Behind The Scenes

While you were sleeping, a SportsCenter highlight was born

Highlights are not always created equally.

Sure, the goal is always the same – to inform and entertain the audience while showcasing the best content from an event.

Most of the time, the focus is on the action. Less frequently, it’s a compelling storyline involving something occurring on the sideline.

One of the benefits to airing SportsCenter throughout the entire day is the opportunity to provide the appropriate treatment for any situation.

Such was the case two weeks ago when the Seton Hall Pirates upset the UConn Huskies.

The first highlight (above), which aired during the primetime SportsCenter, focused on the surprise victory and the on-court footage.

While watching the highlight, Tom McCarter, ESPN’s manager of highlights (I know…it’s a pretty sweet job), noticed a Seton Hall athlete expressively celebrating from the sidelines throughout the game.

“I noticed the player on the bench and started laughing at his reactions as he cheered on his teammates,” Tom said. “We have a production assistant working the late-night hours and I suggested taking a closer look. I thought it could be an opportunity to have some fun with it.”

The production assistant was Nick Hetherington, who begins his shift at 1 a.m. and works through noon the next day (I know…pretty crazy hours). During the evening shift, he re-cuts approximately five to seven highlights for the next day’s SportsCenter.

It’s not easy working while most people sleep, and it’s even more challenging to re-cut highlights from games which took place while Nick was catching some shut-eye himself.

Nick was up to the task (below).

He first learned of the assignment at 1:30 a.m. He scrolled through the game footage around 3 a.m. and began his research. He searched the web for “Seton Hall reacts.”

Could it be? Yes, there was a similar instance involving a Seton Hall player making its rounds on the web from last year.

Nick then went to the Seton Hall website and was able to confirm it was the same person.

Seton Hall’s Peter Dill was about to become the center of a SportsCenter highlight.

While cutting the highlight, Nick found himself particularly moved by Peter’s “dropping the hammer” motion.

“I decided to unleash my inner nerd and searched for some Thor hammer artwork,” Nick said.

The next step was taking the cut highlight and moving into the editing suite at approximately 4:30 a.m., where he would work with editor Lacey Rainone on the special effects. Nick pitched the Thor hammer idea and Lacey worked on making his vision a reality.

“Lacey did a phenomenal job with it. I thought it ended up being the best part of the piece,” Nick said.

The highlight, which also now included a “flashback” to Peter’s Aaron Rodgers-inspired championship belt gesture from the year prior, wasn’t quite finished.

The graphics producers inserted the final overlay graphics and the final highlight was ready by 7 a.m.

“Nick and Lacey made it even better than I thought it would be,” Tom said.

“It was a lot of fun and that’s one of the benefits of working this particular shift. It offers a little more creative freedom to come up with quirky ideas,” Nick said.

Nick re-cut several other highlights that evening, while we were sleeping.

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