Behind The ScenesUncategorized

Mike Black has gone from the Arena Football League to the MNF booth

Spotter/stage manager Mike Black with play-by-play commentator Joe Tessitore at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Ore. (Courtesy Mike Black)

Most sports fans would love to find a job that pays them to travel to football games.

One day you’re seeing a thrilling Monday Night Football game, and a few days later you are watching an underdog pull an upset over a Top 10 team in a major conference clash.

Not a bad gig.

Just ask ESPN spotter/stage manager Mike Black, who is working five games in eight days this week — including a pair of memorable games in his hometown of Seattle (the “Inaccurate Reception” game on MNF and last night’s Washington upset of Stanford).

“Seattle’s absolutely my favorite place to go back and work game,” Black said. “My dad had season tickets to the Seahawks when they started in 1976, and I used to go with him to Washington Huskies games on Saturdays too. To see both teams play in Seattle was a real thrill.”

While this week has been quite memorable, it isn’t all that extraordinary. Check out his itinerary for Sept. 24 – Oct. 1:

MondayMonday Night Football: Packers at Seahawks (Seattle)
Tuesday and Wednesday – home in California
Thursday – No. 8 Stanford at Washington (Seattle)
Friday – Hawaii at BYU (Provo, Utah, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Saturday – Ole Miss at No. 1 Alabama (Tuscaloosa, Ala., 9:15, ESPN)
Sunday – Travel to Dallas
MondayMonday Night Football: Bears at Cowboys (Arlington, Texas, 8:30, ESPN)

Black has one of the best seats in the house at every game, right at the 50-yard line in the TV booth alongside the likes of ESPN play-by-play voices Mike Tirico, Rece Davis, Joe Tessitore and Carter Blackburn.

He is responsible for spotting the game and being an extra set of eyes and ears in the booth, particularly on special teams plays. And few are as qualified for the job.

Black, now 43, was a standout kicker in college at Boise State and spent 10 seasons in the Arena Football League.

One day in 1993, he took part in a promo shoot for the AFL “Game of the Week,” where he met ESPN producer Ed Placey, now the senior coordinating producer for college football.

Black held onto Placey’s business card for a couple of years without thinking much of it. After working a number of offseason AFL jobs — everything from valet parking to renting out jet skis on the beach — Black decided to contact Placey.

A good thing he did.

In 1998, Black started working regular college football games on Placey’s crew, and he’s been doing it ever since for both college and NFL games

Says Black: “It’s a great job. I get to work with some of the best people in the business. The toughest part is being away from my wife, Lauren, and our girls, but I love what I do and she is very supportive.”

Not a bad week at all.

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