(Because the Redskins produce the preseason games in-house, I thought this might offer a good opportunity to watch the entire production of a game, from the advance production work it all the way through to the actual broadcast. At Redskins Park, I’ve been meeting with producer Brad Baker. And part 2.)
When I watched the behind-the-scenes of player introductions, one of the things that struck me as slightly funny was the game officials grabbing PR director Will Norman and arguing with him over a minute’s difference in the start time of the game. It seemed like a relatively small thing to me, and it felt strange that so much time was spent arguing over it.
“Oh, man, a minute is incredibly valuable on TV,” says Brad Baker. “That’s a tremendous amount of time.”
This question has resurfaced because the Carolina Panthers do their preseason pregame a little differently from other NFL teams, and it’s wreaking havoc on Brad’s scheduling for the opening to the TV broadcast. He calls producer Rich Wolff to explain.
“I haven’t gotten the full timeline yet,” he says, “but Zack [Bolno, executive director of communications] did send me the anthem time and the coin flip time, and we’ve got a little problem in that the anthem is going to happen at 7:32.”
Wolff understands the implication immediately, and he’s not happy about it: the broadcast is scheduled to begin at 7:30, with an open and graphics that take just about 1:45 to run, which means they’ll essentially be going to a live feed just as the anthem begins. And part of not speaking over the anthem includes not having your broadcasters declaiming about the game in loud voices over the anthem.
“The only thing that comes to mind,” Brad says, “is that we might have to tape the open.”
Neither one likes this idea. At all. Both of these guys take a tremendous amount of pride in their work, and a major point of producing a live television program is that it’s, well, live. They explore various options, trying to use as little pre-recorded footage as possible — just taping Kelli Johnson’s segment, or Brett Haber’s — but none of these option seem satisfactory.
“If we tape it,” Brad says to me, “you’re looking at shots of empty stands and very few players on the field.”
The only option that sounds remotely appealing is trying to move the anthem time itself, which strikes me as a mighty dramatic solution to the problem.
“I actually got the kickoff time for our home game moved,” Brad says. “It had to go through the owner and everyone, but it happened. If I can get more stuff into the open, why not? Also, this is what it was when we did the preseason games last year, so it wasn’t such a dramatic change.”
With that in mind, he calls the Panthers’ staff … and gets voicemail. He leaves a message explaining the situation, hangs up the phone, and turns to me, shrugging. “It’s Wednesday, late in the morning. If they don’t get back to me by this afternoon,” he says, “I guess we have to go with plan B.”
As always, I’m happy to bring any questions you have to the people involved. So if you have any questions for Brad, Mike Patrick, or Joe Theismann — please let me know, either via email or in the comments.