Behind The Scenes

Multi-tasker Sean McDonough going back-to-back for BCS bowl coverage

Sean McDonough preparing for a 2010 bowl game

ESPN play-by-play commentator Sean McDonough, the voice on many of ESPN’s college basketball and football games, will close his playbook on the 2011 football season by calling BCS games on consecutive days.

McDonough, along with analyst Matt Millen and reporter Heather Cox, will call the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl (No. 4 Stanford vs. No. 3 Oklahoma State) for ESPN on Monday, Jan. 2, at 8:30 p.m. and then board a plane the next morning to New Orleans to work the Allstate Sugar Bowl (No. 13 Michigan vs. No. 11 Virginia Tech) for ESPN Radio at 8:30 p.m. that night.

McDonough, who calls a weekly football game with Millen and Cox and does the network’s Big Monday BIG EAST basketball game as well as top non-conference telecasts, also works on ESPN’s coverage of MLB and golf. In addition he has provided play-by-play on the network for NHL, tennis, the College World Series, and college lacrosse, soccer and hockey.

ESPN, ESPN3 and ESPN Radio will cover all five of the BCS games for the second straight year beginning Monday, Jan. 2 with the Rose Bowl Game Presented by VIZIO (No. 10 Wisconsin vs. No. 5 Oregon at 5 p.m.) followed by the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl at 8:30 p.m.; the Allstate Sugar Bowl on Tuesday, Jan. 3, at 8:30 p.m.; the Discover Orange Bowl (No. 23 West Virginia vs. No. 15 Clemson) on Wednesday, Jan. 4, at 8:30 p.m.; and the Allstate BCS National Championship (No. 1 LSU vs. No. 2 Alabama) on Monday, Jan. 9, at 8:30 p.m. The BCS title game will also be on ESPN 3D and ESPN Deportes.

We caught up with McDonough as he prepared for his double duty kickoff to 2012:

FR: Have you had other back-to-back assignments that you used as a reference to help you prepare?
SM:
I’ve worked plenty of back-to-back games and on the same day or consecutive days, particularly with men’s hoops tournaments or when I worked local Boston Red Sox telecasts. But it’s unusual to work games on consecutive days that they are in two different locations. Because of the possibilities of travel delays, especially in the winter, ESPN tries not to schedule people on games in different places within a tight timeframe.

The only thing I worry about, other than a potential travel problem, is how my voice will hold up. I have an intense focus on the game I’m calling for that three hours and am mentally fried when it’s over. And when a game is exciting, I’m a little hoarser at the end. So that is a worry, especially with the second game being on the radio. Without the images, fans will rely on my voice which requires more talking. It’s exciting and I’m looking forward to the challenge.

Sean McDonough

FR: What were your original thoughts on working the two games?
SM:
It’s a very busy time of year with a lot of people working different sports. It might be a challenge, but I get to call two BCS bowls and it will be a blast to do. Hey, I have a wonderful job and there are a lot of broadcasters who would love this opportunity. I realize I’m a very fortunate guy.

FR: What time do you arrive in New Orleans?
SM:
We got the only non-stop flight from Phoenix to New Orleans that is scheduled to land at 2:15 p.m. local time for a 7:30 p.m. local kick. We don’t have a lot of wiggle room on the time. Luckily, I’ve already done all my charts, spotting boards and talked with both schools, because there won’t be any time between games like we normally would have. We will try to get to the field before the game to talk to the teams as they stretch and with the schools’ sports information directors to see if there are any last minute changes.

FR: Did you discuss both games in your crew meetings when you would normally focus on one?
SM:
Coaches would be proud of us — we take it one game at a time. In this situation, because of the off time leading up to the game, I did the bulk of my preparation in advance. We have called Stanford and Oklahoma State this year, watched a lot of Michigan and Virginia Tech on TV so I have a good familiarity with all four teams.

FR: What is the difference between preparing for TV and radio games, if any?
SM:
I’m a creature of habit so I pretty much prepare the same way. I really like doing radio. There are a few differences to working radio games. You have to remind yourself that you have to keep talking because if no one is talking there is just dead air. And there isn’t as much time to tell stories because you have to describe a lot more of the play, so you have to keep that in mind. A key is remembering to give the time, score and where you are on a regular basis.

FR:Any particular sporting event that is on your bucketlist?
SM:
We’re all in this business to do the big events and working BCS games is in that category. Like most announcers, if I had to pick one I would say the Super Bowl. I feel very blessed to be at ESPN because I can do a large variety of top sports and big events.

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