All across the country, and it happens on every given Sunday, the addiction that is the NFL will leave fans and viewers breathless and emotionally spent, hearts racing, almost as if they can hear the soundtrack of Jack Buck calling Kirk Gibson’s walkoff home run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series:
“I don’t believe what I just saw!”
The first one to see it is Scott Hanson, who has been the first one to see it as host of NFL RedZone for 14 years. He cannot hazard a guess as to which of the Week 3 games will turn him into a caffeinated energizer bunny without the aid of coffee, he just knows that something dramatic and compelling will somewhere.
“That’s the beauty of it,” Hanson told Serby Says by phone. “Our NFL staff has a production meeting two hours before showtime. We go through every game, and we always joke, ‘The game that seems like it’s the worst matchup on paper is the one that’s gonna be 45-42 with a walk-off touchdown as the clock hits zero. And it often proves to be the case.”
NFL RedZone is a subscription channel on which Hanson hosts as the coverage shifts from one game to the next — based on which team is about to score, or which game just had a big play, no clicker required. It operates much the same as the DirecTV version hosted by Andrew Siciliano, The Red Zone Channel.
“I’ve got 13 games this weekend, I try and know facts and stats and storylines for every game,” Hanson said. “But I hold those games with loose hands, because one of those games is gonna step up, or three of those games is gonna step up and make us just all howl in the studio like you guys are howling on your couches at home, and it can be any one of ’em.”
Hanson was like most Week 2 football fans riding seesaws of disbelief and incredulity as the Jets in Cleveland, the Cardinals in Las Vegas, the Dolphins in Baltimore all snatched improbable, comeback victories from the jaws of defeat … though even the legion of bettors and fantasy football managers couldn’t possibly have been more glued to what unfolded than he was.
“I’m like looking like I’m in a middle linebacker stance,” Hanson said. “I’m bent over, my knees are bent, my face is about 12 inches from the monitor, I’m like, ‘What is going to happen?’ My eyeballs are bouncing around, in this case three different locations where we have ridiculous finishes. I’m kinetic in the studio. I rock back and forth — in fact I’m standing up right now during this interview to kind of remember what it was like. I have a researcher and a spotter who are literally just a few feet away from me, and they just laugh all the time. I’m rocking back and forth, I’m moving, I’m grabbing their shoulders, like pounding on their shoulder when something big happens like, ‘Could you believe this guys?’ That’s just me, that’s the way I am.”
And when it ended?
“I even did this on camera. I had to take a large breath in and exhale,” Hanson said. “It was spontaneous, it was natural, but it was necessary. I needed to take a deep breath, and just shake my head and say, ‘This game delivers drama, excitement, thrills, unexpected moments unlike anything in not only our sporting lives, but in our day-to-day lives. Just jaw-dropping.”
As never before.
“We have a group text among the ‘NFL RedZone’ hierarchy, if you will, and I texted a guy that night,” Hanson said. “I said, ‘Guys, I’m calling my shot. This was the most dramatic football in the first two weeks of any season in the 14-year history of NFL RedZone.’ ”
Cleveland: “The combination of complete disbelief … of amazement. … I guess to capture the insanity of all of it, I guess you could probably hear that in my call, that I couldn’t believe what I was watching,” Jets play-by-player Bob Wischusen said, adding with a chuckle, “But also I have to admit, there was an emotional release of: It’s been a while since they’ve had a result like that.”
And when it ended?
“Drained is a good way to put it, but also an immediate recognition that the calls that I made are probably gonna get some attention, because how could they not? It was definitely an exhausting experience and I told a couple of people I can’t imagine what it was like to play or coach in that game.”
Las Vegas: “It was shocking to say the least,” Cardinals play-by-player Dave Pasch said.
And when it ended, did he feel drained?
“No. I was energized. I was fired up, man. I could have called a whole ’nother game. I was all jacked up going on adrenaline. I was ready for more — 21st year with the Cardinals, and about two decades with ESPN, this was a new one. But it’s why you pay a quarterback [Kyler Murray] $230 million, he can do things that no one else can, and we saw that on display.”
Baltimore: “When it started to happen, it felt like have you ever been in a kitchen, and you’re having a glass of water on the counter, and you bump it and it starts to fall to the ground and all of a sudden it feels like it’s going in slow motion and you can’t quite get to it? That’s what the fourth quarter felt like,” Ravens play-by-player Gerry Sandusky said.
And when it ended?
“It’s a helluva lot more fun to call than a 3-0 game, I’ll tell you that. What makes it so exciting is that it’s just so wildly unpredictable. … Seventy-thousand people could literally feel the energy shift. For three quarters it’s all Ravens and it’s a great day, the sun’s shining, life is great, and then something happens. It would be like being in the ocean and the surf starts going out instead of coming in, but really fast. It’s fun to be on the front range of the unpredictable.”
“I’ve never seen anything like it in 18 years I’ve been doing the games,” Dolphins color commentator Joe Rose said.
And when it ended?
“I was drained like never before. When that game’s over, I’m going through every play, because you’re going, ‘What just happened?’ I’ve had people call me, some of ’em turned the game off and went to RedZone and were able to see it later.”
And after landing back in Miami, Rose was in his car when Dan Marino called.
“He’s even going, ‘Hey, could you believe that?’ ” Rose said.
“And I go, ‘Wow. You’ve seen everything, and the fact that you’re calling me’ … Everybody could enjoy it, even one of the great quarterbacks of all time.”
Hanson’s preparation begins on Sunday night at his Los Angeles home.
“I have five TVs on my media wall, and in the big center screen, I put ‘Sunday Night Football,’ I’m watching the last game of the day live,” he said. “Then I’ll put NFL Network’s highlight show on one of my side monitors in the upper right, and then in the lower right, I’ll put ESPN’s highlight show. I have a 70-inch screen flanked by four 50-inch screens in my living room. And I’ll watch ‘Sunday Night Football’ as I’m watching all the highlights from the early window games and the late-window games and I do a mental checklist: Did we show our audience that? Did we show them that, did we show them that? Yup, yup, yup, OK good. We showed people live or seconds after it happened all of the drama that the best highlight editors in the business will show three hours after the game is over.”
The rest of the week consists of injury reports and spreadsheets and individual game sheets. He’ll watch the college games on Saturday. The alarm goes off at 5 a.m. Sunday, and he is in the cafeteria at 6:45 for his turkey burger patty, no bun, scrambled egg whites, chopped up mixed fruit, a blueberry muffin, kalamata olives that help him retain liquids and maybe a diet soda. And that’s it until the show ends.
“I’m usually standing up on the balls of my feet kind of rocking back and forth,” Hanson said. “They brought me a TSA cushy mat to stand on in front of the monitors. I’ll sit down maybe for 10, 15 minutes at a time, but probably 80 percent of the show I’m on my feet.”
He named his fantasy team The Iron Bladders.
“I’ve had people dress up as Scott Hanson for Halloween. … That’s kind of like one of those, ‘You know you’ve made it when.’ … Fantasy football trophies I’m told are named the Scott Hanson Trophy, they send me pictures of ’em on social media. Some people think I’m America’s Sunday best friend. I realize that most people have 600 choices of what they could be watching on television on Sunday, and I’m thrilled, honored and humbled that they stop at ‘NFL RedZone’ and watch me and watch our team. I’m gonna give ‘em everything I’ve got every Sunday.”
The league will give Hanson everything it has every Sunday.
“This sport is engineered for parity, whether it’s through the draft system, the salary cap system, the roster sizes and limitations, the rules of the actual game on Sundays. … It is engineered for any team to have a shot,” he said.
“We understand that people have more than just rooting interests on the line, shall we say?” Hanson said. “That’s a factor. Whoever someone roots for as their favorite individual team, that’s great, but almost certainly their second favorite team is their fantasy football team, so they’ve gotta watch ‘RedZone’ because you can’t just watch one game, you’ve gotta watch every game to see your fantasy team. And then, there’s also the American sports fan’s desire to be a know-it-all. You want to go to work on Monday and be able to say, ‘This quarterback is garbage. This quarterback is the best.’ If you’re going to have an argument with your friends, your neighbors, your colleagues about sports, you better be informed about it. You better be able to say, ‘No, I saw him throw that interception,’ or ‘I saw that game-winning touchdown drive.’ And ‘NFL RedZone’ is the place to see it in real time.
“Seven hours commercial-free football: What’s not to love?”
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