And here you thought Monday Night Football was a basic ESPN production. Just throw two teams on the field, position a few cameras, give Tirico, Gruden and Jaws their mikes and voila!
A Monday afternoon visit with Jon Hazell, ESPN’s studio technical manager for MNF, delivered new insight into just how much manpower and technical expertise it takes to deliver 17 weeks of Monday night action.
In addition to Tirico, Gruden and Jaws and sideline reporter Rachel Nichols, roughly 350 other Monday Night Football employees were in attendance for the Vikings-Packers game in Green Bay. A visit through the production trucks on the back docks outside Lambeau Field provided a glimpse into a complex operation with so many entangled wires and light-up buttons, it would make Doc Brown’s head spin.
Star Tribune videographer McKenna Ewen provides a small glimpse into the overall MNF experience, what Hazell calls “controlled chaos.”
And while it’s still hard to fathom what all those buttons and all those wires in the ESPN trucks really do, it’s clear the complexity of coordinating a pre-game show, an in-game telecast and a postgame show is daunting – a director delivering commands for camera shots, an expert adjusting the color balance, a replay machine operator mastering his craft.
“There’s a great deal of pressure and it’s good pressure to make this the very best telecast in the nation every week,” Hazell said. “And everybody on sight and everybody back [at ESPN] in Bristol really takes that to heart. Every detail has to be there. It has to be clean. Every angle has to be taken care of. It has to be fun to watch. Even if the game’s not entertaining, the telecast has to be.”
Allie Stoneberg with ESPN communications was also kind enough to provide this bullet-pointed list of trivia on the 2011 Monday Night Football season:
- The MNF trucks will travel 22,020 miles during the 2011 regular season.
- Their shortest trip – 187 miles, from the Meadowlands Sports Complex in New Jersey to M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. (That was back during the preseason).
- The longest journey – 3,067 miles from EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Fla., to CenturyLink Field in Seattle between Weeks 13 and 14.
Of the massive fleet ESPN brings from city to city, the trucks typically begin arriving in that week’s host city on Friday with crew pouring in throughout the weekend. On Monday, the production crew began arriving at Lambeau Field at 11 a.m., providing live shots and coverage to ESPN programming throughout the day. The typical time of departure after a game: 3:30 a.m.
Oh, a different set of dynamics exists each week.
“Every stadium has its own personality,” Hazell said. “And from my point of view, [Lambeau] is one of the very, very best. Why? Because they love it here. They love this stadium. They have a love affair with the Packers here. And everybody in the whole town is committed to this experience being the very, very best. You can see it on the grass on the field. Pristine. There is no other stadium in the country that will have grass that looks like this at this time of year. It’s like a brand new stadium. And it’s not brand new at all.”
The biggest thrill for Hazell: “It’s a challenge but it’s quite a rush to pull this off in a new city every week. For me, I truly enjoy building the show and building the expectations and putting everything together so that it all runs smoothly. Working with the crew we have, working with people to make it happen, pulling people and technology together, I get a kick out of that.”