Behind the Scenes with FOX NFL Crew: A slice of Detroit

By Richie Zyontz
FOX NFL Lead Producer

Editor’s Notice: Richie Zyontz has been an NFL producer for FOX since 1994 and the lead producer for the final 20 seasons. He has greater than 40 years of expertise overlaying the league and has produced six Tremendous Bowls. All through the 2022 NFL season, he’ll present an inside look as FOX’s new No. 1 NFL staff makes its journey towards Tremendous Bowl LVII.

DETROIT — Motown shouldn’t be a frequent cease for our crew. We often make the journey each different yr for Thanksgiving, and that’s often it.

Subsequently, a logical place to begin this week was pizza.

I’m a local New Yorker. I feel I do know good pizza. I’m a sauce man and a crust man. Don’t even deliver up that deep-dish mess they name pizza in Chicago — it isn’t for me.

Years in the past, my pal, FOX Sports activities colleague and Detroit sports activities historian Larry Lancaster launched me to Buddy’s Pizza in Detroit. 

The manufacturing truck had the distinct aroma of Buddy Pizza’s throughout the journey to Detroit. (Picture courtesy of Richie Zyontz)

Now, Larry’s a really good man, however I by no means took him for a gourmand. However lo and behold, this pizza is rattling good.

Served in squares — what we all the time knew as Sicilian fashion — Buddy’s pizza has a novel style, particularly the crust. 

No journey to the Motor Metropolis is full with no cease at Buddy’s.

No place like residence

We’ve got two native Detroiters on our crew.

Lengthy-suffering Lions fan Willie Holmes grew up on town’s West Facet, cheering for Barry Sanders. Willie joined our crew as a runner in 2006 and labored his manner up on the technical facet to a full-time utility job.

Willie Holmes, left, of the utilities staff and cameraman Don Cornelli are Detroit natives who received to return Sunday. (Picture courtesy of Richie Zyontz)

Our utilities staff units up the distant — laying cables and tools all through the stadium. Whatever the activity, Willie performs it effectively and with an ever-present smile. On a number of Thanksgiving Day broadcasts from Detroit, we had Willie share that smile with a nationwide TV viewers and supply vacation greetings on behalf of our crew.

Whereas Willie was nonetheless in grade college, Don Cornelli was already nicely into his Broadcasting Corridor of Fame profession as a handheld cameraman.

A local of suburban Sterling Heights, Don has labored each main occasion on the sports activities panorama.

How’s this for a profession résumé? Thirty-five consecutive NFC Championship Video games, 26 Tremendous Bowls, 20 Masters and 10 Ultimate Fours.

Together with his handheld digicam, Don Cornelli has captured the scenes from numerous main sporting occasions, together with 26 Tremendous Bowls. (Picture courtesy of Richie Zyontz)

As a handheld cameraman, Don is continually on the transfer up and down the sidelines. He has exceptional instincts to all the time be in the precise place on the proper time. Humble to a fault, Don’s enthusiasm and dedication to the job are just some of his Corridor of Fame qualities.

And better of all, Willie and Don each love Buddy’s Pizza.

Info overload

Our crew had but to cowl a Detroit Lions recreation this season earlier than Sunday’s go to from the Packers, so our week turned a crash course.

Along with watching the TV copy of Detroit’s recreation final week and studying the each day clips from each on-line outlet, we get supplies from a wide range of sources. Our terrific researcher, Jarret Klein, supplies fascinating notes and nuggets on each groups.

The crew had loads of homework to do in preparation for its first Lions recreation of the season.  (Picture courtesy of Richie Zyontz)

Our assembly room on the resort was piled excessive with media guides from the Lions and Packers, the NFL, Professional Soccer Focus and Subsequent Gen Stats.

We attempt to cram all of it in earlier than our huge examination Sunday afternoon.

The artwork of listening

As producer, there are a lot of voices in my ear throughout a broadcast. At first, the announcers, Kevin Burkhardt and Greg Olsen — whether or not they’re talking on the air, or on their talkback switches to our manufacturing truck. These switches (or keys) permit for sidebar dialog that doesn’t exit over the air.

I’ve audio system positioned subsequent to me so I can take heed to sideline reporters Erin Andrews and Tom Rinaldi, and guidelines analyst Mike Pereira. There may be additionally a cellphone which connects me to each groups’ public relations staffs and an NFL official within the replay sales space.

This cellphone solely rings on the worst occasions.

My headset connects me to the 12 operators within the replay truck and the graphics space, which is situated on the backend of the principle manufacturing truck. As well as, I talk over headset with our Los Angeles studios to coordinate updates from different video games.

The producer can talk immediately with the reporters and each groups’ PR staffs all through the sport. (Picture courtesy of Richie Zyontz)

This all is on prime of the back-and-forth dialogue that takes place between myself, director Wealthy Russo, affiliate producer Wealthy Gross, technical producer Pete Chalverus and technical director Colby Bourgeois — all occurring throughout the cozy confines of our manufacturing truck.

As you’d count on, there are a number of voices to observe. This requires filtering abilities to find out what’s essential to take heed to at any given second. Every voice issues. As onerous as we attempt, our listening abilities do not all the time succeed. Speaking and listening concurrently is usually a problem.

I usually use the phrases “one second, please” to 1 voice whereas attending to a different. Good manners and civility shouldn’t undergo, even amidst the chaos of a reside broadcast.

Tough day for the Pack

This NFC North recreation was uneven and sloppy to begin. Penalties and accidents prevented any sort of rhythm to develop within the broadcast.

This may be irritating for a manufacturing crew. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle, the place the items don’t match collectively. The one treatment is endurance — finally the rhythm modifications … in a optimistic manner.

Whereas there was little or no offense, there have been a great deal of drama. 

Packers offense pissed off in 15-9 loss to Lions

The Lions protection compelled Aaron Rodgers to throw three interceptions, together with two within the crimson zone, because the Packers misplaced their fourth straight.

Inexperienced Bay desperately wanted a win to doubtlessly salvage its playoff hopes. Reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers was pissed off all day with himself and his underperforming offense. The images informed the story once more for Rodgers and the Pack. Frustration, anger and the fact of a season gone bitter.

And but the Packers had an opportunity to win within the last minute, however fittingly the sport ended on a misfire between Rodgers and receiver Sammy Watkins.

Throughout industrial breaks, the announcers and I would regularly comment on Inexperienced Bay’s offensive ineptitude.

The Lions, in the meantime, performed with fireplace. One of many day’s greatest footage was jubilant Detroit defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn celebrating his unit on the sidelines.

“That tells a lot about our team”

"That tells a lot about our team"

Lions rookie defensive finish Aidan Hutchinson talks with Tom Rinaldi after the Detroit’s second victory of the season.

Subsequent week, we stick with the disappointing Packers as former coach Mike McCarthy and the Dallas Cowboys come to city (4:25 p.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports activities App).

Cowboys-Packers is without doubt one of the most storied rivalries within the recreation, and there all the time appear to be memorable moments when these two groups meet. Hopefully, we add one other chapter subsequent Sunday.

Get the grill and the bratwursts prepared. We’re coming to Lambeau! 

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