ESPN forced to scramble after NFL switches site of ‘Monday Night Football’ game

"Our fleet of trucks left Santa Clara and were to be at the Mexican border this morning."

Estadio Azteca
Estadio Azteca. Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images

NEW YORK (AP) — ESPN’s equipment trucks already were headed for Mexico when the network found out next Monday night’s mega-matchup between the Chiefs and Rams was being switched to Los Angeles.

And the scramble was on.

Those trucks had been dispatched from Santa Clara, California, and were making their way through Arizona — ESPN already had a catering truck on site in Mexico City — when the NFL, citing the poor condition of the field at Azteca Stadium, switched the game to the LA Coliseum. So, under the most unusual of circumstances, “Monday Night Football” returns to Los Angeles for the first time in 33 years.


“We are disappointed that we are not going to be in Mexico City,” Jay Rothman, the “Monday Night Football” producer, said Wednesday. “We were really excited about the game when the schedule came out, we had it two years ago, we wanted it last year with New England and didn’t get it, and this year we got it back.

“We understand the circumstance and just had to adjust. As difficult as the logistics are for both teams … the same holds true for our crew. We had 150 people mobilizing.

“Our fleet of trucks left Santa Clara and were to be at the Mexican border this morning. It turned into a scramble mode for much of our team.

“Now, ‘Monday Night Football’ returns to LA for the first time since 1985, and we are excited about that.”

ESPN was not consulted by the league about changing the locale of the game, but was notified by the NFL that it was a possibility. While that doesn’t lessen the work involved for a network expecting to televise a game from one time zone and then discovering the site will be two times zones away — in another country — it did help ESPN’s planning.

“We were not part of the decision other than they did — which we really appreciated — they gave us some notice of the potential issues some days ago,” said Burke Magnus, ESPN’s executive vice president of programming and scheduling. “The logistics change here is not insignificant, but we appreciate that the NFL made us aware of the possibility several days ago.”


Asked if pushing the game back a week — both teams have byes following the Monday nighter — was broached, Magnus said the network was not “made aware of anything other than a venue switch.”

Rothman noted that having Southern Cal playing its annual rivalry game with UCLA at the Rose Bowl this year makes the switch a bit easier.

“We are a traveling circus, with six mobile units, so certainly it helps that USC is in the Rose Bowl on Saturday and not at home,” Rothman said. “It helps us in terms of setup.”

These have been strange days for ESPN, he added.

“It’s crazy that the last two games, what we had in San Francisco with the air quality in the Bay Area, and any talk of moving that game,” Rothman said.

“Needing to get our trucks to Mexico. That was a stressful week there, not knowing how the air quality would be. A lot that’s been going on over the last week.”