About 5 a.m. ET each weekday morning, a large black insulated Pelican case is wheeled into Studio E of ESPN’s Digital Center. Once at the Mike & Mike in the Morning set, the top is cautiously opened and the contents are carefully removed as if they are treasures from a faraway land.[box color=black size=small align=right]
· Set-up time: 15 minutes.
· Break-down time: 7 minutes, quietly done during First Take (10 a.m.-Noon, ESPN2) in the adjacent studio “As long as we’re quiet and don’t drop them,” Williams says.
· Always front left-center: Mike & Mike bobble head.
· Bobble heads had been stored in a Tupperware until Nolan urged for the larger, stronger black Pelican case.
· Chipped ‘heads don’t make air, or are relegated to the back – until repaired with glue.
· Flip Saunders brought his own bobble head to the set – conveniently taping over the sponsor’s name in compliance with show rules.
· The University of Houston sent in a Jim Nantz doll.
· Frank Sinatra and President Obama are represented.
· Next ‘head to be unveiled: a New Orleans Saint, received from Big Easy painter Frenchy during this year’s Super Bowl.
The baubles transform the barren desktop into a decorative tribute to athletes, entertainers, team mascots, political leaders and even super heroes via pop-culture collectibles: bobbleheads.
In May 2007, when Mike Golic and Mike Greenberg took their show from the cozy confines of an ESPN Radio studio to the expansive HD TV studio, producer Liam Chapman recalled, “We felt the larger desk looked empty, so we took some bobbleheads from people’s cubicles and offices and put them out, and it grew from there.”
“It” also created an additional job for staffers who now loosen up for their regular camera-operating duties by unpacking and arranging the show’s signature bobbleheads, about 75 of them.
While it may seem a tedious task, it’s also a memorable one for those who have handled it (see time-lapse above).
“We put them out randomly but cautiously,” said associate operator Mo Williams.
There is a method to the madness – and homers do have a hidden head hierarchy.
“As a Phillies fan, I try to put Chase Utley in the forefront,” says lead studio operator Dan Filipone. “And if we have an in-studio guest like Herm Edwards or Mark Schlereth, I’ll try to put those bobbleheads in front of the guest position.
“I also like our Buzz and Woody dolls from ‘Toy Story’,” he said. “They are actually solar powered so I try to get them in the best lighting so they bobble throughout the show.”
Williams explains the dolls on either end of the desk are positioned at angles for the cameras, and, pointing to Mickey Mouse, says, “Of course we have the boss in front – he’s never way in the back!”
Some fans don’t understand the time and care involved in proper bobblehead placing.
Studio operator Amanda Nolan, who is also an ESPN friends and family tour director said, “When I tell guests the bobbleheads are set up and put away every day, they’re surprised because there are so many. Most times they don’t believe me”.
Others are overtly aware of the dolls.
There’s the Oregon fan who has provided a paddle of ducks by sending a new one each time he notices the rose has broken off from his mascot’s hand. Then there were the countless Tweeters and e-mailers earlier this month who missed the collectibles when the set was bobblehead-less due to preparation for a promo shoot that day.
Video produced by Tonya Malinowski