Behind the Scenes with FOX’s NFL crew: Malice in Dallas

By Richie Zyontz
FOX NFL Lead Producer

Editor’s Be aware: 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 masking 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 workforce makes its journey towards Tremendous Bowl LVII.

One other vacation, one other working weekend away from dwelling. Thank goodness for understanding households. However that is the occupational hazard of sports activities tv. As Hyman Roth stated to Michael Corleone in Godfather II, ‘’that is the enterprise we have chosen.”

So with Christmas upon us, our FOX team added to their frequent-flier accounts and converged on Dallas from 23 different states to help cover the NFC East showdown between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Cowboys.

Malice in Dallas

There’s nothing like the excitement of a major sporting event.  The hype, the trash talk and the gambling all ramp up several notches. The air is electric with anticipation. 

And no, I’m not referring to that sidebar contest between the Eagles and Cowboys.

It was the tennis grudge match between Greg Olsen and director Rich Russo that captured our crew’s attention — an event now forever known as The Malice in Dallas.

Competition can turn friends into foes, and judging by the pre-match mood, Olsen and Russo were heading in that direction.

Two cameras were on hand and a live stream was set up for a select few with too much time on their hands. Our entire crew turned out in support. Kevin Burkhardt and associate producer /self-invited guest analyst Rich Gross called the action, Erin Andrews interviewed the athletes and Mike Pereira served as the umpire.

Among all the tennis matches I’ve witnessed, which is none, this one stood out for the high quality of play. Russo started strong, exhibiting good form and a steady forehand, and jumped out to a three-games-to-one lead in the first set. 

But then Olsen’s court coverage, long reach and combination of power and finesse proved too difficult to overcome. 

The result was the former Pro Bowl tight end winning in straight sets , 6-4, 6-1.

Malice in Dallas

FOX Sports activities NFL analyst Greg Olsen and director Wealthy Russo performed a hotly contested recreation of tennis earlier than the Christmas Eve Cowboys-Eagles matchup.

No matter sick will existed previous to the match dissolved into mutual respect after, and the nice fellowship on the A-Crew reached new heights.

A brand new chapter to an outdated rivalry

Rivalry video games are pleasurable to cowl as a result of they’re so wealthy in historical past. The Cowboys and Eagles have supplied many lasting recollections. 

Within the broadcast, we added a number of manufacturing components honoring each groups’ legacies.  My favourite was a cleverly edited piece with audio from former Dallas coach Jimmy Johnson tearing into Eagles coach Buddy Ryan after a very heated recreation in 1989 — eternally to be generally known as The Bounty Bowl.

These groups did not like one another then, and that mutual hostility hasn’t modified a bit.

Each recreation has its personal distinctive rhythm. It is our job as producers and administrators to react and modify to that rhythm. Typically the sport crawls together with a number of stoppages and penalty flags. And typically the sport merely would not allow you to breathe as a result of the ball is shifting up and down the sector with one huge play after one other. That is how this one felt me. 

It was a Christmas Eve basic with Dallas prevailing 40-34. 

After many weeks of non-competitive video games, our crew has lined two beauties in a row. There’s nothing just like the drama of a significant late-season NFL recreation. Director Wealthy Russo, bouncing again properly from his defeat on the tennis courtroom a day earlier, deftly captured the emotion on either side.

One in all our crew members did not have far to go to attend this recreation. His title is Michael Brandt, however we name him Mookie. This Dallas native has been a terrific replay operator with us for 25 years and he is acquired fairly a household story to inform.

Eyewitness to historical past

On November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was murdered in Dallas. It was a horrible occasion that modified the course of historical past. The nation reacted and mourned from a distance. As a primary grader at P.S. 40 in New York Metropolis, I used to be confused as to why we had been being despatched dwelling so early. The tragedy made Dallas the middle of the universe for the flawed causes.

Whereas many people watched Walter Cronkite on CBS Information chronicle the occasion, Mookie’s dad Ernest wasn’t close to a tv. He was there.

Ernest Brandt was one in every of hundreds of onlookers gathered to greet the presidential motorcade on that fateful November day. He staked out a great place simply exterior the Dallas Guide Depository in Dealey Plaza.

He heard three pictures. The primary, he stated, seemed like a bike backfiring. The second made it clear there was a shooter. After the third shot, eyewitnesses had been clearly pointing to a sixth-floor window within the Guide Depository because the doubtless supply of the gunfire. A person named Abraham Zapruder was positioned on an increase behind Mr. Brandt along with his Bell-Howell film digital camera. One onlooker clearly seen in his black fedora standing toes away from the motorcade is Ernest Brandt.

Mookie’s dad is on the Zapruder movie earlier than, throughout and after President Kennedy is shot.

For a few years thereafter, Brandt has served as an unofficial historian of the assassination, sharing his recollections with vacationers in Dealey Plaza up till his demise in 2017 at age 91.

No matter and wherever we’re assigned to cowl subsequent week, it will likely be arduous to prime the sport we witnessed right this moment. The Cowboys and Eagles gave us an unbelievable matchup; as David Helman wrote after the sport, that is one we should always all hope we get to see within the playoffs. Relaxation assured that if it does occur, the FOX Sports activities A-Staff will likely be there to cowl it.

Merry Christmas, everybody!

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