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POSTED AT 11:01 AM ET, 12/19/2008

Behind the Scenes at MNF, Part IV: Actual Scenes

I was fortunate enough to be invited to spend the day with ESPN as the Monday Night Football train came rolling into Philadelphia this week. Throughout the day, we'll take a look at one of the largest traveling shows in sports for the biggest program in cable television history (well, the cast of High School Musical was unavailable, so we're stuck with football). It's quite a production.

In part one, we looked at the personalities of Monday Night Football. Part two focused on the men calling the shots. In part three, as Playback often does, we looked at the game as called by the trio in the booth.

Part four is just an excerpt of my interview with producer Jay Rothman, talking about the changes over the last three years to Monday Night Football and how, much like the League itself, the television coverage of the League is full of copy-cats.

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BY Dan Levy | Permalink | Comments (0)         Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  

POSTED AT 4:03 PM ET, 12/18/2008

Behind the Scenes at MNF, Part III: The Game

I was fortunate enough to be invited to spend the day with ESPN as the Monday Night Football train came rolling into Philadelphia this week. Throughout the day, we'll take a look at one of the largest traveling shows in sports for the biggest program in cable television history (well, the cast of High School Musical was unavailable, so we're stuck with football). It's quite a production.

In part one, we looked at the personalities of Monday Night Football. Part two focused on the men calling the shots. In part three, as Playback often does, we look at the game as called by the trio in the booth.

booth_action8257.jpg(All photos by Dan Levy)

We discussed each personality in the booth in part one. But it's the interaction between those personalities that's so fascinating. Clearly the combination of Joe Theismann and Tony Kornheiser did not work. Enter Ron Jaworski, and in their second season together, Jaws and Tony seem to have developed a good rapport in the booth. If Tony's job is to spark debate and create talking points, Jaws plays a much better foil, as he never seems threatened or challenged by Tony's comments, no matter how inane they become.

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BY Dan Levy | Permalink | Comments (0)         Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  

POSTED AT 12:37 PM ET, 12/18/2008

Behind the Scenes at MNF, Part II: The Puppeteers

I was fortunate enough to be invited to spend the day with ESPN as the Monday Night Football train came rolling into Philadelphia this week. Throughout the day, we'll take a look at one of the largest traveling shows in sports for the biggest program in cable television history (well, the cast of High School Musical was unavailable, so we're stuck with football). It's quite a production.

In part one, we looked at the personalities on the show. In part two, we look at the guys behind the guys.

truck_8294.jpg(All photos by Dan Levy)

The stars of Monday Night Football aren't the players on the field. Each week, players are interchangeable. Helmet colors change. Numbers change. Incompletions and interceptions and cutback runs and wildcats change. But the one thing that remains constant to the viewer is who is giving you the information. So often we focus on the two, or in the case of Monday Night Football, three men in the booth. What we fail to realize -- or in my case just didn't know -- is exactly how many people it takes to broadcast a football game at this level.

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BY Dan Levy | Permalink | Comments (0)         Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  

POSTED AT 8:42 AM ET, 12/18/2008

Behind the Scenes at MNF, Part I: The Personalities

I was fortunate enough to be invited to spend the day with ESPN as the Monday Night Football train came rolling into Philadelphia this week. Throughout the day, we'll take a look at one of the largest traveling shows in sports for the biggest program in cable television history (well, the cast of High School Musical was unavailable, so we're stuck with football). It's quite a production.

In part one, we look at the personalities of Monday Night Football.

booth_8211.jpg(All photos by Dan Levy)

The trend these days in television punditry seems to be that more people means a better product. Sporting events are often looked at more for who is covering the event than the teams competing. It's not just sports, as outfits like CNN have managed to fit eight or nine people on the screen at once to "rumble, bumble and stumble" their way to a collective point. In its own way, ESPN manages to keep its abundance of big-name stars very structured. Three-man booth. Three-man pregame show. Three-man pre-pregame show. Two-woman sideline reporting leading up to the game on both the pregame show and the pre-pregame show. And at halftime, a one-man highlight reel.

It's a lot to keep track of, but in a way, ESPN does a good job at doing just that. Everyone knows their roles and sticks to them. For the sake of this exercise, we thought it best to dissect the personalities involved in the flagship show for the World Wide Leader, but limit it to the people at the stadium on gameday.

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BY Dan Levy | Permalink | Comments (0)         Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  

POSTED AT 6:15 PM ET, 12/ 5/2008

Week 13: Rosen, Ryan and Myers

In a game key to both Carolina's and Green Bay's playoff chances, you might have expected a good game (if you ignored the Packers' sub-.500 record). But if you were Fox play-by-play man Sam Rosen, you just couldn't wait for the snow to start falling.

Maybe he's itching to get back to hockey, but I really don't think that some late flurries are going to impact the game so much that they need to be mentioned every two minutes. Even when it finally did start to snow in last Sunday's game, it didn't change the way the teams were playing as much as the wind did, which they failed to mention at all until the Packers' final drive of the game in the fourth quarter.

How did the rest of the broadcast go? Read on ...

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BY Max Smith | Permalink | Comments (8)         Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  

POSTED AT 6:42 PM ET, 11/25/2008

Fox NFL Sunday: Some Say It's Fine

This week Playback decided to review a pregame show instead of a game broadcast. And since the pregame shows use so many on-air personalities, we followed suit and assigned three people to review Fox NFL Sunday.

First, each will share his or her overall impressions. Then, in a tribute to our pals at the Sunday Line, we present the transcript of their live chat, held as Curt, Terry, Jimmy, Howie and Michael held court on national television.

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BY Jon DeNunzio | Permalink | Comments (3)         Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  

POSTED AT 12:02 AM ET, 11/19/2008

Oh My! Enberg (and Cross) Still Get It Done

Be honest: If somebody had asked you back in August if you thought you'd be watching the Tennessee Titans' game at the Jacksonville Jaguars in three months, you would said "only if I need to nap that afternoon." Outside of Nashville and a very confined stretch of Interstate 95 in northeast Florida, who really gave this matchup any thought?

Well, the Titans, while lacking the constant adoration of national television, are undefeated. Really. And so Sunday's contest in the facility formerly known as the Gator Bowl and Alltel Stadium actually mattered.

Not a bad game, either. Here's how CBS's broadcast team of Dick Enberg and Randy Cross brought it to the home viewer:

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BY Rob Daniels | Permalink | Comments (0)         Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  

POSTED AT 12:23 PM ET, 11/12/2008

Al & John: Solid for Fans, Valuable for NBC

For the last few years, NBC's primetime lineup has been steadily dropping in the ratings. While some shows have received critical acclaim, many haven't been on long enough for most viewers to notice they were canceled. Gone are the glory days of "Must See TV" with George Clooney and Jerry Seinfeld. Now, based on numbers, the biggest stars on NBC are men in helmets.

NBC knows that their audience for Sunday Night Football is nearly twice that of any other time during the week, and they take full advantage of that, wasting nary a second of air time without some sort of promotion for Chuck, Life, Heroes or My Own Worst Enemy. NBC doesn't give the viewer football. NBC gives the viewer entertainment with enough football mixed in to keep the audience around.

Even the Faith Hill-infused opening is a giant sponsorship opportunity for NBC and the NFL. Set to the tune of "I Hate Myself for Loving You," Hill is besieged by enormous Sprint logos while adoring fans bop to the music while watching football highlights on their new Sprint phones. Even the credits, interspersed into the video with enough fake fireworks to make the Chinese government blush, make it clear that NBC is in the entertainment business first. This football game is filmed before a live studio audience, or so the saying goes.

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BY Dan Levy | Permalink | Comments (2)         Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  

POSTED AT 11:24 AM ET, 11/ 5/2008

Week 9: Troy Aikman Is Not Biased

It was evident early on in the telecast of the New York Giants' 35-14 victory over the hapless Dallas Cowboys on Sunday that Fox color commentator Troy Aikman was out to prove something.

After Boomer Esiason accused Aikman of having "a legitimate bias" toward Dallas, the former Cowboys quarterback took the high road:

"Well, I'm glad Boomer is watching the NFL on Fox," Aikman told the Dallas Morning News. "I take great pride in not showing a bias towards any team that I am broadcasting and I'm confident the teams that I have covered over the last eight seasons would agree that I've been balanced and fair with my coverage."

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BY Lindsay Applebaum | Permalink | Comments (5)         Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  

POSTED AT 10:15 PM ET, 10/21/2008

Week 7: Eagle, Wilcots and Week 6

Maybe you heard, but less than a week before they played the Redskins, the Cleveland Browns engineered a shocking, season-changing upset win over the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants.

Oh, what's that, you hadn't heard? Well CBS announcers Ian Eagle and Solomon Wilcots will be happy to tell you about it. Again. And again. And again.

At separate points over the course of Sunday's telecast, we learned, at least twice, how many times the Browns had punted against the Giants (zero). We learned, at least twice, how many yards Derek Anderson had thrown for against the Giants. We learned how their third-string tight end and their Pro Bowl wideout had fared against the Giants (good, and better). We learned about a dream highlight for a Browns cornerback. "Speaking of that Giants game," Eagle began at one point, which was confusing, because I wasn't sure when they had STOPPED speaking about that Giants game. Overall, I counted at least 20 references to the Browns' Monday Night Football win.

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BY Dan Steinberg | Permalink | Comments (9)         Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  

POSTED AT 12:40 PM ET, 10/16/2008

Week 6: Harlan and Gannon

Late in the telecast of the Saints' 34-3 home victory over the Raiders on Sunday, CBS color commentator Rich Gannon drew a comparison between New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees - who was having yet another great game - and now-retired NFL quarterback Daunte Culpepper.

Both quarterbacks suffered serious injuries in 2005 and went to noted sports surgeon James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala., for surgery before the 2006 season. Brees rehabbed in Birmingham for weeks, Gannon said, while Culpepper didn't hang around long.

"He's made some bad decisions, Daunte Culpepper, and that was one of them" Gannon said. "That was a mistake and it came back to haunt him."

Strong stuff from Gannon -- it's pretty rare to hear out-and-out criticism of an NFL player on game telecasts. And if his comments seem off-topic, remember that this game was never close.

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BY Jon DeNunzio | Permalink | Comments (0)         Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  

 
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