By: John Molori
September 04, 2006

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- Fred's football
- Foolish Fox

NBC's Gaudelli brings gridiron glitz to Sunday nights; Fox bags a Buck, shoots down Menefee

After eleven seasons as producer of ESPN "Sunday Night Football" and the last five seasons producing ABC's "Monday Night Football," it is safe to say that Fred Gaudelli knows a little bit about creating provocative prime time NFL television.

The producer of NBC's "Sunday Night Football" is right at home as the Peacock network returns to the NFL stage.

"80% of our crew comes with me from "Monday Night Football" (MNF)," says Gaudelli. "There is a real comfort factor. It is exciting how NBC is embracing us. They view the NFL as the cornerstone for getting NBC back into first place in the prime time ratings. We have an incredible schedule of games along with flex scheduling."

Gaudelli understands that his production will be judged against that of ESPN's prime time "Monday Night Football.” He states, "We are definitely aware of what they are doing, but I should be spending the bulk of my time making what we do better, not thinking about them."

Still, the 46 year-old producer is not shy about comparing NBC's production to that of ESPN's new Monday night offering.

"In terms of the big games and the announcers we have versus what they have, ours is the bigger show," says Gaudelli. "We are definitely the new Monday Night Football in terms of a prime time production. We won't be putting NBC stars in the booth with Al (Michaels) and John (Madden), but our announcers are stars themselves."

Gaudelli produced ABC's MNF broadcast during the Dennis Miller experiment. He makes no bones about ESPN's bold decision to add "Pardon the Interruption" (PTI) host Tony Kornheiser to its MNF broadcast team.

"It will be a short lived tenure," he states. "The history of these things is that they are not built to last. America is used to getting sports a certain way. Tony's failure may be his own doing.

"The great thing about Howard Cosell is that he never had the need to be in the inner circle of sports. The way a Dennis Miller or a Tony Kornheiser works is to stay out of the circle and take jabs at the game.

"The problem is that if you are making a joke about an area where your two booth partners have insight, you can't get away with the jokes, so you have to come into the inner circle. Once you are in the inner circle, you lose that unique perspective that got you hired in the first place."

"Tony can be out of the circle on "PTI" because no one will question him. He can hide in the safety of the studio, rip people and not see them again. He can't do that in the NFL booth."

Gaudelli also has some pointed views on a decision made by another former employer, namely ABC's decision to essentially eliminate ABC Sports and put all its sports programming under the ESPN banner.

"I don't like what they are doing and it's not a wise move. If you are 40 or older, ABC Sports stands for something, MNF, "Wide World of Sports," and other innovative programming.

"More young people recognize ESPN than ABC. Disney has always wanted to run all of ABC's sports through ESPN and a lot of people at ABC have been treated unfairly. When I was at ESPN, it was different. They are so much more arrogant now."

For its return to the NFL stage, NBC has assembled an all-star lineup with Michaels, Madden, Andrea Kremer and "Football Night in America" hosts Bob Costas, Cris Collinsworth, Sterling Sharpe and newcomer Jerome Bettis.

Says Gaudelli, "There is no doubt that NBC has the best games and the best talent. This is what (NBC Universal Television CEO) Jeff Zucker and (NBC Sports president) Dick Ebersol wanted.”

Gaudelli has been totally impressed with Ebersol. He states, "I didn't even meet Dick until last November. My expectations were high, and he exceeded them. As a boss, person and creative type, he has made this job like a honeymoon.

"Working with Dick has been all I hoped it would be and more. He is a hands-on person, but not to the point of being overbearing and making things difficult. Dick knows when to jump in and he is confident enough to let you do your job."

Part of Gaudelli's job is to incorporate unique technology to enhance the broadcast. It has been reported that Gaudelli invented the now widely used 1st and 10 line marker on-field graphic. Says Gaudelli, "I was the first to use it, but it was created by Sportvision. It was not my idea, but I did help implement it.

"This year, we will be able to digitally enhance the picture by blowing it up. This will be especially helpful when looking at a play that is reviewed or challenged. It will give us a closer look.

"We have also installed a still camera that shoots 20 frames per second on top of our cameras. This will enable John (Madden) to travel around the screen and point things out to viewers."

NBC has placed its score and time graphic at the bottom of the screen. "It seemed to me that with all the graphics, the screen was getting smaller and smaller," explains Gaudelli. "The very bottom is a place where not much happens.

"We want to give the screen back to the viewer. Technically, we are always looking to push it a bit, but it has to make the game more understandable and enjoyable."

Like technology, a sideline reporter should enhance, not clutter a broadcast. Gaudelli has the best NFL reporter in the business patrolling his sidelines, Andrea Kremer.

He states, "A sideline reporter should add a perspective that the announcers can't. I think the position has gotten away from its original intent. Andrea's reporting skills are the key. She was one of the first people that Dick (Ebersol) sought out.

"She has the ability to get information from any player, coach or owner in the league. People respect her. She is tough but fair, and a hard worker."

Beginning November 12, NBC will have the option of flex scheduling where the best and most important NFL games will be moved to Sunday night. "Dick will make that decision 12 days in advance," explains Gaudelli. "He actually used ABC's MNF schedule last year and did a mock flex scheduling, so he is aware of the challenges.

Last year on ABC, MNF was on a pace for our highest rating in six years. Those bad December games killed us. In the last four years on "Monday Night Football" in December, only one game featured two teams with winning records. Flex scheduling guarantees that we will have a meaningful game every week. "

Fox faux pas

Am I the only one who thinks Fox's decision to name Joe Buck host of its "NFL Sunday” studio show is a complete cop out? This season, Buck will host the show with Terry Bradshaw, Howie Long and Jimmy Johnson from the site of the game he will call alongside Troy Aikman.

Curt Menefee will take over as studio host for halftime and postgame. Buck is a dominant personality, but the strength of any studio show is the on-air intimacy of its hosts. How can there be tangible chemistry when the lead guy is in another zip code?

Buck is best suited to the booth. He is already overexposed and his annoying desire to be the show will negatively overshadow his cohorts. Brown, while at times fawning, effectively set up the wit and candor of his analysts. Buck will be too busy showcasing himself.

Moreover, if Menefee is good enough to do halftime, postgame and select pregame shows throughout the season, why was he not named as the permanent replacement for James Brown?

Fox took the easy way out by going with the more recognizable Buck. Putting the understated Menefee in-studio permanently would have been a bolder and better move.

John Molori's columns are published in The Boston Metro, Patriots Football Weekly,, Boston Sports Review, Boston Baseball Magazine, Methuen Life,,,,, and Email John at [email protected]