Big games get hyped to the point that you wonder if they will ever live up to the excitement. Sometimes, they don’t.
Then you get a game like the “Monday Night Football” matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Rams, two teams who can produce video game-like offensive numbers, thanks to their quarterbacks, Patrick Mahomes for the Chiefs and Jared Goff for the Rams.
Everyone expected a great, high-scoring game.
And that’s what NFL fans got. Not only did the game live up to the hype, it exceeded it.
Schenectady native and CBA graduate Joe Tessitore had the best seat to watch the game. He is in his first season as the play-by-play announcer for ESPN’s “Monday Night Football,” and he was in the booth at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for the Rams’ 54-51 victory over the Chiefs.
"[The expectations] exceeded it by miles, and the expectations were really high,” Tessitore said during a phone interview Wednesday. “The hype is obviously what you get when you’re talking these teams this late in the season with these offenses and the young, generational talented quarterbacks who, and I said this very early on the broadcast, it appeared as if this was going to be our first big showdown of the next generation of the NFL.”
There was a lot going on in Los Angeles, and not just with the game.
“… You add in the fact that you had all the circumstances surrounding the game,” Tessitore said. “The venue change from Mexico City on short notice; the California wild fires that had Rams players being evacuated from their homes; the Thousand Oaks shootings, which happened close enough to the Rams’ facility where people were really shaken by it; and you had the city of Los Angeles that was looking for a rallying point, something to galvanize them as a community.
“So we’re honoring first responders. We have the widow and the son of the late heroic police officer who ran into the shooting to save people’s lives. It was a very unique night, and then what you ended up with on the field becomes the highest-scoring ‘Monday Night Football’ game of all time. It becomes the third-highest NFL game of all time. It breaks every record known to man. And the game wasn’t even over people are saying that this is the greatest regular-season game ever played, by far the most entertaining regular-season game ever played, but then the analysis becomes, 'Is this the game we never forget because football will never be the same?'”
During the broadcast, analyst Booger McFarland called this game “The new NFL.” Tessitore agrees.
“I think it’s the extreme version of the new NFL, but yes, I think that,” Tessitore said, “and not because a decision is being made because this is where football has been leading us to, and now on one single night, we unwrapped the present and it was revealed to us.”
Tessitore knew this game would be special when the Chiefs rallied from a 13-0 deficit to take a 14-13 lead.
“Effortlessly, Kansas City got on the scoreboard,” Tessitore said. “And then, all of a sudden, you blink and it’s 17-16 I said, ‘Oh boy, this is now what we’re going to have.’ When by the time it got to halftime, I felt comfortable enough that you could make some declarations. I think … when I tossed it to Suzy Kolber and Steve Young, I think I did say we are on pace for 92 points and 900-plus yards of offense and this is the most entertaining half of football we’ve seen in some time.
“By the time we got to the second half and here come the Rams down the field and here come the Chiefs right back down the field, you knew already that this was in the category of an all-time classic. When the fourth quarter started with a 73-yard [touchdown] pass to [the Chiefs’] Tyreek Hill, I knew this was now going to be in the conversation of greatest games ever played.”
Tessitore is part of the new “MNF” crew assembled by ESPN after the departures of Sean McDonough and Jon Gruden at the end of last season. McDonough returned to calling college football games for ESPN, and Gruden became head coach of the Oakland Raiders.
Besides Tessitore, McFarland and Jason Witten are the analysts. Witten is in the booth, while McFarland is on the field in a vehicle called the “Booger Mobile.” The only holdover is sideline reporter Lisa Salters.
There has been criticism on social media of the show this season, much of it directed at Witten, who is in his first year as an announcer following an outstanding career as a tight end for the Dallas Cowboys. One week, as Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was rallying the team to a win over the San Francisco 49ers, Witten said that Rodgers was “pulling a rabbit out of his head” when he meant to say out of his hat.
Tessitore doesn’t pay attention to what’s being said.
“At the end of the day,” Tessitore said, “endemic media of five to 10 media writers who are scrutinizing what has long been for 49 years the most scrutinized shows in the history of television, it doesn’t change the way we go about our work of prepping extremely hard all week getting ready to broadcast the game, being great friends on the road, joyfully going about our business and broadcasting in our way and in our style.”