Monday Night Football 2018 : In a downtown Buffalo hotel, where they were headquartered for the weekend, more than thirty members of ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” crew convened in a conference room.
They arrived one or two at a time, fashion be damned.T-shirts and polo shirts, blue jeans and shorts, sandals and slippers. All were appropriate attire. Jeff Triplette, a former referee who works as a rules analyst, donned a Minnesota Vikings shirt.
Nine hours later they would produce a telecast between the Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots. This was the final production meeting, the culmination of a week’s worth of preparation for a three-hour TV show.
This isn’t a matter of showing up and waiting for a technician to say “lights, camera, action!”
“People will throw out that phrase, ‘There aren’t enough minutes in the day,’ ” said Joe Tessitore, the Schenectady-bred play-by-play announcer in his first season of doing the package. “That is so true when you’re doing Monday Night Football. You barely have time to breathe during the week if you want to do this the right way.”
Getting it right is the goal for those working on ESPN’s most coveted property. Tessitore, a former WRGB (CBS-6) weekend sports anchor, has worked at the network for 17 years, calling college football and basketball, boxing and other sports, but nothing draws the audience and scrutiny of Monday Night Football, which celebrates its 50th year in 2019.
“I do believe my TV self is similar to my real-life self,” said Tessitore, only the sixth play-by-play announcer in MNF’s illustrious history. “It’s just who I am, but if you think that when the Hank Williams Jr. music goes on, and the red light goes on, that you’re not aware of the fact that you’re on Monday Night Football, you’re lying to yourself. It doesn’t mean I’m speaking differently, but you’re aware, and there’s an expectation.”
Before the music plays, before the Monday morning meeting at the hotel, a lot of planning and effort goes into the production.
The stadium is barely empty from the preceding game when Jay Rothman, producer of MNF since ESPN acquired the package in 2006, begins to focus on the following Monday night.
“It starts as soon as the game is over,” Rothman said. “Tuesday is a travel day, but we’re watching the game, ripping it apart.”
Once the game ends, Rothman reviews a tape of the telecast on a laptop. His screen contains three video feeds — the pictures seen by millions of viewers, one focused on booth announcers Tessitore and Jason Witten, and another showing Booger McFarland, who does his analysis from a cart that roams the sideline.
“I always say, ‘I’ll give you guys Tuesday off, and then we’ll talk on Wednesday,’ ” Rothman said. “We get home, we’re all exhausted. It’s brutal. I call it ‘Terrible Tuesday.’ It is complete physical and mental exhaustion, but I have to watch and get through it. If we don’t speak Tuesday night, we’ll talk Wednesday, and we’ll critique the show.”
All of the announcers spend Wednesday watching film of both teams. It also is a day when MNF news editor Jim Carr prepares a document, usually around 40 pages, with excerpts of stories written about both teams and other valuable notes.
“That’s a very slow read,” Tessitore said.
Tessitore carves out a small chunk of time Wednesday evening to have tea with his wife, Rebecca, and “watch one episode of a TV show with her.”