During Week 9, CBS Sports announcers Jim Nantz and Tony Romo pulled off an NFL first by calling part of the Chargers-Packers game from the sideline of Dignity Health Sports Park.
The moment came with little fanfare but quickly went viral, with CBS gently prodding the Packers by pointing out Nantz and Romo traveled more yards during their booth switcheroo than the Green Bay offense had gained throughout the game at that point.
Jim Rikhoff, the lead producer of the NFL on CBS, said the idea came when Romo and Nantz were in Los Angeles calling the Broncos-Chargers game on Oct. 16. They wanted to figure out a way to showcase the intimacy of the Chargers’ temporary home, a soccer arena where fans are so close it feels more like sitting courtside at Wimbledon.
Both Romo and Nantz got behind the idea of doing part of the broadcast from the sideline. Rikhoff began to work on the logistics, and timed himself walking from the field back to the booth to make sure it could be accomplished during a commercial break.
“I’m pretty chubby, so we figured if I could get there in under two minutes, they could get there,” Rikhoff said.
Romo and Nantz remained on the sideline for two segments during the third quarter, calling the game off the jumbotron at the stadium and a monitor Rikhoff brought down to the sideline. The move did create some limitations, such as the inability for Romo to telestrate a big play. But it also paid off when former Patriots linebacker Willie McGinest happened to be seated in the stands and greeted Romo on the way back to the booth.
The only snag was when Romo and Nantz deviated from Rikhoff’s plan during halftime as they made their way down to the sideline. Instead of walking down the stairs, the broadcasters decided to take the elevator down to the field, a big no-no from Rikoff’s perspective.
“You never want to go in the elevator because then you don’t have control of the situation,” Rikhoff said. “And it took longer than they thought. If we had done it during the commercial break instead of at halftime, they might not have made it.”
Despite the success of the experiment, Rikhoff said the situation was unique to Dignity Health Sports Park, and doesn’t expect to sent Romo and Nantz to the sidelines again this season.
“We just wanted to give people a feel for what this place is like. It’s a totally different environment than your normal NFL game,”
During the off-season, TNT abandoned its “Players Only” broadcasts and retooled its Tuesday night edition of Inside the NBA, building a new team that includes three-time NBA champion Dwyane Wade, Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal, and WNBA champion Candace Parker.
Now we know who will be the show’s Ernie Johnson.
TNT has tapped Bleacher Report’s Adam Lefkoe to become studio host of Inside the NBA on Tuesday nights. Lefkoe, a Philadelphia native (and one-time Crossing Broad contributor) who has steadily risen through the ranks since he was hired in 2013, will keep his current Bleacher Report responsibilities, including hosting his popular The Lefkoe Show podcast.
It’s certainly an outside-the-box move for TNT, but Turner Sports senior vice president Tara August praised Lefkoe’s “talent and versatility,” as well as his ability to connect with sports fans. In a statement from TNT, Lefkoe said the job was a “dream come true.”
The first edition of the Lefkoe-hosted Inside the NBA will debut Jan. 28.
• Following Thursday’s Flyers game, NBC Sports Philadelphia will debut a new documentary called HeadStrong: Mental Health and Sports. Produced in partnership with the Religion of Sports production company, the series follows four athletes who have faced mental-health challenges: Baltimore Ravens tight end Hayden Hurst, Miami Heat forward Justine Winslow, former Oregon State soccer player Nathan Braaten, and former NHL goalie Clint Malarchuk.
• A huge match-up between two Big Ten undefeated teams — No. 1 Ohio State and No. 4 Penn State — will air on Fox at noon on Nov. 23, the network announced. To hype of the game, Fox Sports is bringing its new pregame show Big Noon Kickoff to Columbus for a special two-hour program, which will begin at 10 a.m.
But before worrying about Ohio State, the Nittany Lions will have to take care of business against No. 13 Minnesota, which is also undefeated and has an offense that loves to eat up the clock.