is sort of kicking and jiving at a high level; you know, as an actor those are the sorts of things you want to do.”
“In my heart of hearts, I want to entertain people, and this opportunity is a great chance to entertain people. And I love wearing the mustache. You know, anytime you put on a mustache for anything, you know you’re making some good career choices.”
“With Modern Family it’s the same. All I ever wanted was to play characters that people responded to in a great way or in a negative way, meaning that I scare people or freak people out or confuse people, and in this case I get to affect people with laughter, and that’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. Modern Family obviously gave me the opportunity to the AT&T commercials because of the success of the show and me gaining notoriety as an actor and as Eric myself.”
“My favorite thing of all of it is that I get to participate in things that every person dreams of. I get to go to the White House, I met the President of the United States, I went to a World Series game, I’ll hopefully get to go to a Super Bowl this year for my Kansas City Chiefs, go to the Fiesta Bowl last year, and see my Kansas State Wildcats. You know, just do things that you dream of one day getting to do. Throw out a first pitch at a baseball game; those kinds of things are life’s moments.”
“Modern Family and jobs like AT&T have given me those chances. I went to the AT&T Red River Rivalry, Texas vs. Oklahoma game down there in Dallas, and the Cotton Bowl. It’s fun stuff. I went to the ESPN kickoff game, Clemson vs. Georgia with AT&T and those are neat things to be able to do. I like using my job and the opportunities that I get to let me live out my boyhood dreams of being up close and personal to sporting events.”
FanSided: That’s the ultimate goal; to be able to reach the level that you want to be and be able to live out those things you thought of as a kid that would be so awesome to do. Now, you’ve got pretty much the world at your feet. You can do whatever it is that you aspire to do.
Eric Stonestreet: “I hope so. That’s the goal is to use it for good, and things that are fun for me, my family, and my friends, and get to experience things that a lot of people only dream of. I’m fortunate enough that I get to do those things.
Now, like I said before, each and every week, the Coach issues a new challenge to all College Football fans. Complete the Coach’s challenge and share it on Twitter, Instagram, or Vine with the hashtag #BeTheFan for a chance to win a VIP trip to ESPN College GameDay.
Take a look at this week’s challenge:
FanSided is the premier site for the fan for all things sports and entertainment. Whether your game is football, baseball, hockey, or collegiate, or whether you love music, movies, or video games, the FanSided Network has something for you.