Caught up with Scott Hanson, host of the game-changing NFL RedZone channel, in Friday’s media column. The question he gets asked the most — one not at all related to football — is accounted for in the column.
While we wait for the Patriots and Jets to get going, here are five other more conventional questions and answers with the genial and energetic Hanson:
1. Virtually all of what you do is dependent on what happens in the games; it’s essentially a real-time highlights show. So how do you prepare for it during the week? I imagine it’s a lot of studying rosters and injury reports to make sure you don’t, for instance, mistake Ben Tate for Arian Foster or something along those lines.
Hanson: “Absolutely. It’s a seven-hour show, and it’s all ad-libbed except for the first two minutes setting up the game. So you have to stay dialed in to every story line, injury, depth-chart changes, coaching decisions, so I spend, oh, give or take, a couple hours each day combing the websites, hearing what’s being said in various cities by the local reporters, I’m on Twitter all the time following beat writers, and all of that goes into telling me how the week is going and getting the information about a story line we might want to highlight on Sunday, or to learn about a player who might not have been on our radar previously. And depending upon the flow of the game, I might have to talk about this player for five seconds or I might have to talk about him for 60 seconds. You have to be prepared for just about anything. I really believe it’s a lot like jazz music, preparing for this show. You can know your instrument, you can know your history, you can know all the notes to play, but until it’s live, you don’t know how it’s going to sound.”
2. Given the frenzied nature of your role, it appears to be the most rewarding hosting job in television sports, and probably the most stressful, too. Yet the overwhelmingly positive reaction to RedZone pretty much since it launched in 2009 probably helps make it more of the former than the latter, correct?
Hanson: “My answer to that is yes, and yes. Lookit, the old cliche is, sitting in your living room is the best seat in the house. Well, if that’s the case, I’ve got the best seat in America. I get to watch every single game and see everything of meaning that’s happening, and not only that, I get to enjoy it with whatever the number of people who are watching every Sunday. It’s thrill, whether the feedback is coming from fans on Twitter or someone I just bump into on the street, when people say how much they love NFL RedZone and how it’s changed their viewing experience. The whole thing is just so pleasantly overwhelming, the response. There’s almost nothing you can do, in sports, in entertainment, in television, that is going to be overwhelmingly positive. If you do something and 70 percent of the people like it and 30 percent don’t, you’re doing pretty well. This is, in everything I’ve heard in the three seasons we’ve been doing it, 95 percent positive, maybe even higher than that.”
3. The appeal to football fans in general is obvious, and I’m sure a decent number of your viewers might have a wager on a game or two. But it’s an amazing resource for fantasy football players. Can you put a number on what percentage of people watch it for fantasy football purposes? It’s the closest a fan will ever get to watching their team play in reality.
Hanson: “Well, we get some over-the-top flattery a lot of the time — ‘It’s the greatest thing since sliced bread, it’s the greatest thing since pizza, the greatest thing since penicillin’ — and that’s always nice to hear. But I get, oh, probably as many questions about fantasy football — ‘Should I start Chris Johnson or Arian Foster?’ — and there are so many that I can’t respond to all of them, but I would say, oh, it’s well over 50 percent, certainly the majority of the people watching have some kind of fantasy football interest.”
4. You played at Syracuse, having described yourself as “Rudy without the sack at the end.” is the adrenaline rush you get from this similar to what it’s like playing the game, and how tired are you after seven hours of standing in front of all those screens hopping from game to game?
Hanson: “Well, it really is exhilarating, and I think that adrenaline rush you mentioned tends to make the seven hours go by a lot quicker than you’d think. In the middle of that seven hours, I’m not at all tired usually, and never think that way. But by the end of the day, let me put it this way: As soon as we say goodnight and run the touchdown montage [featuring every TD of the day], well, my office is about a 50-foot walk from the studio. And it takes every bit of energy I can muster to walk by to the office and slump in my chair, flip on ‘Sunday Night Football,’ and just start watching some football as a fan and not a broadcaster. I exhale for the rest of the night.”
5. It’s such an intense commitment for those seven hours, it takes someone with great enthusiasm to host “NFL RedZone.” Obviously that is not something you struggle with, but do you foresee a day where it will begin to feel more like a job than a fun way to spend a Sunday?
Hanson: “I know exactly what you’re saying. If I was talking to you off the record, I could probably name some names of famous sportscaster who at one time were very organic and genuinely enthusiastic, and now it seems like they . . . it’s what they’re known for, so they go out there and do it even if that enthusiasm isn’t what it used to be. So let me put it this way: I don’t ever want it to become an act with me. Because it’s not. It’s not. When I was a 10-year-old kid, I’d listen to my favorite sportscasters, radio sportscasters or television sportscasters, and those guys sounded like they were having the most fun in the world. My parents encouraged me to get into a career where I’d have a passion for what I did. I have that. And the wonderful thing about this is that it’s new and different every week. The only thing you know about an NFL Sunday is that your jaw will drop at some point. You don’t know when it will happen, you don’t know how it will happen, you don’t know who will make it happen. But you know it will happen, and experiencing that with audience, it rejuvenates me every single week, and it’s hard to put into words how fulfilling that is.”