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Journalism Showcase: To Commemorate “The Play’s” 40th Anniversary, E60’s “The Band is on the Field” Tells Many Tales

Show producers traveled six months to conduct 40 interviews about college football's wackiest 23 seconds, Cal's awe-inspiring final play 1982 "Big Game" victory over Stanford (and the Cardinal band)

It’s a play many have seen repeatedly, but most never knew what was happening behind the scenes. This Sunday, E60’s “The Band is on the Field” will take viewers on a historic journey into the 1982 “Big Game” between Cal and Stanford, but from a new perspective.

“This story has always been about Stanford trombone player Gary Tyrrell and Cal football’s Kevin Moen,” said Michael Sciallo, the film’s producer. “There were so many other experiences from that day that people didn’t have the chance to tell.”

Sciallo and co-producer Simon Baumgart traveled the country for six months and collected stories from Cal and Stanford players, coaches, band members, announcers, mascots, officials, and former students. Forty interviews later, and with the help of the film’s directors of photography Logan Cascia and Shane Seibel, along with editor Sam Nicodemo, viewers get to experience one of the wildest finishes in college football, but from a new viewpoint (see behind-the-scenes photos in the gallery below).

“Every time you watch the play, you notice something completely different,” said Baumgart. “Everyone we spoke to led us to someone else, which resulted in some crazy, crazy stories.”

Even though it wasn’t a winning story for everyone – after all, Cal beat Stanford, 25-20, thanks to five laterals on the final play kickoff return – Baumgart and Sciallo didn’t have trouble interviewing Stanford alums. There was still some bitterness.

“A lot of the Stanford alumni believe that the knee [of Cal ballcarrier Dwight Garner] was down, that it was a [illegal] forward lateral, and almost every one of them said the exact same thing. You could tell they were happy to have been a part of this project, but also the actual play itself because of its history,” said Baumgart.

“A great example is when we posted about the film on the E60 Twitter [feed], and Stanford responded with, ‘His knee was down.’ I think that’s the attitude today, as they still deal with the memory,” said Sciallo.

Stanford’s official Twitter response to E60’s tweet regarding the upcoming episode. (E60 Twitter)

The 23-second moment represents more than just a fantastic football finish. In the end, the lesson is universal: The game is never over.

“I remember Cal football alumnus Richard Rodgers telling us that he shows this play to his new players as a lesson to never give up,” said Sciallo, referring to one of Cal’s kickoff return heroes who now is a Washington Commanders assistant coach. “This was a similar theme with a lot of the people we spoke with.”

“The Band is on the Field,” reported by Jeremy Schaap, debuts on Sunday, Nov. 13 (1 p.m. ET on ESPN and ESPN+).

For more about this episode of E60, visit ESPN Press Room

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