Yesterday, for one of my classes, we got to go inside the ESPN production trucks at the USC-Oregon State game. I didn’t take any pictures inside, because I didn’t want to get in anyone’s way, but above is the picture Audrey took of our credentials. That’s some fancy stuff.
The production truck is an impressive operation. Every person — and there are a lot of them — has a specific job and all the jobs mesh together into organized chaos. One person is counting down; another is calling shots into a microphone to someone on the field and to someone in a blimp and to someone in another truck; another is discussing with the on-field reporter whether or not Will Ferrell will talk on camera; other people are editing replays on the fly. By necessity, live events can only be planned so much in advance. For the rest of it, you sort of just have to plan on knowing what to do when the opportunity arises. You have to rely on the fact that you’ll rise to the occasion. And, they clearly do, every week.
It actually reminded me a lot of Sports Night, except minus the comic screw-ups and romantic entanglements:
The number of flashing lights and buttons and screens is obviously overwhelming. But, I was thinking about it while we were there, and clearly you can learn. You can learn your job, and then the next job, and the next. Until it’s not overwhelming anymore. It’s just organized (and fun) chaos. I’m actually really good at working fast on tight deadlines, but every time I have to do live events it makes me nervous. Every single time I worry that this time I’ll forget what to do. Or, this will be the time that I reach into the well and there’s nothing there to draw on.
By now I know that I’ll come through the blank panic. Usually. By now I know I can count on myself. Usually. I wonder if the people in the production truck have the same fear, if they worry that this time they won’t be able to find the shots or keep up the pace, that they’ll let up for a second and our TVs will just show nothing. I’m sure the people on the field reach into themselves sometimes and just have to hope that they’ll still have it, that the game is so deep down they can’t forget it. And, then, I’m sure they have to make themselves forget the empty fear and remember to play.