Behind The ScenesNFL

Weekend double duty for Sal Pal means long days and nights

Reporter Sal Paolantonio and producer Jim Johnson prep for a long day and night in Philadelphia on Saturday as they meet in the Temple Owls locker room at Lincoln Financial Field.

(Dan Johnson)
(Dan Johnson)

Sal thought that he would never see
Why Kirk Cousins took a knee
Or why Belichick, a coach who’s best
Would kick to start Sunday’s OT test

Apologies to Joyce Kilmer, best known for the poem “Trees,” but perhaps more popular for the Joyce Kilmer Service Area on the northbound New Jersey Turnpike between Exits 8A and 9.

“As long as the Joyce Kilmer rest stop was open for business – which it was — I was good to go,” SportsCenter reporter Sal Paolantonio said of his oasis between Saturday night’s Redskins-Eagles game in Philadelphia and Sunday afternoon’s Patriots-Jets game in East Rutherford, N.J. “Sunoco and Starbucks, the Twin Goddesses of the New Jersey Turnpike.”

Sal Pal’s weekend began with a live shot at 10 a.m. ET Saturday, a day which ended more than 15 hours later near 1:30 a.m. Sunday after the Redskins won despite quarterback Kirk Cousins mistakenly taking a knee in the final seconds of the first half as the clock ran out on his team.

He was up and at it again a few hours later, driving past the JKSA to MetLife Stadium for a 9:15 a.m. report before the Jets OT win after Belichick elected to kick off after winning the OT coin flip, a move Paolantonio had never seen before.

“Even the smartest guy in the room sometimes outsmarts himself,” he reported.

While two separate camera crews were utilized, producer Jim Johnson was with Paolantonio throughout the two-day of assignments.

“Everybody seems to know Sal, especially in Philadelphia — all of the security guards and groundskeepers stopped him to say hello and former Super Bowl MVP Doug Williams [a Redskins executive] came over to greet him,” Johnson said. “At the Meadowlands, [Jets receiver] Brandon Marshall came over to say hi to Sal shortly after taking the field for warmups. Game referee Clete Blackman introduced himself and had a pregame visit. At both venues, Sal stopped to have his picture taken by fans, and signed autographs.”

All in a day’s, night’s, day’s and night’s work.

“I had to be there in Philly on Saturday night for the final chapter of what I call ‘Chip’s [Eagles head coach Chip Kelly] year of living dangerously,’” Paolantonio said. “I didn’t want to miss Sunday NFL Countdown the next morning. Solution? Do BOTH games!”

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