When, say, Detroit Lions All-Pro wide receiver Calvin Johnson is in the end zone tonight on Monday Night Football (8:25 p.m. ET, ESPN, ESPN Deportes and WatchESPN), fighting for the ball against Baltimore Ravens’ defenders and there is doubt about whether or not it’s a touchdown, it becomes the job of ESPN’s replay director Aladdin Freeman to help answer the question: Did he score?
Huddled in a production truck, Freeman oversees ESPN’s team of about 15 people who operate the EVS machines that record and play back game footage in an instant from 28 game cameras.
When selecting a replay, Freeman’s immediate goal is to present the very best look first. He pays careful attention to direction from MNF producer Jay Rothman and ensures commentators Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden see what they need to see.
“You have to decipher what are we going to use, where the producer wants to go and what actually happened,” Freeman explains.
With so many visuals to process, Freeman relies on his knowledge of camera locations, the specific position of monitors in the truck and his skilled crew to make quick decisions. His ability to stay calm during crucial moments is also a must.
“You don’t want peaks and valleys,” he says. “This is not poker. This is not the real estate market. You just want to be flat lined – calm – and handle those big situations.”
EVS operator Leslie Katz, a key member of Freeman’s team, has been putting together replays for ESPN NFL telecasts since 1998. She understands the importance of listening to Freeman and the many other voices in the truck providing direction, yet also knows she and fellow EVS operators have a responsibility to take initiative.
“You can’t really sit back because something might get missed, and you might have the key angle on the play they’re looking for,” Katz says.
No matter the matchup, Freeman and this group prepare for every MNF game with the same intensity.
“This show is unbelievable. Every week it’s like a Super Bowl,” he says.