Steve Hirdt is the executive vice president of Elias Sports Bureau and the director of information for "Monday Night Football" — roles he has been in, respectively, since the 1970s and 1980s. He will be in Minneapolis on Monday for the Giants vs. Vikings game and chatted in advance with the Star Tribune's Michael Rand:
Q: What was it like during your early days at Elias?
A: The company was very small then. We were just starting to computerize what had been a pencil and paper operation. We had scrapbooks and things like that. Little by little we entered the data into the computers. At the time we were doing it, we didn't even know if this would be of any interest to people let alone value. It was not the industry then that it is now. There was not access to statistics in everyday life like there is today.
Q: Has it been interesting to see the widespread acceptance and use of statistics in recent years?
A: I've done this my whole life, and it's been interesting to see the development. There have been excesses along the way to be sure, but for the most part statistical information is now used by sports decisionmakers. It used to be that it wasn't used at all.
Q: The work you do for "Monday Night Football" — what does that look like?
A: I provide interesting information that even someone who watches every game of a particular team might not ever know. … A lot of the same information gets repeated on each telecast. My job is to try to find things that might not be as well known. I know particular things that Jon Gruden thinks are particularly important so I'll try to find some of those things. He's very interested in short-yardage situations, red zone statistics. He uses statistical data as well as any analyst I've worked with. He has a tremendous memory to retain the data.
Q: So most of the information is assembled ahead of time?
A: Yes, but of the information I prepare before the game maybe 5 percent of it will get on the air. You don't know which direction a live game is going to go. There are evergreen types of notes, things about how Eli Manning has really struggled against the Vikings. I'll try to find a lot of information about that topic and boil it down to one thing that we can say one time on the show.
Q: So what are some of your best Minnesota memories of "Monday Night Football"?
A: I was there for the Tony Dorsett run, the 99 yards, which was my first year on the show in 1982. I remember it was the first play of the fourth quarter. Dallas only had 10 offensive players on the field, which we didn't know at the time. That kind of messed up Minnesota's defense. Dorsett bursts through, gets to the 40, juked past the last guy on the sideline. I didn't have all the communication I had now. But I told the director to tell Howard Cosell that it was going to be the longest run in the history of the league. And a few seconds later you hear Cosell say, 'and that's the longest run in the history of the league.' There's a guy screaming in my ear: 'But is it the Monday night record?' And I'm thinking, 'Which part of longest run in the history of the league don't you understand?'"