Though it’s only April, ESPN’s Monday Night Football crew can hear its theme song a little more clearly today.
With the preseason schedule now determined, folks are already springing into action in anticipation of that very first game in August.
Senior Operations Manager Steve Carter begins the preparation process by looking at mileage — where the trucks are going and the time it takes to get them there.
Then, his team contacts each facility to find out what might have changed since ESPN’s last visit. Sometimes there are updates to the stadium — such as new camera positions or lighting — that impact the telecast.
In other cases, events might be happening at the stadium or in nearby areas when ESPN’s crew will be in town. Being a guest in someone else’s house, Carter and team take pride not only in being prepared, but in being respectful visitors.
Next, the crew dives into the specifics. The travel team books hotel rooms, the operations team reaches out to vendors — everything from caterers to equipment and generators to Porta Johns — and production begins to build the show, taking into account personnel, cameras and new technology.
No matter what challenges lie ahead, Carter puts unwavering faith in this crew.
“That’s one of the easy parts. I’m confident they’ll be able to handle everything we throw at them.”
He has the proof to back it up.
During the preseason in 2007, ESPN’s fleet of trucks was headed from a Monday game in San Francisco to Kansas City for a Thursday game. On the way, one of the trucks — the one Carter refers to as the “heart and soul” because it is the hub for replays, audio and video — got caught in a 32-vehicle accident outside of Salt Lake City.
In the face of distress, Carter said the team had potential solutions ready.
“I knew we had the expertise to do it. Even though it was stressful — and it may not have looked pretty on the side of the truck — I knew we were going make air.”
Despite the accident, that particular truck got to Kansas City more than three hours ahead of its initially scheduled arrival time. Luckily for the crew, the damage didn’t affect any critical components of the truck and ESPN televised the game as planned.
“I never ever recall [the crew] complaining about some aspect of it,” Carter said. “This is what we do.”