Behind The Scenes

Set your clocks: It’s Tebow Time at 2:00 p.m. (ET) on SportsCenter

Tim Tebow led the Denver Broncos to an overtime victory over the Miami Dolphins on Oct. 23.

Tim Tebow arguably has been the storyline of the 2011 NFL season.

With each game — not to mention each win — the fledgling legend of the Denver Broncos quarterback grows.

On Wednesday, the 2:00 p.m. (ET) SportsCenter is scheduled to dedicate the bulk of its time to Tebow as ESPN delves into the unique phenomenon.

Senior CP Michael Shiffman at work.

“It won’t be the entire hour,” said senior coordinating producer Michael Shiffman.

“We will, as always, focus on the news of the day. We will report whatever is making news as we do everyday, and if we get major news like, for instance, an Albert Pujols signing, we will postpone the Tebow idea for another day.”

Still, Front Row wondered what the impetus for “TebowCenter” was and how Shiffman and his crew will handle the telling of Tebow’s remarkable ascension to the most interesting man in the NFL.

We caught up with Shiffman in the midst of his preparation:

FR: What are some of the planned highlights of the Tebow hour?
MS: Here are a few of the elements, but the list is ever-evolving:

    Highlight treatment of Tebow 4th quarter/overtime comebacks. (5 in his first 10 starts)

    Reporter Josina Anderson live from Broncos facility.

    Jerry Rice breakdown on Tebow’s development as a passer.

    Steve Young on Tebow’s future and how the Broncos should handle Tebow.

    Potential touchscreen segment either picking Broncos remaining schedule or picking pro bowl QBs.

    Feature: “Winning the Tebow way,” by Ed Werder

    Brandon Krisztal, Broncos Reporter, 104.3 The Fan in Denver on city’s Tebowmania

    Skip Bayless debates Mark Schlereth on Tebow

    SC Top 10 Tebow moments (will include college plays, “the promise” and Draft day in addition to NFL moments)

FR: How did this idea to devote the bulk of an hour to Tim Tebow coverage come about?
MS: Our segment producer on the Noon SportsCenter, Etan Harmelech, pitched the idea to coordinating producer Gus Ramsey, producer Tom DeCorte, and myself last Friday.

In terms of the elements, following our staff meeting on Monday, Etan organized a list which we adjusted along the way. Many of the elements (Top 10, Fantasy Spin, Touchscreen, Feature, Guest) are things we do everyday on a variety of topics. As with all our SC stories, we try to utilize all our resources to deliver the most comprehensive package to fans. In this case, that included reaching out to a Bottom Line Manager who is also a Florida alum for thoughts on the Top-10 list; contacting Talent Producers for a local Denver guest; enlisting Skip, who is clearly passionate about Tebow; and speaking with our colleagues who oversee ESPN Fantasy to illustrate the fantasy impact.

FR: When was the last time SportsCenter devoted an entire hour to one person?
MS: Whenever we have major breaking news or events a good portion of SportsCenter will be devoted to that particular topic. This past July, the day after the baseball All-Star game (traditionally a slow sports news day), we devoted a good portion of a block of SportsCenter to examining the growing role of Twitter in sports and journalism. Today will be unique in devoting a large portion of SC to Tim Tebow without it being based on breaking news.

FR: How do you respond to criticism that ESPN is over-covering Tebow?
In every show, we as producers try and use our best judgment to produce shows based on the news of the day, and what we think the viewer will find most interesting. This will be no different. Based on viewer interest, social media buzz and mainstream discussion of Denver and Tebow, it is clear that he is perhaps the hottest topic in sports right now.

FR: What’s the most challenging part of doing this?
I would say there are two things which come immediately to mind when you ask about challenges: First, the same staff which is producing, anchoring, and directing the Tebow show is also on the air from Noon-2:00 p.m. ET. So, in essence, they are preparing for two different shows which air back-to-back.

Second, at a moment’s notice major news could force us to shelve the idea. There has been a lot of work from numerous people, and it would be great to reward that hard work. Of course, if Albert Pujols takes his talents to South Beach, or Dwight Howard is traded to the Lakers during that 2:00 p.m. window,  we will do what we hope we do best, call an audible and cover the breaking news like no one else.

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