Weekend Plans With ESPN's Sean McDonough: Air Travel, Double Duty, 18 Holes
Now that both the NFL and college football seasons are in full swing, ESPN announcer SEAN MCDONOUGH is spending more days in airports and hotel rooms, and less at his suburban Boston home. This is the first year that ESPN Radio has held rights to broadcast NFL games, adding an extra event to McDonough’s schedule each week. This week he will call UCLA-Nebraska at 12:00pm ET on Saturday, and Vikings-Bears at 1:00pm on Sunday. While there will be a lot of hustle and bustle, McDonough finds layovers and plane rides to be the best opportunity to brush up on his game notes.
PREPARATION IS KEY: Ordinarily, I would travel to the game site on Thursday, but I have some really close friends in Nebraska so I’m going a little bit earlier than usual to spend a little time with them and sneak in a round of golf before I try to hunker down. Sometimes, depending on the schedule, we’d go to practice on Thursday for the home team and on Friday we meet with the home team in person -- their players their coaches. We will meet with the head coach, the offensive coordinator, the defensive coordinator and usually a handful of the best players or the best talkers among the players on the home team.
SEASONED TRAVELER TIPS: I just did go through the process of applying for global entry (a U.S. Customs and Border Protection program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved travelers), which is a good way to go if you travel all the time, and so that makes it a little bit easier to get through these airports now that have TSA Pre. That’s really a great time saver and convenience factor for anybody who travels all the time. Most of my time spent on the plane or at the airports is preparing for the game that I’m heading to. I spend my time reading the newspaper clippings the team sends us and the media guides and the game notes and the information ESPN Research sends us. Almost all my time in the actual travel part of this is spent preparing for the different games. Then I find that when I get to the game site and I hunker down a little bit, I get more done than I do with the distractions at home. It’s always a little easier to prepare sometimes when you’re in the solitude of the hotel.
STRONG MIND AND BODY: On gamedays I usually get up very early. Invariably there’s still more stuff you want to read, or there’s one more DVD of a game these teams have played you haven’t finished watching. And I find I get more done in the morning. Once you get past a certain part of the evening I start to doze off, so I try to get to bed early the night before the game and get up early. That’s easy for me. I’m not a real early morning person ordinarily, but the excitement of gameday makes it easy to get up. I still get very excited about these games and how fortunate I am to have the opportunity to do them. I’ll either go for a run or hit the treadmill depending on how much time I have, and what the weather like. It’s good to clear your mind a little bit, and getting a little bit of exercise on gameday helps your energy level.
THE FINAL COUNTDOWN: The Nebraska game is Saturday, it’s an early local kickoff, 11:00am Lincoln time. We leave in time to get to the stadium about two hours before game time because there’s a lot of stuff you’ve got to do once you get there. Usually, the producers and director want to show you some elements that may show up in the broadcast -- graphics, video elements that they’re going to roll in. Then you’re meeting with the sports information directors of each team one last time just to have them answer any last-minute questions that might come up and go over all the pronunciations of the names. I also try to go see the radio announcers for each of the two schools and go over the names with them since they tend to be the foremost experts as they announce them every week. It’s a pretty busy two hours once we get there. Some people like to get there early and hang around the booth, but I find that I get more done sitting in the hotel because once you get there people are coming in and out and dropping by to say hello and it just gets a little harder to get much done beyond what you need to get done.
QUICK TURNAROUND: This week I will be flying right out from the game, actually Omaha to Chicago, for the NFL game that I’m doing on Sunday. I’ll get to Chicago at a reasonable hour, but I’m just going to go the hotel and probably get room service and hunker down because I’ll want to start reviewing my charts and reviewing all my materials for the NFL game. It’s hard when you have two games in one week, and football’s the hardest to prepare for of all the sports that I do. There are just so many players on each team. I tell people it’s like studying for a test every week. You’re trying to figure out how the teams are going to play, what the strategy is going to be and of course you want to know all the players, what interesting biographical stories there are about the coaches and players and issues that are relevant for that team at that time. We’ll get there in this case probably three hours before the game, do the game, then hustle to the airport and fly home Sunday night.
FOR THE LOVE OF THE GAME: During football season, if I can, I pretty much give myself Monday off. If I can sneak in a round of golf on Monday I generally will, and hope to this coming Monday. I’m actually the chairman of the membership committee at Boston Golf Club, which is a relatively new course, just about a decade old. It’s in Hingham, the town I grew up in, about 15 miles south of downtown Boston. I have some friends I probably play with a little more than others. I enjoy the guys I play with regularly but some of the fun is the variety too. When you spend four hours with somebody on a golf course, you see them in a variety of different situations and I think you really learn about them as people -- how they handle what they perceive to see as stress or how they react to good moments and bad moments and just see their personality. It’s one of the reasons I love golf: because it’s fun and I love to compete but at the same time it’s a great way to get to know people.