I’m back on the Gridiron. After 2 years covering the Red Sox and MLB for NESN, and 3 years covering the Knicks and NBA for MSG, I’m returning to my first love; Football. Due to the current uncertainty of a particular professional basketball league, while I continue working various shows, the Red Bulls, MLS and college basketball games on MSG Network, my time has freed up significantly (do the math).
With that, so many incredible opportunities have presented themselves to me in the sports broadcasting industry, allowing me to do different types of work, when I’m normally in Oklahoma City, Memphis, Philadelphia, LA, Denver, or of course, running around the baselines and behind the benches at Madison Square Garden. With that, this weekend for the first time since the fall of 2003, I’m doing sideline reporting for the NFL.
Back in ’02 and ’03 I was working for Sports USA Radio, traveled throughout the NFL, and covered incredible games at Lambeau Field, Arrow Head Stadium, Fed Ex Field, The Linc, etc. But this Sunday, November 27th, I’ll be doing my first Network television NFL game on FOX, when the Arizona Cardinals travel to play the St. Louis Rams at Edward Jones Dome.
One of my very first paying jobs, albeit, an infrequent, freelance job, was as a runner for FOX Sports. In May of 1996, I did my first games for FOX, when they had the Stanley Cup Playoffs. I hiked down to Philadelphia on my own dime to work the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals between the Florida Panthers and Philadelphia Flyers. I basically made photo copies, made sure the talent had water and snacks, delivered updated game notes, lineups, and more.
Through all the YEARS of working in the trucks for FOX Sports, at NFL games from the Meadowlands to the Super Bowl in Miami, MLB games from Camden Yards to the old Shea Stadium and the Subway Series World Series, I always told the broadcast associates, producers, associate directors, directors and the men in the highest of managerial positions at FOX Sports … I wanted to work for them as a sideline reporter.
Good things happen to those who wait. (I’ve come a long way, Brian Baldinger, Jacob Ullman, Fran Morrison, Pete Macheska, Wayne Fidelman, Dave Schwalbe … right?)
And I love this story line … I’ll be working with veteran play-by-play announcer Sam Rosen. MSG’s own legendary voice, who has been calling Rangers Hockey games since the early 80’s. Along side Sam, will be NFL Analyst, Chad Pennington. Marshall Legend and former New York Jets quarterback. I remember in 2005, getting a one-on-one with Chad IN St. Louis, after the Jets clinched a play-off spot. At the time I was working for CBS 2 in NYC. My producers were psyched when I called in I got the one-on-one. Talk about a heavy New York presence on this broadcast! It will feel like home.
Over the next couple of days, I’m going to give readers a behind the scences look at the prep work for an NFL game.
Since Sunday, every morning my doorbell rings with a package from FOX. DVDs of the Cardinals and Rams week 10 games came on Monday. On Tuesday, it was DVDs of the FOX pre-game show, cut ups from all the CBS NFL games, cut ups from all the Week 12 FOX games, and the Week 10 and Week 12 Cardinals and Rams games.
Each day I have been reading the paper and internet clippings for each team. Watching press conferences on www.nfl.com and browsing through the teams’ websites. Last night, I killed several trees printing up the games notes from each team, and spent several hours, highlighting information that would be appealing to a report from the field, something for me to look for during game action, during player/coach/team interaction. I also began writing questions up for the numerous conference calls scheduled for the week with coaches and players, as well as collecting bullet points and questions that I will address right on the field pre-game.
In my next write up … I’ll take you through the interesting, and to me, inspiring conference calls! In the end, it’s a conversation between announcers, the producer and a coach about what to look for, what to focus on, what to report during their next game that we will broadcast. But I walked away from our call with Rams Head Coach Steve Spagnuolo, ready to run routes. Despite a team being 2-8, with players dropping like flies onto the injured reserve … the Rams are now in double digits … to be an NFL Head Coach, you have something special. That’s what gets you there. Spagnuolo conveyed that winning desire, in answering just a couple of our questions.