ESPN is celebrating the 50th season of Monday Night Football this fall, including the music that has been synonymous with the series since the 1970s.
“Heavy Action” – with its unmistakable “Da, Da, Da, Da” open – was created by British composer Johnny Pearson. Each week, ESPN is using local musicians in the MNF host cities to play the iconic theme coming back from a commercial break during the game.
So far, performers have included Washboard Chaz and Tin Men at The Spotted Cat nightclub in New Orleans, and keyboardist Gabriel Aldort at Grand Central Station in New York. Tonight, the Redskins Marching Band will be featured on the National Mall near the U.S. Capitol during the Chicago Bears versus Washington Redskins telecast (8 p.m. ET, ESPN). Next week will feature the Pittsburgh Steeline near Heinz Field.
Associate producer Audra Leimberg – in her fourth MNF season and eighth year with ESPN – is responsible for this piece of content, among others, and it requires a great deal of collaboration and logistics for everything to come together weekly. With direction from MNF director Jimmy Platt, Leimberg works closely with associate director Laura Shaw and ESPN’s music operations supervisor Joanne Strange. Leimberg shoots the piece with camera operator Mike Montoya and edits with Jim Dove.
“Jimmy is really good about combining non-football elements with football into the show, and this is a creative way to showcase the city we’re in and tie in a little MNF flavor,” says Leimberg. “It’s Jimmy’s vision and I just try to bring it to life.”
Leimberg draws great satisfaction – both professionally and personally – from seeing the 12-second music piece make air each week. “This assignment allows me to see the country and meet local people in cities that I wouldn’t otherwise see, and one of the coolest rewards of it is these people are texting me the minute they make air because they are so excited.”
She adds: “In just 12 seconds, these musicians, their families and friends are people I can make happy each week, so it’s particularly fulfilling.”