During tonight’s Monday Night Football matchup between the Dolphins and the Saints (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, ESPN Deportes and WatchESPN), fans may see someone on the sideline with a uniform different than the rest. Instead of a helmet, a fedora or beret usually sits atop his head; and instead of a football, he holds a brush in his hands. Who dat, you ask? It’s famed New Orleans artist Frenchy, a longtime friend of the MNF family.
Frenchy was first introduced to the ESPN crew in 2003 (when the network televised Sunday Night Football) after meeting producer Jay Rothman in the Big Easy. In the years since, he has traveled to more than a dozen ESPN NFL games – and he spent time at Super Bowl XLVII in his home city – to document the work that takes place on the field and behind the scenes.
In an exchange with Front Row, Frenchy recounts some of his favorite memories of ESPN and MNF:
In the time you’ve spent at MNF games, what have you learned about the crew?
The crew is one big family and they all are hardcore artists and professionals. It really is amazing the amount of work they do – from the semi drivers who get to the stadium first, then the laying out of the miles of cables that all connect to the cameras and the trailers, which are full of dozens of ESPN digital artists, from the production trailer, to the replay, graphics, sound, etc.
Which MNF game was your favorite to attend?
Well dat’s easy, our Saints first game back after Katrina (September 25, 2006, against the Atlanta Falcons)! The whole city was beaming with energy. Finally, there was something everyone could celebrate – the Saints back in the Superdome. I got to the stadium early that day, and when I walked onto the field, I began to cry. I thought I was alone, until I heard ‘It’s ok, French. I cried my first time back too.’ Surprised, I turned around and there was [Saints player] Steve Gleason stretching out in the end zone.
The stadium filled up with 70,000-plus screaming, loving, Saints fans that night. Steve blocked the punt in the first quarter (which resulted in a touchdown), and just like that, WE WERE BACK BABY! Words really can’t describe it. Awesome, just awesome.
How does painting during MNF games impact your work routine?
I wake up earlier that day, and try to get to the stadium by noon so I can see and hang with all the awesome MNF crew members. I usually create a behind-the-scenes production painting before game time, and if I’m lucky, I can catch a camera meeting. By the time I paint during the game, no matter if I’m on the sidelines, in one of the production trailers or in the broadcast booth, I am all super pumped up, like I have laser vision. My only hope is that my painting represents the energy of the football fans and the level of professionalism of the two teams playing, the producer, director and entire MNF crew bring to the world to enjoy.
Which MNF piece are you most proud of? Why?
My very first ESPN production painting, which was created during ESPN Sunday Night Football in Jacksonville back in 2003. I was sweating bullets. All the studying couldn’t prepare me for actually working during game time live in the trailer. I never experienced that feeling flow through me before. I was racing against the clock to finish my painting. It was AWESOME! Jay liked it so much, he showed it to the crew and I got a round of applause.
To see more of Frenchy’s ESPN and MNF paintings, please visit the ESPN Frenchy Collection.