Sean McDonough’s first MNF call in Foxborough tonight an emotional homecoming

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Tonight’s Monday Night Football game – the Baltimore Ravens versus the New England Patriots (8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN) – has special significance to ESPN’s Sean McDonough.

In fact, this particular game means so much to him, he’s had the date circled on his calendar since he was offered the MNF play-by-play job some seven months ago.

It will be a very emotional experience thinking about all of those fun days in Foxborough as a youth, and thinking about how awesome my father would think it is that his son is behind the MNF microphone, particularly for a Patriots’ home game. – Sean McDonough

McDonough’s father, Will, was a legendary sports writer for The Boston Globe and a pioneer as one of the first print journalists to work on television – first hired by CBS and later by NBC. The Globe’s first Patriots beat reporter when the franchise debuted in the American Football League in 1960, the elder McDonough covered the Pats and the NFL for more than 40 years.

Before calling his first Patriots home game on MNF tonight, McDonough spoke with Front Row about the significance of the game and why he will be thinking of his dad.

“I spent so much time during my childhood in the old stadium attending Patriots games while my Dad covered them. My father’s association with the Patriots dated back to the very beginning of the franchise in 1960, before I was born.

We learned a lot about life, and a few new words, as we watched those games, surrounded by some true characters who were die-hard Patriots fans, even when the team wasn’t very good. – McDonough on watching Patriots games during his childhood with his siblings and other fans in the stands

“It will be a very emotional experience thinking about all of those fun days in Foxborough as a youth, and thinking about how awesome my father would think it is that his son is behind the MNF microphone, particularly for a Patriots’ home game. As a proud Bostonian and New Englander, it doesn’t get much better than this for me. The fact that it is a game between two first-place teams who have developed a great and significant rivalry makes it that much more exciting.

“I don’t have a singular favorite memory of going to the Patriots home games with my Dad. Every trip down to Foxborough was special. Spending time with Dad on the ride to and from the stadium. The anticipation of the game and what might happen that day.

“My brother Terry, sister Erin and I would sit up in Section 316 (which would qualify as a “nosebleed section” in the old Schaefer/Sullivan/Foxboro Stadium), while my Dad was in the press box. We learned a lot about life, and a few new words, as we watched those games, surrounded by some true characters who were die-hard Patriots fans, even when the team wasn’t very good. Going to Patriots games as a kid, and watching Monday Night Football on TV with my Dad, are some of the best and most vivid memories of my childhood.”

Foxborough welcomes more ESPN NFL talent home tonight
Matt Hasselbeck (L) and Randy Moss, two of  Monday Night Countdown's NFL analysts, each will have memories of life in Foxborough, Mass., rekindled tonight. (Joe Faraoni/ESPN Images)
Matt Hasselbeck (L) and Randy Moss, two of Monday Night Countdown’s NFL analysts, each will have memories of life in Foxborough, Mass., rekindled tonight.
(Joe Faraoni/ESPN Images)

Tonight’s MNF game is a homecoming for Sean McDonough and two other members of ESPN’s NFL team – Monday Night Countdown studio analysts Matt Hasselbeck and Randy Moss. Both will be part of pregame coverage beginning at 6 p.m.

Hasselbeck’s father, Don [see Matt’s vintage tweet of his dad’s photo below], played tight end for the Patriots during his NFL career. A native of Norfolk, Mass., Hasselbeck grew up going to his dad’s games in New England and he recently moved back to the Boston area with his family after joining ESPN this season.

Said Hasselbeck: “I’m excited to be working Monday night’s game not only because of two first place teams facing off but also because the game is in Foxborough. Growing up as the son of a Patriots player, I spent countless hours playing and working at Schaefer Stadium, Sullivan Stadium, and finally Foxboro Stadium. I’m looking forward to a great atmosphere and great game this Monday night at what we now call Gillette Stadium.”

Moss is obviously a former Patriots player. He spent more than three seasons (2007-10) with the organization, including 2007 when he helped lead the Patriots to an undefeated regular-season (16-0) and an appearance in Super Bowl XLII.

He shares fond memories, recalling the time he spent with the organization and the chance they took on him in the latter part of his career: “They showed me a lot. They were able to bring me in without knowing what player they were getting. They didn’t know if I still had it in me or not. . . [Patriots owner] Mr. [Robert] Kraft embraced me with open arms, as did Bill [Belichick, Patriots head coach] and the rest of the team. They gave me a chance to do something I love to do – play football. They also gave me a chance to be part of a team.”

Of course, going back to Foxborough isn’t all good news for ESPN’s NFL team.

Monday Night Football’s Jon Gruden and Countdown’s Charles Woodson, the former Oakland Raiders head coach and defensive back, respectively, suffered arguably the toughest loss of their NFL careers at Gillette Stadium – a 2002 AFC Playoff defeat to the Patriots in the snow in the infamous “Tuck Rule” game.

Tune in to ESPN’s coverage tonight and both are sure to discuss this in addition to the more positive memories that McDonough, Hasselbeck and Moss will share.

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