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Thursday, February 9, 2006
Updated: February 10, 12:03 PM ET
New MNF crew excited for opportunity

ESPN news services

The following is the transcript of an interview with:

JOHN SKIPPER, ESPN Executive Vice President Content
NORBY WILLIAMSON, ESPN Executive Vice President, Studio and Remote Production
MIKE TIRICO, MNF play-by-play voice
TONY KORNHEISER, MNF analyst
JOE THEISMANN, MNF analyst
SUZY KOLBER, MNF sideline reporter
MICHELE TAFOYA, MNF sideline report
MIKE SOLTYS, ESPN Vice President, Domestic Network Communications

MIKE SOLTYS: Good morning. This is Mike in Bristol. Our conference call today is to discuss ESPN's new Monday Night Football and our new NBA lead commentator team for ABC.

On the line in Bristol are John Skipper, who is our executive vice president of content; Norby Williamson, who is executive vice president, studio and remote production. Also on the line, our entire new Monday Night Football team, Mike Tirico, who will be the play-by-play voice; analysts Joe Theismann and Tony Kornheiser, who will join Mike in the booth; and sideline reporters Suzy Kolber and Michele Tafoya. Joe and Suzy are in Hawaii for the Pro Bowl this weekend on ESPN. Mike is in Denver for an NBA game. Tony is in D.C. Michele is on the runway in a plane and will be with us for a few minutes. She's also headed to the Pro Bowl.

We have many speakers obviously, and with limited time we will begin with an opening comment from John Skipper, then we'll go to your questions.

JOHN SKIPPER: Thank you, Mike. Thanks to all for joining us.

At ESPN, we're humbled to become the inheritors of the 36-year legacy of Monday Night Football, prime time's most important and most viewed regularly scheduled sports event. We have great respect for our competitors, but we are not daunted by either the competition or that legacy. We're confident we'll create a new Monday Night Football that will have unparalleled interest among fans.

Monday Night Football has always been about innovation and we will innovate on this broadcast. We do not think of it as a mere three hour window. We think of this as an immersive cross platform experience that will make use of all the assets of ESPN. We will start Sunday night after the games with highlights. We will be in the city that night, the host city. We will broadcast Mike & Mike both on the radio and television from that city the next morning. We'll have NFL PrimeTime, NFL Countdown, SportsCenter in that city.

We're very excited about traveling with Tony and Mike (Wilbon) into that city that day. We are cognizant of how important the game is, but it's an event. We believe that we will aggregate more fans, double the fans that watched Monday Night Football this year, in a measured audience across all those platforms. It will be the largest audience to view, listen to, read and watch football of any broadcast for the week.

I am thrilled that we have a team in place on this phone call that shares our vision, how to create this 21st century broadcast that will engage fans in new ways. You're going to get a chance to ask questions of Mike, Joe, Tony, Michele and Suzy. It's a brand new team that I think will develop great chemistry that will inform and entertain our fans. We're thrilled to have them.

I want to make it clear that while there have been some assertions, these are the only people Norby and I talked about for this job. This is our first team and our first choice. Any assertions to the contrary are patently wrong. I'm thrilled with this first team. I'm also thrilled with another first team: Mike Breen and Hubie Brown are our first team on NBA. You'll have an opportunity to hear them Sunday on the Pistons Heat game. I hope you tune in.

We'd be happy to take your questions.

SOLTYS: We'll take your questions.

Q: John or Norby, as far as you know, why do you think Al Michaels wanted to leave?

SKIPPER: Al was not comfortable and let us know he was not comfortable with our vision of where we were going. We want to work with those who want to work with us, so we made a decision quickly to move on.

Q: John or Norby, when did you decide to go from a two-person booth to now a three-person booth? How do you feel that will add that much more to the telecast?

SKIPPER: We made that decision as soon as Tony Kornheiser said yes. We think it will make for a more informative, more entertaining, innovative broadcast. We think the fans will like it.

Q: John, you said that this was your first choice. You guys already had a previous announcement saying that Al and Joe were your team. I'm confused on how this is your first choice.

SKIPPER: Well, I have the benefit of being the new guy. That was the team that was in place when I got into the job. When it became apparent we had to go someplace else, my first choice was Joe, Tirico and Tony Kornheiser.

Q: In terms of Al wasn't happy with the situation, was there any hesitancy to let Al out of his contract? He had signed a deal.

SKIPPER: Let me make clear at this point that Al Michaels worked hard and did a fantastic job for ABC for 30 years. I respect that. We appreciate that service.

As to hesitancy, I had very little hesitancy. I mispronounced it as badly as you did. We have a little solidarity there. [laughter]

Q: Tony, and John can address this as well, what do you envision your role being? Are you going to speak with the frequency that Joe does? Will your comments be less frequent? Will there be comic relief from you?

TONY KORNHEISER: I have absolutely no idea. I'm still in denial that I have this job. [laughter] I don't know about that.

The things I'm worried about most of all are actually traveling to the games since I don't like to fly, and staying up throughout the whole game. I'm hoping Joe and Mike can help me with both those things.

JOE THEISMANN: I just think it's exciting have Tony and Mike join us. Michael and I have had the opportunity to work together on Monday Night Countdown for a number of years when I was a part of the studio show. Heck, I've done radio and PTI. Tony and I have done articles. We've known each other for a long, long time.

I just think it's going to be an exciting new perspective. John had mentioned, and Norby I'm sure concurs, that what we're doing is really a 21st century vision. It's not your classic same old telecast. This one will encompass a lot of different entities we have at ESPN. Tony has been a big part of it.

I think the roles evolve as we spend time together. As we work together, each of us find a niche. That's part of the fun of a broadcast, is to continue to grow. Even though there's a familiarity, Mike Patrick and I spent 18 years together, we still evolve. We'll evolve through this Pro Bowl we're going to do in a few days. That's what I'm looking forward to with Tony, is getting to know him much better and learning exactly what we can do.

SKIPPER: We do expect Mike to get a word in every now and then, too.

KORNHEISER: I expect Mike to get a lot of words in.

MIKE TIRICO: I'll have the mute button up there in the booth to take care of everybody when I need to.

For me, it's the thrill of a lifetime. It's the best play-by-play chair in sports. To be the next person to sit in it is humbling. To work with not just Tony and Joe, who as Joe mentioned I've known both of them for a while, but the two best sideline reporters who have ever done this in Suzy and Michele, two people who are friends with my wife Debbie and [me], are friends for a long time as well with Tony and Joe.

I'm just excited that we're all going to get the chance together as a group to take this best name value of any sports product out there and put it together with the other best brand name in sports, ESPN, and create a new bit of history. An exciting time for us.

THEISMANN: I'm sure the comments are going to come up and the questions are going to come up regarding, well, Joe talks a lot, Tony talks a lot. Tony and I understand that the importance of this telecast is the football game and the fans' appreciation of the game.

That entails disciplines. It entails learning how to talk, when to talk, where to talk. We understand that the most paramount thing is that the fans enjoy the football game, not a lot of rhetoric conversation.

Yeah, we both have had the ability to I think verbalize over the years. But we also understand the format with which we're working in.

Q: Tony, will you in fact have a Madden cruiser to travel between games, a Kornheiser cruiser? To what degree is using you on Monday Night Football a better idea than using Dennis Miller on Monday Night Football?

KORNHEISER: I can't speak to the second part of that. I think people are well aware that I tried out for this five or six years ago when Dennis Miller got it. I thought at the time he was a really great choice. I'm not going to speak to me vis a vis Dennis.

Yeah, I will probably have a bus. Maybe I can get hypnotized or like Mr. T on the A Team, somebody can drug me, stick me on an airplane, then pick my body off when the thing lands, get me ready for the game. A bus would be great. See, it sounds good now. Then that second trip to Seattle is when I want to go under the seat and say somewhere in Centralia, Kansas, home of John Riggins, "Get me out now, bring the plane." Joe talks about evolving. I'm just waiting for the drugs to kick in and wear off. [laughter]

SKIPPER: I think we did show Tony when we were discussing this, I think it's 2,744 miles to Seattle from Washington.

KORNHEISER: I thought you were going to say 2,744 square feet, which is bigger than my house. I'd like to live in it.

SKIPPER: We'll have a bigger bus than Madden. I promise that.

KORNHEISER: Cool.

Q: You will have a bus, is that correct?

KORNHEISER: Yeah, you want to jump on?

Q: That might be an amusing trip.

KORNHEISER: Maybe you go from Washington to Baltimore. That's the easy trip. Everybody I know wants the easy trip. I'm looking for volunteers to take the San Diego trip.

THEISMANN: I'll ride with you. We both live in Washington.

KORNHEISER: That would be cool.

Q: I'd like to see how you handle the stretch through Nebraska. That's what I want to see.

KORNHEISER: I hope I'm asleep.

Q: Tony, what about the Washington Post? Are you going to keep that gig? Your colleague Howie Kurtz took a shot at you on CNN saying you've been more and more phoning it in.

KORNHEISER: See, now, I should probably rise to that bait. For the first time in my life, I'm not going to. I'll just call him privately.

Am I going to keep that? I've got about 27 gigs right now. I got radio. I got television. I got the Washington Post. Two of them I yodel on, one of them I write. I've been affiliated with the Washington Post, and they have paid my rent. They paid for my kids' schools for an awfully long time. I would do anything I could to remain affiliated with them. I've been writing these little columnettes lately. I expect I'll be able to do that. I hope I'll be able to do that.

I'm not certain. The truth of the matter is that everybody else has done this before. Tirico has called a whole bunch of games, if not Monday night. Joe has been doing what he's been doing for a long time. Suzy and Michele have done sideline. I'm the only one who has never done this before. I'd be lying if I said it didn't make me incredibly anxious and incredibly nervous.

The thing I want to make sure I do [is], when we're ready to go, that I'm ready to go, that I know how to do this, that I've practiced it, and that I have a certain amount of confidence that if I say anything completely idiotic, that Tirico will say to me out loud, "Oh, Tony, you don't want to go there, do you?" That will be the signal that I should say, "Whoops, sorry, thanks for pulling me back in."

Q: You're going to have an ex-Redskin in the booth, one cheerleader in your column.

KORNHEISER: Oh, please, just because I said they'd run the table and win the last five and make the playoffs? [laughter]

Q: Will that be something you'll keep in check a little for those rare times the Redskins get some national television exposure?

KORNHEISER: I'd be grateful because it's not a long bus trip. I'll be grateful for that. I think if you check the copy, you'll see I've poked them pretty good over the years. It's just the proximity of it will make me happy.

SKIPPER: Check the contract, you'll be taking the Metro to the Redskins.

Q: No offense to you, Tony, but, John, I was hoping you might talk about the feelings about having two in the booth versus three in the booth.

SKIPPER: You know, I've got to confess, I barely think of it as two versus three, except what I like is having the three folks on this call in the booth. I think they all bring something different to it. We think that Mike will bring very strong play-by-play, refereeing skills to this. Joe, as he sort of pointed out before, will definitely keep us connected to the game. Tony will bring a unique perspective to it.

Tony knows the game. I mean, that's what was important about this. You ask about Dennis Miller. Dennis Miller knew the game, but he was trying to do something different. I think Tony has proved in PTI, in his column, on the radio, that he can bring a perspective to this that people like.

NORBY WILLIAMSON: It's not just about the three people in the booth. Coming off the Super Bowl and their performance with Michele and Suzy, whether it's chasing down Holmgren on the field arguing with the referee, or Michele grabbing Cowher right off the bus, those types of things and the presence they will be, the reporting skills they will bring -- not only to the game telecast, but pregame with all our support programming and postgame -- it's going to be one continuous voice and flow of information that we're going to present throughout the day.

TIRICO: I've done three in the booth for football with Lee (Corso) and Kirk (Herbstreit), then Tim (Brandt) and Terry (Bowden). I've done three with Snapper Jones and Bill Walton for NBA at times over the years, George Karl and Tom Tolbert. I've done probably over 120 three-man booth situations. Trust me, it's not a big deal.

THEISMANN: I've spent the last eight years doing it.

TIRICO: If you wrote it down, about the same number of words are said in a two man booth as there are in a three man booth. It just provides the extra dimension for conversation between two or amongst three people, which probably engages the viewer to an emotion more often than just two individuals. I don't think the two- or three-man thing is in any way, shape or form a factor. As Norby said, there [are] five of us on the crew. Nobody is going to sit there at the end of the day and count their words. The most important person on the broadcast is the one on the other side of the TV watching. As long as the five of us serve that person at home, then we've done our job, and we will.

SOLTYS: I'd ask Suzy and Michele to weigh in on their thoughts.

SUZY KOLBER: My first experience doing sideline was at the Super Bowl. It was nice to be able to focus in on one team. I think you can just dive into the stories a little better. It will be a comfortable fit for both of us. We both respect each other. We like working together. I think it will be a good fit from that standpoint. We both enjoy telling stories. Mike is great at weaving everybody together. There's no concern from the field.

MICHELE TAFOYA: I would echo what Suzy said. I would say a lot of the feedback I got after the Super Bowl was, "Wow, have you and Suzy worked often together because you guys work really well together and you sound really good throwing to each other and so forth."

I agree with Suzy. For Monday Night Football the last two years, you're running over the whole field, covering everything. It's a bit of a luxury to be able to dive into one sideline, pay attention to one bench, know that the other side is capably handled by your counterpart. You know, as everyone said, the number of awards isn't going to matter. We're going to bring the most pertinent stuff, the best storytelling. I think we can do it better than anybody.

Q: Tony, as someone who has observed from the newspaper side many years before getting on TV, what percentage of viewers do you think draw any distinctions among different announcers?

KORNHEISER: I mean, people talk about [that] all the time, "Do announcers bring you to a game?" I think they might. I think to start with they might. I can't imagine Dennis Miller did not, to start with. But ultimately, I mean, it's going to be the game.

The great thing about Monday Night Football to me is that's the game that night. I mean, we could talk about this and all the stories that have ever been written about how it affected the culture, how Roone Arledge and Howard Cosell, among others, sort of changed the viewing habits of sports in America and brought this thing to nighttime and brought this thing to prime time on weekdays. It's the one game. It's the one game.

Sports fans are going to automatically tune into it for a while. I always thought that Cosell brought people in. If the telecast has a certain amount of sizzle, then I would imagine it's something that if you hear about it the next day on Tuesday with what was said on that particular game or what they saw on that particular game, how it was handled, maybe there's a momentum effect till the next week.

I certainly would rather be in the position of having the only game. I'd rather be sitting there on that horse.

Q: John, at what point did you know that Al had a change of heart? Was his deciding to go elsewhere? At that point was that when you decided to add Tony to the team?

SKIPPER: Well, it's really been the last couple of weeks we knew about this. Back in November, he said it was the greatest job ever invented. Sometime between the last couple weeks in November apparently he had a change of heart. We agree, by the way, that it's the greatest job ever invented.

Q: At that point is when you started talking to Tony about his presence in the booth?

SKIPPER: Listen, as long as Al was committed to us, we were committed to him. We suggested already this was fairly recently, last couple weeks. It wouldn't have been appropriate for us to talk to anybody before that.

Q: John, is there enough interest for a cross platform initiative when the game itself features teams that do not traditionally have a large base of fans or interest? Are you committed to this broadcast team beyond this year?

SKIPPER: We are committed to this broadcast team indefinitely. So the answer to that is yes.

We have experience here having great amounts of traffic across all of our platforms at all times. People are interested in football. In every game, there are stories. We had a terrific game with the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions very close to the end of the season with two struggling teams. But [it] had a compelling Brett Favre story, [and it] turned out to be a compelling game.

As long as we have a good competition between two teams, as long as we find the stories, as long as we use our various platforms in the way that people find them entertaining and appropriate, we had six million people online at ESPN.com during Super Bowl Sunday. We on an average day get four or five million people on ESPN.com. We have millions of people on the radio on ESPN360, watching Countdown, PrimeTime. They're interested in football and stories.

Yes, the matchup matters, but we anticipate creating great interest and aggregating big audiences on every one of our games.

WILLIAMSON: Monday is like the punctuation to the football weekend. There are going to be stories that sort of unfold on Sunday that dovetail into Monday with all those shows and SportsCenter, Monday Night Countdown, all those platforms we're going to vet out. There may be stories during the game that affect these teams, other things that may have happened Sunday. Fantasy elements. That's an unbelievable growing element, Fantasy Football. On Sunday and Monday, for a lot of Fantasy players, as that number grows, Monday is your key night. That determines a lot as it relates to who wins and who loses. I think there's going to be a lot of elements to this.

With the cross platform, I mean, just look at Detroit with the Super Bowl. I answered a lot of questions last week about how much ESPN's doing a pregame show up against ABC, ESPN.com, whatever. We basically were all over the city of Detroit. We did a huge number for a six hour ESPN NFL Countdown show, a 2.4 rating, up against the ABC show, while on the air with radio, dot-com. It just delivered. There's an insatiable appetite for NFL news and information.

Every week is going to be like a mini Super Bowl. That's what we're going to do, week in and week out we're going to make it an event in the city, not just as it relates to on our air. But when we come to those towns, it's going to be like a mini Super Bowl each and every week coming to your city.

Q: John, if Al Michaels did have a signed contract, did you just say, "Man, you can walk," or was there some kind of penalty he had to pay per the contract he signed?

SKIPPER: I'm not going to spend any time discussing particulars of his contract. We reached a satisfactory resolution. How is that?

Q: It's not a great answer, but…

SKIPPER: It's not enlightening, but it won't get me in trouble. [laughter]

Q: John, can you elaborate a little bit, when exactly did you release Al from the contract or reach the satisfactory resolution?

SKIPPER: The short answer to that is no. I mean, it's not really important to speculate on what day and hour. It's all been fairly recent.

Q: It's not speculation. It happened.

SKIPPER: That's correct. I said the speculation was on the specific timing of it. I didn't mean to say you were speculating.

Q: Was it today or Sunday?

SKIPPER: Recent.

Q: How close did you get the last time around?

KORNHEISER: I've got no idea. I sat in a room with Al at the time and we went over a game. It probably lasted, I don't know, a half hour or something like that. Then people said I came in second or I came in third or I came in 20th. I mean, I have no idea. I didn't get the blue ribbon that time.

As a sportswriter, it's just pretty cool that somebody came back and said, "Do you want to do this?" I think I'm speaking for sportswriters now. This isn't generally in the career path. This isn't one of those things that comes around very often, if at all. For all the incredible anxieties of mine that you and some of the others know about, I mean, you just say to yourself, "Wow, they really want you to do this. You've got to try and do it."

Q: You're going to keep everything you're already doing besides this?

KORNHEISER: I'm going to try. Maybe I'll just add some hair and go as a new person.

Q: John, are you going to ask Tony to wear a toupee?

SKIPPER: No, I don't think that would be appropriate.

KORNHEISER: How about one of those Big Red bozo wigs?

SKIPPER: Might put a top hat on him. [laughter]

Q: Tony, what is the last time you stayed up past midnight?

KORNHEISER: God, it's got to be right around my bar mitzvah. It's just a long time ago. I live like a barn animal. I go to sleep at 9:30 and wake up at about 5. I got to spend the next few months of my life sort of elongating my life to try to figure out how to stay up for this. I'm glad I'm going to be around guys and women that yap a lot. That will keep me up. I like that.

Q: Do you think Wilbon is going to be jealous of you?

KORNHEISER: I never let Wilbon out of my sight for any great length of time. Whatever happens, if you see me sitting on his knee, my head moves, it sounds like him, you'll know we're in there together.

SOLTYS: Part of our announcement is Michael will be joining Tony on location on site to do PTI each Monday.

Q: John, can you tell us anything about what it was about your vision that Al did not agree with?

SKIPPER: No. I mean, you've heard me sort of [lay] out what we want to do. The guys who are on this team I think are the guys to execute that. I realize that's a non-answer, but I don't have anything else to share with you.

Q: Tony, this morning after the news came out, Mike Golic expressed some of the skepticism that's out there because you are not a former player.

KORNHEISER: Really, that shows?

Q: I wonder how you would respond to that sort of thinking, [that] the only ones qualified to analyze football are former players or coaches.

KORNHEISER: I like Golic. I don't hold it against him that he wasn't a lit major. That's okay with me.

Here is what I've done for 35 years. I've been a sportswriter and sports columnist basically. As you know, that's the role of being a critic. I mean, obviously I don't know football like Mike Golic knows football, but I also know that they're not drafting people into the NFL who are making the choice between that and putting a rocket into space.

It doesn't seem to me to be all that hard to take the skills of criticism that you use in a newspaper and say that was a good play or that wasn't a very good play. Doesn't Joe have all the credibility in the world? I guess everybody had to go to Notre Dame, because Joe and Golic did? Is that how it works?

To me you don't have to have that. I don't feel that I'm diminished because I didn't play in the NFL. This could be a shocker, I think most of the audience didn't play in the NFL.

SKIPPER: There may be a little conventional wisdom. We're not bound by conventional wisdom, first of all. And second, if you started with a list of people who have been most influential on Monday Night Football, I don't know if he'd be at the very top, but he'd be right there in the top two or three, and that was Howard Cosell. Last time I checked, he didn't play either.

THEISMANN: I think Tony also being a writer and being around the game brings a very different perspective. I think it can only enhance the broadcast to have different views and different perspectives of what's taking place. As a player and as a former player, you see the game through a certain set of eyes. On the outside watching the game and covering the game, you see it in a different light.

So I think when you have a lot of different views of a particular situation, I think it becomes very interesting to the fan, as Tony so well put, because a lot of the fans have never been there. You really get the best of both worlds, I think.

Q: John, how are you going to counter that NBC is touting it now has the showcase game, that it has the biggest, most important game?

SKIPPER: I think I would reiterate what my friend Norby said, which is Monday night is Monday night. It's still the only day of the week where you have an isolated game that everybody is talking about. We have the benefit of being able to look back on the games that happened the day before. We are highly confident working with our partners at the NFL that we're going to get a very competitive and good schedule. We think the showcase game is still Monday night.

I think you'll probably hear some folks who want to suggest that Monday is Sunday. Last time I looked at the calendar in the schedule, it's still Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and we still have the only game that is isolated on a single day. As Tony said before, I like those cards.

SOLTYS: More people are participating in this conference call, more media, than participated in our Super Bowl conference call.

Q: Mike, when were you told to be ready, that you could have this job and be on board? Did you know at the Super Bowl you might be the new play-by-play guy?

TIRICO: I did not know anything until after the Super Bowl. Certainly the issue had been raised. I just did my Super Bowl job.

I learned at [the] Super Bowl, because I live in Michigan, that the hardest thing to do is play a home game. My biggest concern Super Bowl week was getting my wife into parties that she heard about for 10 years. I failed miserably. Hopefully with the new title, I'll have a chance to get her into a few more parties.

THEISMANN: Don't count on it, Mike.

TIRICO: Thanks. As this week unfolded, I had more of an idea, and certainly last night I knew.

Al's name has come up a lot on this call. Hey, the three people who have done the play-by-play job for Monday Night Football are three of the best ever in Keith Jackson, Frank Gifford and Al Michaels. Just the chance to be associated with the women and men of ABC Sports and those three gentlemen and what the rest of the booth [has] done for the last 36 years is a pretty humbling assignment.

I cannot wait for that second Monday in September to get here and get rolling on this thing because I've never been more excited or thrilled than when I was waiting to go on ESPNRadio this morning and Mike Greenberg, who is a good friend, said, "Now joining us is the play-by-play announcer for Monday Night Football." First time I thought of it, first time I heard it said, and honestly I got a complete chill in my body. I'm really excited to hear that phrase.

Q: Tony, over the years when you have been able to stay up and watch all of Monday Night Football, what team has been your favorite? What do you consider the ideal mix in the Monday Night Football booth?

KORNHEISER: Just whoever is entertaining on that particular night. If you have a good game, you probably don't have to say that much. If you have a bad game, you probably have to earn your money in the fourth quarter when I was mercifully asleep.

Like everybody else who is ancient, and I'm ancient, I'm going to think of Cosell and Meredith. That's just in my frame of reference [as] people that sort of did something. They were at the forefront. I mean, I don't want this to sound ridiculously pretentious, but it really did seem to bring sports into the mainstream culture in ways that it hadn't been before. It took it out of just guys sitting around in a den and it involved entire families watching this game. Nobody forgets this stuff, when they brought celebrities into the booth, talked to them, just the sort of ease and camaraderie they had. It would just be great to be a part of something like that.

Q: When the camera is on the new Monday night crew, who will be standing on the box?

SKIPPER: I think Norby will.

WILLIAMSON: I'll be holding the box. That's what my job is going to be.

TIRICO: I think Michele, Suzy and me, we're the three shortest people.

KORNHEISER: I'm the one who is afraid of the HD makeup.

THEISMANN: I'll be in the huddle where I'm the tallest.

Q: Tony, I assume since the Super Bowl ended at 10, you watched the whole thing.

KORNHEISER: I made it through. I called people. I said, "I made it, I got through the whole game."

Q: Announcers tend to play it safe. As you said, you're a columnist, you've been opinionated. If you saw what was happening to Seattle, say you were doing that game, would you have been stronger in saying what became a bigger story on Monday and Tuesday?

KORNHEISER: Yeah, that's pretty interesting. I would have been very slow to have understood that they should have tried to kick the field goal when everybody was screaming about that. I think Joe and Mike would have been much quicker about that. But I might have at some point made a list and say there are about five or six calls that are important and they didn't get any of them. Beyond that, I don't know that I'd start railing about the need to have professional referees or call for a Congressional investigation or anything like that.

I do think that somebody who is used to writing a sports column, looks at the game a little bit differently, I suspect, maybe Joe would agree, than somebody who is used to playing the game, I just think it's a different set of eyes. One is looking from the outside in and one is looking from the inside out.

Q: John, did Al Michaels want to continue with the NBA? Was he trying to stay until after that before he was going to leave?

SKIPPER: I'm just happy we had a chance to sort of resolve the situation to everybody's satisfaction. We were happy to move in a new direction.

Q: Did Al Michaels want to stay with the NBA before he left ABC and ESPN?

SKIPPER: You know, I really don't want to speculate on what Al Michaels wanted to do, wants to do, or did want to do.

Q: Norby or John, could you be specific about what the format is going to be. I understand you're going to get there the night before, but I'd like to know in terms of what shows people are going to appear on, what the pregame is going to look like, what is going to be different?

WILLIAMSON: In a thumbnail to run it down here, basically we're going to start on Sunday night SportsCenter with a presence from the city that we're going to, then we'll start early Monday morning with Mike & Mike on ESPN2 as well as on ESPNRadio, Cold Pizza on ESPN2 goes from 10 till 2. They'll have a presence in the city. We'll then make a move to SportsCenter back on ESPN between 3 and 5.

SKIPPER: From the site.

WILLIAMSON: From the site of the game. Then we'll go to Around the Horn, then we'll go to Pardon the Interruption from the site, then we'll go to NFL PrimeTime from the site, then we'll go to Monday Night Countdown pregame show from the site, then we'll go to the game. Then postgame we'll go to SportsCenter right out of the game from the site. Then we'll get an updated NFL PrimeTime after SportsCenter.

One thing we did do, just to help out Tony with staying up late night, ABC kicked at 9:10 for the most part. Our kickoff will be actually 8:40. We'll move it up half an hour.

Q: In the broadcast itself, are there going to be any differences that viewers will notice?

WILLIAMSON: I think viewers are going to notice Mike Tirico, Joe Theismann, Tony Kornheiser, Michele and Suzy. Obviously, again, we've said on this call that there is going to be a new vision and we are moving forward. We do understand the importance and the sanctity of the Monday Night Football brand. We're humbled by that.

At the same time, if you look at the legacy of ESPN and the things that we've accomplished here, we're not afraid to take risks. We're not afraid of innovation and to try different things. We're clearly not just going to take the existing execution of Monday Night Football and put it on ESPN. It's going to be different.

We're going to try some different things. I'm looking forward to getting together with this team and the production team, Jay Rothman, Chip Dean, who has produced and directed our Sunday Night Football, to get together to execute that innovation and that risk-taking on Monday Night Football.

Q: Can we see the new graphics?

WILLIAMSON: We'll have a new graphic package, animation package. We will keep the Monday Night Football music. That's a staple of what Monday Night Football has been. That says Monday Night Football. Besides, we like the music. We're going to keep that, but we'll reinvent the look, the animation, and the presentation.

Q: What about online? Is 360 going to have anything live?

SKIPPER: The answer is absolutely. We will have, just as we do at other big events, a 24/7 presence from ESPN.com. We are looking to figure out what bonus material, open cameras we can put on ESPN360 to provide other people's points of view of the game. The answer is we will do extensive interactive parts of the telecast.

WILLIAMSON: The one thing you're going to feel again for a brand out there, is College GameDay, when we take that on location, that sort of energy with fans' involvement around energy sort of encompassing a city. If you've seen that, I'm sure a lot of you have seen that, that's going to be the feel to a lot of our programming leading up into the game.

SOLTYS: Thanks, everybody. I apologize for those that did not get to ask a question. Any follow-ups, please give me a call in Bristol. If you have an interest in talking to Mike Breen one on one, we're happy to arrange that as well. Thank you and good day everybody.

SKIPPER: Let me add my thanks.