On the fourth weekend of this NFL season, my sports-watching life changed. I walked into a friend’s home, complete with a U-shaped couch perfect for hosting 10 humans for Sunday football, excitedly awaiting the beginning of the Falcons game. That’s all I expected, because I was previously unaware of a staple in their lives: NFL RedZone.
My plan that Sunday was to stay focused during the Falcons game, but come and go for the rest of the day, possibly running some errands while the other football games were taking place. What happened? Seven hours, no movement, multiple delivery orders, and the most surprisingly exhilarating sports television experience in recent memory.
My excitement, as with most things these days, prompted an excavation into my emotions by way of a story. And once that made its way to the Internet, that would be it. But then, the following day, the host of NFL RedZone, an almost mythical creature named Scott Hanson, made an offer.
I was flattered. It was a courteous public gesture, but people on the Internet never mean things like that. I didn’t think much of it.
And then a week later, on October 31, this.
And then it became clear. This was happening. I knew better than to ignore an invite twice. Once is merely a misunderstanding, but twice, well, that’s just rude. And like that, Hanson’s bluff was called.
Like every modern musical, this story now has a second act. Act I took place on a couch in Atlanta and then behind my laptop in New York City. Act II would be at RedZone headquarters, on November 11.
8 a.m. PST
My instructions were clear: Arrive at an address at 8:15 a.m. on a Sunday for football-related things. Being an Eastern Standard Time human my whole life, the idea of prepping for football in conjunction with breakfast was mind-boggling. What do these left-coast heathens do about church? Growing up, I was sure the Baptist church and the NFL were in cahoots, with one conveniently concluding with just enough time for kickoff. But those were my instructions, and I had no intention of being tardy.
With my GPS telling me that I was but one minute away, nothing in my surroundings suggested I was in the vicinity of this magical studio space. But then, out of nowhere, it appeared:
An NFL building flanked by palm trees. This had to be the place.
After making my way into the complex and getting a quick tour of the place, it was time for my pre-RedZone talk with Scott Hanson.
8:45 a.m. PST
Scott Hanson is built like a football player. I read that he was a walk-on at Syracuse, after being an all-conference high school player, but it was still startling to watch him rise out of his seat to engulf my hand in his. He wasn’t alone. There were two other gentlemen in the room, Kent Camera and Jonathan Kaplan, the show’s co-producers, rounding out NFL RedZone’s primary three-man team (and debunking my theory that Hanson is not only on-air talent, but also the all-seeing producer responsible for switching between the games, à la Minority Report‘s pre-cog board). Given 20 minutes to talk with them, I wanted to walk out of that room fully understanding what I was about to get myself into for the next seven hours. Instead, I fell deeper into the rabbit hole.
RedZone has become extremely popular. Has it been an immediate spike, or have you noticed it grow steadily?
Hanson: I would say that it’s increased during the years, but that’s kind of due to two things. Well, one thing, first and foremost: We’re in more homes now.1 We’re available to more homes now than we have ever been. But I’ll say this: The first time anyone samples NFL RedZone, it’s almost always the same reaction. They think they’ve hit football Nirvana. They’ll say, “This is amazing, this is unbelievable.” It’s great to have that reaction, but we just get it more frequently now, because there are more people available to watch the show.2
How does the show work? How do you pull it off?
Camera: Kaplan and I co-produce the show, basically. We’re in the control room, we split up the time on headsets giving out the directions, letting everyone know what we’re doing. While one person is doing that, the other one is a co-pilot, watching the games, telling the person, “You want to go to this game, this play next, this play just happened,” so it’s kind of a dual role.
Kaplan: He does early, I do late.
Camera: The guy in the chair is talking to people in the tape room, he’s talking to Scott and people on the set, researchers and the like, graphics people, different technical people as well, so it all kind of comes through that person in terms of communication. You’ll see it when you’re in there. But the other person, while that is going on, is watching the eight games and co-producing.
Hanson: I think an easier way to understand it, if I might: These are the only two guys that are in my ear during the show. And only one at a time; he’ll do the first three and a half hours, he’ll do the second.3
So the operation is much larger than I, perhaps naively, expected?
Kaplan: This staff in some way, shape, or form, the 15 or so editorial people, the researchers, we’re kind of doing this all week.4 We come up with notes, and then we come in at 8 a.m., right before you got here, and there were some good notes, some that most of us knew, some that most of us didn’t. DeMarcus Ware, if he gets a sack today, seventh straight season, 10 sacks or more, only [John] Randle and Reggie White have ever done that. The Chiefs one is making a lot of rounds, with not leading a game.
Hanson: Today, Tony Gonzalez can hit 100 career touchdowns with one touchdown catch, Peyton Manning can pass Dan Marino for second place in all-time passing touchdowns. A.J. Green has a touchdown catch in seven straight games. Trends, milestones.
Camera: The Giants have never won in Cincinnati.
Hanson: Tom Brady has never lost at home to the Bills. All these type of things that are good little footnotes that the person might not get just by watching it, but we can augment their experience by adding to it. And that’s like, what I say, all the stuff that I go through throughout the week, I try to filter to what would be good and fun to tell the audience.
Camera: Not all of it is planned. Doug Martin last week, for example; when it happened we were following the broadcasters on that one to a certain degree, we —
Hanson: We were ahead of them last week. We started looking early, were like, “Doug Martin could be threatening some records right now.”
Camera: A good one is Randy Moss. We’d been sitting on it all year, Randy Moss, if he had 150 yards at some point, he was going to break the 15,000-receiving-yards mark.
Hanson: Only four guys in history have done it.
Camera: So we just sat on it, we had a graphic ready, and sure enough we were live on the game when he had a long catch and scored. I don’t think the broadcasters knew about it —
Hanson: I don’t think they had it —
Camera: And right after that, we threw up our graphic, again, just to complement it. Fox did a great job, honestly, but we’re there to kind of complement it. That’s the weird job for us; we’re taking their broadcast, obviously, and so they’re the ones that are 90 percent of what is on our air, ours is just trying to complement it and give it the context and relevance that the broadcast might need.
So it’s not totally reactionary?
Camera: No, we totally try to get ahead of everyone else.
So there is another RedZone channel, titled NFL Sunday Ticket Red Zone. What’s the difference between the two? Is there competition? Why are there two in the first place?
Camera: They actually started like three to four years before us, and [Andrew] Siciliano, who hosts it, works for us and we know some of the guys that work over there. And DirecTV is a big partner in the league. We’ve all worked with those guys. I don’t use it as a comparison, because we’re just doing our thing. I think it’s almost like nightly news. It’s CBS or it’s ABC, it’s kind of the same thing. It’s a little bit of a different presentation, pretty much covering the same stories, you might have a little different feel, a little different look, a different talent to it, but it’s very similar. I’ve watched it either live or back-to-back and sometimes we’re doing the exact same thing for like half an hour straight. But I don’t think it’s anything bigger than We do it for the non-DirecTV people and they do it for the DirecTV people.
Hanson: So I would say it’s a little different than the nightly news in that regard,5 and here’s why: If you choose between nightly news, CBS or ABC or NBC, this is how you make your choice [mimes remote clicking motion]. Between the Red Zone on DirecTV and NFL RedZone, you’ve made your choice by signing up for which television provider you have at your house. It’s already there. So, it’s not a choice that people cognizantly make. And, the other thing about theirs, and you can watch theirs and see what they do, is that you only get their channel if you have Sunday Ticket. And you have Sunday Ticket because you’re a Falcons fan that lives in Toledo and you want to be able to watch the Falcons game. With us, we just want to be the comprehensive one-stop shop.
Is it hard not letting biases play into this very unbiased broadcast? That would be very hard for me, because I really only care about the Falcons. And I would put them on box all the time.
Camera: We’re rooting while we’re going, but it doesn’t affect what we do.
Hanson: We’re not peewee soccer. Everyone doesn’t get to play. We go to where the action is hottest. Whatever anyone is talking about on Monday, they’re going to see it live on Sunday with us. Whatever jaw-dropping moment there is — and as we all know as NFL fans, it can happen at any moment, any city, even if two teams are 3-5.
What do you do in your off time, seeing as that RedZone is only a Sunday endeavor?
Camera: Kaplan produces Around the League; one of our shows here, so he’s on that three to four days a week, I oversee and am a producer here, so we really only truly work on RedZone on Sundays, other than some stuff during the week to get ready and putting things together, but for the most part we’re working here, getting ready for shows, and it’s always on our mind, like what story lines we’re doing.
Kaplan: We’re immersed in this shit. Every day. So we know the story lines. We have a meeting on Sunday [morning] so we’re not surprised when we’re going in. We know what we’re looking for and we’re ready.
Hanson: A seven-hour show with no breaks, I sleep in a hyperbaric chamber from Sunday to Wednesday, and then a massage, acupuncture. It’s completely exhausting. I’m fried at the end of the day. But it’s a labor of love. The thing about what I have to do is ultimately I’m really flying by the seat of my pants. We’ve got the best staff in sports television, but when I’m talking and the mic is hot, we’re going, it’s whatever I can remember/retain/think of. Like, I print out all this research, probably starting Wednesday, and I build up to today. This is the peak of my week, easily. I mean, even though we all do other stuff, this is the highest priority of my week.
Kaplan: This is the fun day for us. During the week, we’ve got to think of ideas, it’s a lot of preparation, a lot of phone calls and bullshit. This is the fun part.
Hanson: Deion and Sapp and all those guys will tell you, when they played, you didn’t need to pay them for Sunday. You pay them to come to practice every day and do film work and all that other stuff that was kind of drudgery. Game day they would do for free. This is the fun stuff.
Ever since I wrote about RedZone and the majesty that was the quad box, something I still haven’t seen but hope to rectify today, I’ve been getting texts every time it happens. There’s no way you could have expected this to take off in such a cultish fashion, right?
Hanson: It’s a phenomenon. And here’s the funny thing. I called it “quad box” or “double box” — those are industry terms. Those are television industry terms that, behind the scenes, people have used for decades, since I’ve been in the business, I’ve been doing this about 20 years. It’s amazing. There’s a guy in Iowa, I think, that named his dog Quad Box and sent me a picture. “This is my dog, Quad Box.” People lose their minds over it. You probably can’t use this, but I’ll tell you this: When I used to work in local television, I kind of pictured this, like a channel like this. When someone would get a tour, I used to work at ABC/NBC/CBS affiliates, right, and I’d do the eleven o’clock news, I’d do the sportscast. Invariably, if someone got a tour, someones’s family, someone’s mom and dad were coming into the studio that day, they’d go to the news department, they’d go to the weather department, they’d sit up on the set, take a picture and all that type of stuff, and then they’d wander into the sports department. Well, if they’d come in during the night, we’d have a bunch of games up, we’d have our local baseball team, the basketball team, the hockey team, a couple of other games in cities and whatnot, and invariably, people would come into the room and they would stop and the guy, who it would be usually if it was a husband or wife or whatever, would be like, “You get to watch all these games at the same time.” And it was the same reaction all the time, and I took it for granted working in the business, because we had to get all the highlights together for the eleven o’clock news. And I often used to go home and think, Why couldn’t there be a place where we can take someone and show them all of the different great moments?, whatever it was. That’s what highlight shows are, anyway, just do it to the now. Live. As it’s happening. And that’s what NFL RedZone is and I think that’s one of the biggest reasons why it’s so popular.
How crucial are fantasy sports to RedZone’s existence?
Kaplan: That’s why we show every touchdown, every game. When we’re getting down to the end of games, there’s two minutes left, we’re jumping from game to game, it’s getting tight. The score could be 49-14 and we still have to show a touchdown. If Nate Burleson catches a touchdown, you know someone has Stafford, you’ve got to get it in. I was a big fantasy guy, years ago, and I know that it’s changed. We were writing stuff down, I was on CBS SportsLine, watching chart graphs, waiting for CBS to do their cut-ins, so not only is this cool because you get to see everything live for fantasy, but you’re also scouting, seeing guys like, “Who just scored?” It’s pretty crazy if you’re into fantasy.
Hanson: As I’ve often said, we as American sports fans love being know-it-alls. I include myself in that. We love to know more than he does, more than my brother does, more than my neighbor does — we love to argue about it, right? Well, you can’t know it all unless you have considered it all. And you can’t consider it all unless you’ve seen it all.6 And if you watch us, you will see everything, every major moment in the National Football League, for seven hours with no commercials. What’s not to love? And fantasy football’s a huge part of that. It really is a demonstration of I know more about football than my cousin does. Than my college roommate does, than my colleague at work does, right? And it fuels that. I mean, I can’t imagine sitting and watching with, if you had a viewing party of NFL RedZone, with the guy you’re playing that week. Every time we cut to a different game, somebody has somebody playing in that game. I can’t imagine, just sitting there, jabbing at each other. And you see it live.
I’m excited to get on the set.
Camera: You’ll notice that the set where you’ll be is very quiet. There’s no audio out there. The control room is loud, but not the studio. The only audio is coming through the ears.
Kaplan: That’s what’s so great about Scott. He’ll be like, “Rembert, so what do you think? — and the Colts just scored a touchdown.”
And with that, the three men left to go prepare for the show’s 10 a.m. start. I’m already exhausted. It’s 9:05 a.m.
10 a.m. PST
Kickoff time. A researcher’s family is here to sit in for the beginning of the broadcast, so we start our RedZone football Sunday in the loud, commotion-filled control room, spearheaded by Camera, who typically handles the often hectic early slate of games.
Sitting in the back, I watched the countdown clock make its way to zero. Someone shouted the phrase “Cue: octo box.”
I looked up from jotting down notes to see this:
The first ever OCTO BOX.
This was amazing. RedZone Sunday had begun in emphatic fashion. This was exciting.
10:16 a.m. PST
After watching Hanson introduce the day and then show eight kickoffs, I made my way to the second of three rooms, the tape room.
There are seemingly thousands of knobs and buttons, overshadowed only by the never-ending process of pointing at screens, a common theme of the day. The main guy in this room, in addition to listening to the screen pointers, is communicating with the producer in the control room, who then relays information to Hanson, who then says things on the air that make people happy.
10:19 a.m. PST
After just a few minutes in the tape room, it was time to clock some hours in the studio. As soon as I walked in, still unsure of how quiet to be, the first thing I noticed was that Scott was standing up.
The man has a chair, but he did not seem to enjoy sitting in it. He rarely stood still, adjusting his weight from one foot to the other, pacing on his mat (that he alerted me was similar to the one airport TSA workers stand on), rarely stopping to talk to anyone.
In his hand was a clipboard on which he jotted notes, and in front of him on the table was a stack of papers with charts and names. I almost expected him to have iPad Minis surgically implanted into his palms, but his approach was surprisingly low-tech. The way he kept track of the games and the stadiums and sportcasters and the officials was through a highly effective Velcro system of mobile tabs. Oh, and when a game’s score was within one possession, a sticky note was placed on that television. The sticky note said “1.” Cheap. Brilliant.
Yes, he was getting fed information through an earpiece, information that he would then say on the air, but for the most part his knowledge came from his notes, stats from the two researchers by his side, and, most important, his football-almanac brain.
10:30 a.m. PST
Hanson speaks in the same voice on camera and during our time together, making it very hard throughout the day to know whom he’s talking to, and thus making it impossible to start a conversation with him because he might actually be talking to the entire TV-watching public. The first time he spoke to me during the broadcast, he walked over to his desk and handed me two sheets of paper.
These were Hanson’s notes from the previous week. Having watched all of the games the previous week, I can make out what a few of the notes mean, but for the most part it screams A Beautiful Mind. The thought of all of these notes from all of the RedZone weeks covering his walls at home crept into my head for a moment.
11 a.m. PST
The Falcons are struggling. They should be beating the Saints, in my mind, by three touchdowns at this point, but are looking as if they might lose this game. Because it is Sunday, I wore my Falcons jersey, but donned a gray button-down over it. As the game progressed, however, it became increasingly hard not only to compose myself, but also to give the slightest care about the other games. And I start getting mad at Hanson for not showing the Falcons game enough.
And then he started going in on the Falcons. He wasn’t saying anything mean, but he continuously brought up the ’72 Dolphins. They were getting ever closer to breaking out that champagne, he said, as the Falcons’ perfect season threatened to come to a close. When someone speaks ill of my team on TV it irks me, but whatever. But Hanson was three feet away from me. I just kept smiling, but I needed the Falcons to win so this man with the booming voice would be on my side. It’s no fun to hear Hanson jabber away when your team is losing.
11:07 a.m. PST
When asked if I wanted to go back to the control room, I jumped at the chance.
Internally, Scott and I were beefing, and I needed my space. Upon arrival, the room was significantly louder. More people were standing. Having seen all three rooms in action now, the importance of this room made a great deal more sense. Before, it was just a room with a ton of screens. But the chain of command soon became clear.
When producer Camera (in the blue shirt) is ready to make a change onscreen, and has cued up Hanson appropriately, he signals to the man to the right of the action, who then repeats it, causing the man in the green hoodie to make the onscreen change. An example:
“Yep. I mean, five before the snap. Five before the snap. Ooh, wait for the flag. I want to see the replays here. Wait for it. Replay. Replay, then effect. Scott, you ready? Effect, and … . GO, two box.”
He carries out his duties almost like some cracked combination of the conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Skrillex. It’s incredible. His arms flail, often holding one up until the last possible moment when one game switches out for another, and then drops it as if the bass has just dropped. He’ll pause for a moment before launching into another appropriately dramatic motion. Watching it was oddly beautiful, because you just can’t expect this graceful act to be what’s behind something like an NFL compilation show. But it is. It really is.
It’s not always perfect, though. One of the things on which the RedZone team prides itself is being completely commercial-free. But at one point, for no longer than one second, Camera’s cue bass drop to go from two-box to full-screen was missed. A commercial ever so briefly appeared on the right side of the two-box. As a viewer, I most certainly would not have noticed. In the control room, it was a sin. The vibe from Camera was clear: Never let that happen again.
11:30 a.m. PST
After my Electric Zoo–meets–Boston Pops experience in the control room, I went back to the studio, where I would remain for the next five and a half hours. Hanson was in his seat for the first time …
… where he remained for all of four minutes, because as soon as he could, he made his way back to his natural position, standing up in his gray suit and Under Armour sneakers.
It’s easy to assume that he’s just being fed information, that he is a cyborg, but Hanson is often producing as much as anyone in the control room, shooting questions to the crew, pushing observations that determine how the show plays out, and repeatedly proving that his football IQ moves faster than the studio’s Internet.
“How many fourth downs have happened today? Do we have that?”
“Let’s get a Manning double box, why don’t we?”
“I love seeing our story lines come true. First Peyton, and then Tony. This is great.”
“Where is my ‘Kickers that hadn’t missed’ page? I had kickers that hadn’t missed on different pages from kickers.”
“Why did you tell me to say midfield? The Falcons are on the 25-yard line.”
The Falcons are down 28-17 in the third quarter and I am a bucket of stress. We’re 8-0 and losing to my least favorite team in all of sports. I’m watching it on mute, unable to scream or throw things at the TV. It’s maddening. With each passing scoreless drive, another button is undone, revealing more and more of my Falcons jersey. Watching Scott doing his thing has no longer become as captivating as it once was, because instead of watching him flawlessly transition from one game to the next, I’m trying to watch the Falcons.
Having turned off my RedZone brain, I’m awoken by one of the researchers:
“I knew the Falcons were due for a letdown.”
It was as if my gray button-down evaporated. This researcher — great with stats, ready with nuggets for Hanson (“Carson Palmer has completed a pass to nine different guys this game”) — was now my enemy. I wanted him to turn around and see the giant Falcon on my chest and eat his words. Once we won the game, of course.
12:30 p.m. PST
With the Falcons on full-screen, Roddy White rises and makes a big catch. Scott, noticing the words on my jersey, looks at me and states, “He rose up for that one.”
And just like that, my beef with Scott Hanson was over.
12:36 p.m. PST
The Ravens have been running up the score in their game, causing Hanson, who was just having a side conversation, to look at his researchers and say, “When’s the last time they scored this many points? Could be an important one.” Less than two minutes later, a researcher replies with “most points (55) in franchise history.”
And just like that, a Scott Hanson fist-pump followed by the stat making its way onto the air 45 seconds later. The process works.
1 p.m. PST
About the Falcons-Saints, live:
“Trying to remain undefeated, this is the drama in the NFL.”
I’m standing up, one hand on head, other hand tweeting rude things at naysayers, making a slight scene, attempting to will my team to a win from a place that will be deemed cursed should we lose in these last moments of the game.
1:04 p.m. PST
We lose. I contemplate going back to my hotel. Strongly. But don’t. Barely. Because the cafeteria had chicken fingers and curly fries. So I dealt with it that way.
1:19 p.m. PST
I walk back in and Scott is sitting in his seat. He’s about to go on-camera, as evidenced by the young lady waiting in the wings to touch up his makeup.
I take a seat and attempt to reflect on how incredible it was to watch eight games on eight TVs. Even though my team had lost, there were exciting moments. Even though there was no sound, the excitement in the games, coupled with Hanson’s boisterous behavior on- and off-camera, mic on or mic off (which, let me continue to stress, is the same Scott Hanson), kept it lively.
2 p.m. PST
The second string of games has begun, and everything’s very different. There are only three to juggle this afternoon.
The voice in his ear has changed, from Kent Camera to Jonathan Kaplan. Scott’s on Hour 4 of nonstop talking and standing, but for the first time he has decided to hydrate.
“Hey Rembert, look, first sip of water.”
This was a taunt. He knows I’m waiting to see if he can go all seven hours without relieving himself. He knows that’s 75 percent of the reason I’m here. He knows if he steps out for even a second, I will be forced to assume he’s handling his business and will, in turn, tweet out to the world, “When Scott Hanson has to pee, they loop the video to trick the audience, like that awesome scene in Speed.”
2:20 p.m. PST
“Mooooooch” — Scott Hanson
A new visitor has joined the RedZone studio. It’s Steve Mariucci, the former head coach turned NFL Network analyst. Between his morning show, NFL GameDay Morning, and afternoon show, NFL GameDay Highlights, he took refuge in the studios, watching the games intensely and conversing with Hanson whenever prompted. Hanson, introducing me to my seat neighbor:
Hanson: Hey, Mooch, this is Rembert.
Me: Nice to meet you.
Mooch: Let me tell you about this guy. Doesn’t drink any coffee.
Me: I know, I’ve been watching him.
Hanson: I just love football.
I couldn’t have been more amused by this conversation. Also, while Hanson talked the exact same way to Mooch as he did when he was on-air, Mooch seemed to use the quiet football sanctuary as a place to slip back into “watching football at a bar” mode. Two men, two very different approaches to their jobs, both great.
2:38 p.m. PST
Hanson rarely mocks players, teams, commentators, or referees, but as the day goes on and the fatigue starts to set in, these rules slowly start to fall away. The beautiful straw that broke that camel’s back: The Jets are playing.
There is no amount of professionalism that allows someone to not make fun of the Jets when they’re off-camera, not even The Scott Hanson. After a typical Sanchezian performance, two other teams were forced to insert their backups — the 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick and the Eagles’ Nick Foles. Hanson assessed the situation thusly:
Poor Tebow. They’re sabotaging him. Every time he steps on the field Dustin Keller steps offsides and then they yank Tebow.
Tebow’s got to be going, “Kaepernick”? “Foles”? Really? My guy throws a pick in the end zone and still, nothing?
These are two bad football teams.
It’s refreshing to know that lamenting the Jets is a universal thing. The combination of sighing at Sanchez and wondering what it will take for them to put in Tebow is something all Americans are confused about.
3:05 p.m. PST
With Nick Foles leading the Vick-less Eagles, the idea of him getting hurt became a topic of interest in the RedZone studios. What happens if Foles gets hurt? Based on the way he was lofting up passes like he was setting up kills in volleyball, it seemed like only a matter of time. After a casual refresh on Twitter, I saw that the “emergency” quarterback for the Eagles was Jason Avant. Who had been injured earlier in the game. Upon realizing this, and not hearing anyone mention this, I knew this was my chance to spark a conversation, to share new information.
Ten minutes later, Hanson in passing said aloud, “What happens if Foles gets hurt? Who’s next?” No one had an answer. I sat there, knowing that my answer (courtesy of an Eagles beat writer) was accurate, but also scared that if I was the one to give Scott misinformation on air, I would probably be killed and there would be an elaborate cover-up making it seem like a standard RedZone “misunderstanding.”
After another five minutes of confusion, it was time.
I heard Jason Avant was the Eagles’ emergency quarterback.
Wait, that’s incredible. Because he’s hurt.
Yeah, apparently so.
I played it casually, but of course I knew he was, why do you think I brought it up? How does it feel with Mr. Browne bulldogging his way onto your research team?
With that statement, which made its way on RedZone a few minutes later, I had officially made my contribution to the telecast. This was a proud moment for me.
3:34 p.m. PST
As we approach the final 90 minutes of the telecast, Hanson finally utilizes a tool he’s ignored until now: the teleprompter.
Given the sheer number of words he’s said, live, it’s incredible that he’s only been fed words to read on a screen once in nearly six hours on the air. The topic — mental health and sports science — segued into a discussion about the ability to view NFL RedZone on a Verizon mobile phone. It was one of the few times Hanson appeared on-camera.
4:05 p.m. PST
Hanson is still energetic, but his mind is starting to wander:
[During a commercial, sarcastically.] “Oh, I was wondering when Glee was going to do Grease. So excited.”
“Niners, what are you doing?”
“Jeff [Fisher], call a timeout now, won’t you?”
“Why do you score on first down and they’ve got a minute left to come back the other way? You know what I mean? First-and-goal, all he needed to do was let the play clock run down and they’d have 30 seconds left to go right now. Or whatever. And you still would have had time to run all your plays in case you didn’t score on first down. Woof. Bad, bad, bad. [Pause.] That’s a basic mistake.”
Hanson will make it to 5 p.m., but it might not be pretty. Also, just 55 minutes until he proves me wrong on UrinationGate. There’s no way he makes it; he’s just started drinking a Gatorade. He can’t keep this up.
4:38 p.m. PST
RedZone’s last game of the day is the 49ers-Rams. It needs to end, but it’s refusing to stop. But it needs to, because Scott has to wrap up this seven-hour bender in 22 minutes. But this game isn’t helping. It’s almost as if they want to end in a tie …
4:39 p.m. PST
Injured-yet-playing Rams receiver Danny Amendola just caught a bomb down the field. Scott Hanson is standing on his chair.
4:45 p.m. PST
Hanson alerts me that they have no choice but to be off the air by 5 p.m. They’re contractually obligated. And not only is the game still going, but they have Veterans Day stuff to tackle. And, most important, the touchdown montage that is supposed to end every broadcast. Everyone’s stressing. THE LULL IS OVER. REDZONE JUST GOT EXCITED AGAIN.
4:49 p.m. PST
Eleven minutes left and everyone’s freaking out.
Hanson to me: “You see, Rembert, if we don’t get our footage up by a certain — “
Hanson on-air: “AND LIKE THAT, A TIMEOUT.”
Apparently, to get everything in, the game needs to end by 4:52:30. It’s not looking good. People aren’t thrilled about that. Me, on the other hand, I can’t get enough of this drama.
4:50 p.m. PST
A field goal chance to end the game. They might actually make it, which doesn’t upset me, because I’ve now become super-invested in Hanson’s emotions.
4:51 p.m. PST
THEY MISSED IT.
4:52:30 p.m. PST
The game is still going. Something’s got to give. That thing: the touchdown montage. Sad day for Scott Hanson, a man who loves him some touchdown montage.
4:58 p.m. PST
The end is near.
And the game is still going. At this point, Hanson is in full damage control, trying to steer fans the right way so they can finish watching the game if it doesn’t finish in the next two minutes.
4:59 p.m. PST
Another field goal is missed. This game is continuing past 5 p.m.
Scott Hanson, signing off.
5:01 p.m. PST
RedZone Sunday is over.
Following an exhausted, slightly bummed, still adrenaline-filled Hanson out of the studio to a private room where he will wipe off all his makeup, I had just one question to ask him before leaving.
How are you feeling?
“Today was rare, but you saw it. It does happen. You try and serve your audience everything you possibly can. [But] there are broadcast rules. All of us are somebody’s employee, everyone has a boss. And ours tells us we have to be off the air at eight o’clock EST. So, you know, it’s frustrating, but if somebody really needed to see it, we gave them two avenues to do it, either their local Fox affiliate or NFL.com and following the play-by-play.”
“When the fatigue starts kicking in, but then it picks back up into a fever pitch of, ‘Oh, these games are coming down to the wire, would they get to overtime, would the Rams blow the lead,’ it’s fun again. You’ve got to maintain your energy. One thing I pride myself on is, I try and have as much energy in the seventh hour as I did in the first hour. And as much energy in Week 17 as I had in Week 1.”
Well, congrats. Please, just go to the bathroom.
“It’s my next stop,” Hanson says.
I was impressed. I couldn’t believe a human could be this intensely positive for an entire workday. I also couldn’t believe he made it through the entire broadcast without a bathroom break. But, as I walked out, I realized something else: I hadn’t used the bathroom, either.
Stunned, I got in the car. As I drove away, with the NFL building in my rearview, still thinking about the absurd Sunday I just had, I couldn’t help but laugh at my failure to meet my one true goal of the entire day: I still haven’t seen a quad box. I guess there’s always next week.