Tonight in San Diego, SportsCenter coordinating producer Missy Motha and anchor Steve Levy will report to their respective stations at Qualcomm Stadium for another Monday Night Football telecast.
Levy will watch much of the Chicago Bears at San Diego Chargers game (ESPN, 8:30 p.m. ET) from the MNF bus or a production truck, while Motha will be inside another nearby production truck. Eventually, Levy will take his place on the sidelines; Motha will speak to him in his earpiece and he will reply via wireless mic.
Tonight’s surroundings are familiar to both, as they were part of the ESPN production team at Qualcomm on Oct. 12 when the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Chargers, 24-20, on the final play of the game. With four of the last five MNF games going down to the wire, their work is anything but routine.
Motha and Levy represent the SportsCenter remote team that – after the game – works with Monday Night Countdown analysts Trent Dilfer, Ray Lewis and Steve Young to provide instant, live-from-the-field analysis. What comes across as a seemingly relaxed on-site, postgame presentation on air is actually anything but that.
“The 10-to-20 minutes postgame, it’s a high. It’s crazy. It’s high pressure, but it’s fun,” said Motha, a Syracuse grad in her 19th year at ESPN.
Their second season of working together at MNF games, Motha – who most nights oversees the 6 p.m. ET SportsCenter in Bristol, Conn. – and Levy, in his 22nd year with ESPN, have a chemistry based on trust and mutual respect.
“I’ve been calling her my American Express card. I ‘don’t leave home without her,’” Levy said, referencing the credit company’s famous advertising slogan.
“I think Missy knows she can count on me when things get crazy, trying to reel in our rather flamboyant analysts. And I know that in crunch time, I can count on Missy to make sure I’m getting the right information.”
“Levy and I work together – and we’ll disagree sometimes,” Motha said. “But I love the collaboration.”
Motha also enjoys the pace of her job.
– Missy Motha
In the span of three days in early October, she managed to produce SportsCenter at the MNF game in Seattle, a SportsCenter remote on Tuesday before ESPN’s MLB Wild Card at Yankee Stadium, and then helped with MMA star Ronda Rousey’s SportsCenter anchor debut in Bristol on Wednesday.
Motha had been producing the 11 p.m. SportsCenter early in 2014 when the show’s brass decided there was a need to have someone on-site at MNF.
“We don’t just do the highlights,” Motha said. “We try to hit the big issues. I’ll plan a whole show today not knowing what’s going to happen” and the eventual direction the postgame will go.
During the game, Motha and Levy will determine which SportsCenter headlines he will preview from the sidelines during his 30-second window at the two-minute warning.
Together, they will consider what storylines the analysts should discuss in the typical 20-minute postgame that segues into the midnight SportsCenter with Scott Van Pelt.
When the postgame SportsCenter begins, Levy plays ringmaster to the analysts rapid-fire discussion.
However, even the best-laid plans change in an instant. After the dramatic conclusion of the Steelers-Chargers game on Oct. 12, Motha and Levy had to change their postgame playbook on the fly.
Fortunately, Steelers public relations provided the game’s hero, running back Le’Veon Bell, for an on-field interview that was perfectly timed to the SportsCenter breakdown of the winning score.
In spite of it all, Motha loves her job and the challenges it presents.
“It’s really grueling, but cool.”