Steve Hirdt watched Monday Night Football’s first game in 1970 when he was a student at Fordham University.
More than 41 years later, he still recalls the “buzz of big-time sports finally being shown in prime time.”
Tonight, instead of watching from a dorm room, Elias Sports Bureau’s executive vice president will take his usual place in the ESPN production truck.
It’s a position he’s had 30 years now — a longer tenure than anyone in the show’s history.
Hirdt had worked with analyst Howard Cosell and director Chet Forte on ABC’s Major League Baseball telecasts in the late 1970s.
He brought new statistics to television — such as player performances for both home and road games — and the legendary ABC Sports duo wanted his expertise on the gridiron, so they asked him to be part of MNF.
“I was a little in awe at the talents of the people I worked with every week. I felt as if I had been plopped down in the middle of an All-Star Game looking up and wondering, how did I get here?”
Since joining the crew on Sept. 13, 1982, Hirdt has discovered new ways to look at the numbers while trying to marry statistical information with the storyline of the games.
“I guess my tombstone will also note that I’m the discoverer of the ‘Redskins Rule’ of predicting presidential elections,” Hirdt said.
According to the statistic – which holds true for the past 18 U.S. Presidential elections – if the Washington Redskins win their last home game before the election, the party that won the popular vote four years ago will win the presidency.
Hirdt bases his research on two questions: “Is this something that most people will understand, and is this something that most people would be interested to know?”
Tonight, he looks forward to watching the Miami Dolphins visit the New York Jets, the team he cheered for while growing up in New York.
They have played one another 11 times on MNF.
He recalls the game 11 years ago when booth guest Arnold Schwarzenegger boldly predicted the Jets would overcome a 23-point deficit and win the game.
“Sure enough, Vinny Testaverde threw four touchdown passes in the fourth quarter, the final one to veteran offensive lineman Jumbo Elliott, who caught the tying touchdown pass with less than a minute to go in regulation time.”
As result, the Jets proved Schwarzenegger correct winning 40-37 in overtime.
Tonight, it’s Mark Sanchez for the Jets against Miami’s Matt Moore, who Hirdt notes is the Dolphins’ 16th starting quarterback since Dan Marino retired 12 years ago.
No other NFL team has had as many in the last dozen years.
And, as the numbers attest, no one has worked on sports television’s signature series as long as Hirdt.