There were a lot of speed references, even a mention about “jet engines.” There were eye-popping graphics highlighting out-of-this-world offensive numbers. The first five possessions of the game produced five touchdowns. There were 45 points scored in the first half.
“It’s going to be fun to see as we get this track meet slash football game started,” said CBS broadcaster Jim Nantz prior to the first snap of Sunday’s Buffalo Bills–Miami Dolphins showdown. At the end of a wild first quarter, Nantz pointed out that Miami had 18 touchdowns to five punts on the season.
“That’s not a real stat,” said partner Tony Romo, laughing. “You are supposed to punt a lot more.”
As I watched Buffalo’s 48-20 win over Miami, a game that produced more than 800 yards of total offense, I thought about how a broadcast prepares for endless speed and a ton of motion. CBS Sports producer Jim Rikhoff, who produced the game, said that the cadence of such a game leads to less pre-packaged material making air and being very judicious about how many replays to show during play.
“I think you’re more conservative as a production group when you have a team in a hurry-up or the game is going that quickly,” Rikhoff said he waited for his flight at Buffalo Niagara International Airport two hours after the game. “You end up relying on a first angle and maybe sometimes you’ll get two angles. But you might not get a third. So you really need to get a good look on a first replay. You end up waiting for a dead-ball opportunity to go back and chronicle a great moment. The rhythm of the game really dictates what we are doing in the truck.
“That first half for us was hold on to the reins and make sure you stay on the field and chronicle what was happening,” Rikhoff continued. “In the second half, we were able to pivot into a semi-blow-up scenario where things slow down and you can use all your production elements and pre-packaged stuff. The reality is you have to work a little harder as a production group in the second half because the game is controlling you in the first.”
Rikhoff described the crowd as a playoff atmosphere. He said the only time he has heard Highmark Stadium louder was when he was there for last January’s wild-card playoff game between the same two teams. The crowd was so loud on Sunday that the officials could not be heard often on calls, and Romo’s voice was occasionally drowned out. Rikhoff said there were microphone issues for the officials prior to the game, and they had to check repeatedly on their audio. The noise was so loud at times that Nantz occasionally had trouble hearing Rikhoff on the talk-back.
One interesting note from Rikhoff was about the production meetings. He said both Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel and Bills head coach Sean McDermott, though very different personalities, were extremely helpful for the host broadcaster.
“I would say McDermott is your classic head coach who gives you a lot of information you need,” Rikhoff said. “And Mike McDaniel is the only coach who has ever quoted Socrates in the middle of a production meeting that I have been in. He’s not your traditional head coach, but he’s fascinating to talk to. He’s a talker, and he and Tony talked for 45 minutes or so about schemes and offensive philosophy. As a football fan, it was fun to sit in on.”
What was the question that led to Socrates coming up?
Said Rikhoff: “We asked him about the 3-0 start and what he had learned from it and he said, ‘You know what? All I know is that I know nothing.’”
Bills’ championship window closing? We’ll see about that: Sando’s Pick Six
One of the terrific things about the current generation of NFL content providers (and consumers) is the explosion of smart NFL content. There is so much analysis and information that exists today featuring high-end and detailed All-22 breakdowns, data trends, analytics, and other things to inform the consumer. I was curious who my followers on social media were consuming on the subject of who makes them smarter football fans. I got back far more answers than I expected, and I’ll link it here for those interested in becoming a smarter football fan.
This of course is subjective but who is your singular smartest/most trusted/most interesting person in the NFL media space who specializes in analytics and interesting data that makes you a smarter football fan? Medium does not matter. Thanks in advance.
— Richard Deitsch (@richarddeitsch) September 29, 2023
As part of a column designed to give you a little background on the intersection of the NFL and the media, I was curious how the behind-the-scenes people for Fox’s broadcast of the Kansas City Chiefs’ game against the Chicago Bears last week approached a broadcast where one of the most famous people on the planet was at Arrowhead Stadium sitting in a suite next to the mother of one of the best tight ends in NFL history.
SBJ’s Austin Karp frequently updates which NFL teams have drawn the highest local ratings. Through Week 3 of the 2023 season, Buffalo had averaged a 43.5 local rating, tops among all teams. They were followed by Kansas City (42.4) and New Orleans (35.8).
Smaller television markets often have the highest ratings. Keep in mind, this is different than total viewers in a market. On the subject of local markets, check out this chart from Nielsen that shows how many more people in the Denver market (ranked No. 16 in the U.S. in market size) are watching Colorado Buffaloes football this season.
This clip from the NFL give you a sense of how impressive it is to animate a sporting event in real time:
Wembley Stadium vs. Andy’s room.
📺: ESPN+/Disney+ pic.twitter.com/9SejXHrpG3
— NFL (@NFL) October 1, 2023
On Sunday the Jacksonville Jaguars and Atlanta Falcons game from London had a Toy Story-themed broadcast offered on ESPN+. It won’t be the last time ESPN and Disney team up for this. Sports Video Group’s Kristian Hernández provided a detailed look on how such a production comes together.
NFL historian Kevin Gallagher sent out an eight-minute clip last week of the second-ever Monday Night Football broadcast — Chiefs at Colts on Sept. 28, 1970. Howard Cosell interviewing Len Dawson and Johnny Unitas, cigarette ads, and the great pipes of Keith Jackson. Just phenomenal.
The second-ever regular-season installment of ABC’s Monday Night Football
Howard Cosell interviews the legendary field generals — Len Dawson and Johnny Unitas — discussing the possibility of a Super Bowl… pic.twitter.com/fd0J7hUSmR
— Kevin Gallagher (@KevG163) September 28, 2023
A personal indulgence: I was honored to guest edit “The Year’s Best Sports Writing 2023,”
Some things I read over the last week that were interesting to me (Note: There are a lot of paywalls here):
• How Adidas Outran Nike With Its $500 ‘Super Shoe.’ By Trefor Moss and Rachel Bachman of The Wall Street Journal.
• The $963 million Roman Abramovich art collection revealed. By Rob Davies and Jonathan Jones of The Guardian.
• Peak TV Is Over. A Different Hollywood Is Coming. By Amol Sharma and Joe Flint of The Wall Street Journal.
• The costs of Russia’s war are about to hit home. By The Economist.
• Damian Lillard’s Blazers legacy is secure, but what remains is worth celebrating. By Jason Quick of The Athletic.
• By Pete Croatto for the Sunday Long Read: Ron Luciano, baseball’s last celebrity umpire.
• Steph Curry, golfer and entrepreneur, plots his second act. By Marcus Thompson II of The Athletic.
• My boarding-school classmate was an aspiring doctor with money and good looks. How did he end up in prison for hiring a hit man? By Stephanie Clifford of The Marshall Project.
• The Athletic’s Hailey Salvian offered a tribute to Chris Snow, a data-forward Flames exec and former sports writer who used his platform to raise ALS awareness. He died over the weekend at 42.
Pam Oliver Q&A: On broadcasting longevity, what her job is like and Eagles fans
(Photo of the Bills celebrating a touchdown during Sunday’s game: Bryan M. Bennett / Getty Images)