ICYMI The Week on Front Row PLUS: Kids had better be good for goodness — and Ditka Claus’ — sake

For the past five years, NFL analyst Mike Ditka has participated in a holiday-inspired feature on ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown pregame show (Sundays, 10 a.m. ET). In 2012, he was “Ebenezer Ditka,” a role based on the Ebenezer Scrooge character in the Charles Dickens classic “A Christmas Carol.”

This time on Sunday NFL Countdown, the Hall of Fame Chicago Bears player and coach will play the role of “Ditka Claus.” Under the direction of associate producers Chad Minutillo and Susan Frentz, “Ditka Claus” captures the dueling emotions of disappointment and eventual exhilaration by some unsuspecting youngsters (ages 3-9) who watch Santa judge them for being naughty or nice in 2013.

Jason Romano, senior manager of ESPN Social Media, used the @ESPNNFL Twitter feed to enlist the help of families from around the country to participate in the feature with Ditka. Once the supporting cast was secured, Minutillo and Frentz taped 20 or so decisions by Ditka with a panel of elves.

Each child watched with his or her parents as “Ditka Claus” put them on the naughty list and denied Christmas gifts for this year. The parents then recorded the reactions of their children as Ditka Claus delivered the news that they were in fact getting gifts from Santa. The videos, shared with Countdown producers, will be prominently featured in the segment.

“The valuable and charming part of the piece is the reaction when these young kids found out ‘Ditka Claus’ was still going to give them a gift,” said Greg Jewell, Countdown‘s coordinating producer.

By Mac Nwulu

Ditka wasn’t the only ESPN football analyst moonlighting as St. Nick:

ICYMI: Highlights from the past week on Front Row

Outside the Lines was honored with ESPN’s first-ever Alfred I. duPont Award. ESPN executives, reporters and producers share their thoughts on the significance of winning the award.

• ESPN’s Injury Analysis Engine helps Stephania Bell add an extra dimension to her video reports. Learn more about the touchscreen and its capabilities.

• Wednesday’s on-air lineup offered a small sample of ESPN’s strong roster of female commentators.

• ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap shared his excitement as Disney secured the movie rights to his 2007 book, “Triumph: The Untold Story of Jesse Owens and Hitler’s Olympics.”

Row of Four
Our favorites from across ESPN over the past week

• From ESPN Ombudsman Robert Lipsyte: Answering questions about Cox interview

• Plenty of holiday cheer to be found in ESPN’s latest collection of humorous images

• By Alyssa Roenigk: Kurt Caselli’s last ride

• Enjoy an array of photos from the ESPN Images’ Images of the Week.

Back to top button