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Volume 21 No. 1
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Calling the shots

Producers give some inside-the-truck perspective

The image of Packers quarterback Bart Starr sneaking over the goal line at Lambeau Field to win the 1967 Ice Bowl is part of NFL lore. It’s the same in the NBA with Knicks center Willis Reed limping out of the Madison Square Garden locker room to help his team win the 1970 NBA championship.

That history — now more than four decades old — has proved to be both a blessing and a curse to TV producers. While the history and mystique of these places allows for great television pictures, the older stadiums were not built with television in mind and the older infrastructure creates hiccups that TV producers don’t have to deal with at newer arenas.

SportsBusiness Journal asked five network producers to talk about their likes and dislikes around producing sports events today. And we asked them to share what’s on their “bucket list” of events to produce.

Bill Bell
Executive producer for live events
Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic

Photo by: Comcast SportsNet

For nearly three decades, Bell has produced games for the regional sports network in the Baltimore and Washington, D.C., markets. Bell now handles the RSN’s productions for the Washington Capitals, a team whose games he has produced since 1987.

First event in the truck: An Orioles game in 1986. “I was the stage manager for all the visiting baseball teams for the old Home Team Sports RSN.”

Favorite TV enhancement:
Super slo-mo. “These applications help us see things so much clearer.”

■ Favorite place to produce an event:
Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia. “This is easy for me because I’m from Philadelphia and grew up watching the Flyers at the Spectrum. Going back to Philly to do a game is a special treat for me. It makes me feel like a kid again.”

Most challenging place to produce an event:
Madison Square Garden. “They’ve done some renovations recently to improve things. But it’s always been a challenge. The building is very old and things don’t always work.”

Career highlight:
2000 Olympics. “I produced baseball at the Olympics where the U.S. team, led by Tommy Lasorda, won the gold.”

■ Bucket list:
Stanley Cup Final. “Having the ability to direct an Olympic hockey game would be an awesome accomplishment for me, too.”

Rob Hyland
Producer, horse racing and Notre Dame football
NBC Sports Group

Hyland directs singer Faith Hill while taping a previous opening for “Sunday Night Football.”
Photo by: NBC

A 16-year veteran with NBC Sports, Hyland is gearing up for the network’s Triple Crown races this spring. The owner of 13 Sports Emmy awards, Hyland has played a big part in NBC’s Olympic telecasts, producing the track and field events from London. He will produce the figure skating and short-track events from Sochi.

■ First event in the truck: Bull riding in 2000. “I was 25 years old and Tommy Roy gave me a shot to produce a bull riding event from Santa Anita, Calif. My analyst was Ty Murray, who was dating Jewel at the time. Jewel liked to watch Ty from the control room. So I had to produce my first event with Jewel sitting directly to my right.”

■ Favorite TV enhancement:
First-down line. “I don’t think anyone can watch an NFL game without the first-down line anymore.”

■ Favorite place to produce an event:
Churchill Downs. “The energy associated with the TV compound at Churchill Downs is unmatched. There’s a huge buzz to the day. As Derby day progresses, you hear this roar get louder and louder.”

■ Most challenging place to produce an event:
Churchill Downs. “With racing, in particular, there are so many variables you have to be prepared for. Each race has 20 horses, 20 jockeys, 20 trainers and 20 owners, and you have to keep track of them all.”

Career highlight:
Belmont Stakes, 2012. “I’ll Have Another was running for the Triple Crown. The day before the race, he scratched. We had built up this show around this horse being the first Triple Crown winner since 1978. We ended up re-doing the entire format for a three-hour telecast.”

Bucket list:
Opening ceremony for the Olympics. “I’d also love to produce prime-time NFL games.”

Mark Wolff
Coordinating producer
CBS Sports

Photo by: CBS

A TV veteran with 30 years of experience at CBS, Wolff worked his first Final Four this year. He worked with Jim Nantz and Clark Kellogg during the tournament and is paired with Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf on CBS’s NFL games.

First event in the truck: 1985 Buccaneers-Packers game at Lambeau Field. “Lynn Dickey led the Packers to a win over Steve Young and the Buccaneers in a snowstorm.”

Favorite TV enhancement: Super slo-mo replays. “In an HD world, it’s changed the way we see things and changed the ways officials call the games.”

Favorite place to produce an event: Allen Fieldhouse, University of Kansas. “There’s a mystique about these old stadiums, like Allen Fieldhouse, Cameron Indoor Stadium and Lambeau Field, that make them special. They have such great history and tradition.”

■ Most challenging place to produce an event: Cameron Indoor Stadium, Duke University. “Some of the older buildings can be difficult. Our announcers at Cameron don’t sit on the floor. They’re up in the catbird seat, like Johnny Most when he did Celtics games.”

Career highlight: Lillehammer Olympics, 1994. “From a storytelling perspective, Dan Jansen winning the gold medal at Lillehammer was a highlight. My list includes the 2000 Super Bowl, which was CBS’s first since it got the NFL rights back; the Elite Eight game this year when Kevin Ware broke his leg; and the Raiders-Patriots ‘Tuck Rule’ playoff game in 2001.”

Bucket list: Horse racing’s Triple Crown. “There’s a beauty and elegance to horse racing.”

Mike Muriano
Senior coordinating producer
NFL Networ
Photo by: NFL

Muriano has been with NFL Network since the network launched in 2003. His main responsibility is to oversee all remote studio production for the network, which means he oversees the pregame and postgame shows for NFL Network’s Thursday night schedule.

■ First event in the truck: A combination boxing match/horse race in New Jersey in 1994. “I was hired to be a production runner for CBS Sports in the summer of 1994. “The Flushing Flash” Kevin Kelley knocked out Georgie “Go Go” Navarro at the Atlantic City Race Course.

■ Favorite TV enhancement: Cable-cam. “The various incarnations of Cable-cam show a part of the game that had never before been seen.”

■ Favorite place to produce an event: Lambeau Field, Green Bay. “Any time we go to Green Bay, it’s such a cool thing that never gets lost on me. It is a unique place with such a feel of Americana. It’s an old stadium, but it’s been updated enough to make it easier to produce shows from there.”

■ Most challenging place to produce an event: Fawcett Stadium, Canton, Ohio. “We love the event. But the stadium, which usually hosts high school games, presents some challenges when we bring an entire show on the road.”

Career highlight: Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans. “Every year we get a little more aggressive with what we do around the Super Bowl. In New Orleans, we had sets at around 10 locations that were in use from the time the players arrived to well after the final whistle.”

■ Bucket list: Super Bowl halftime. “I’m fascinated by the timing, logistics and creative aspects of the event.”

Miguel Angel Garcia
Coordinating producer
Univision Deportes

Photo by: Univision

With more than 15 years of experience in TV production, Garcia oversees all live productions for Univision Deportes. Garcia’s résumé includes producing Mexican national soccer team games, in addition to NFL games and Summer Olympic events in 2008 and 2012.

■ First event in the truck: 2001 World Series. “I was helping out in the truck. I remember everyone was getting ready to celebrate when the Yankees were going to win. Those plans were scrapped when the Diamondbacks completed their comeback.”

■ Favorite TV enhancement: The 360-degree view. “It’s particularly helpful in soccer to see if a player was offsides. The 360-degree view helps us to see the details of a play and bring it back to the viewer.”

■ Favorite place to produce an event: Estadio Azteca. “This stadium … holds 105,000 people, screaming and yelling throughout the game. It’s a great atmosphere.”

■ Most challenging place to produce an event: Candlestick Park. “Any stadium can be challenging. Nobody expected the lights to go out at the Super Bowl, but they did. Of course, Cowboys Stadium is state-of-the-art compared to Candlestick Park, which has a few more challenges. At the end of the day, anything can happen anywhere.”

■ Career highlight: USA vs. Mexico matches. “The history and rivalry between these two is unmatched in this area. We spend weeks in advance interviewing coaches and players. We look forward to producing these games because of the expectations around them.”

■ Bucket list: Super Bowl. “So many different elements are part of this broadcast, it’s something I’d like to produce.”