Monday Night Football play-by-play commentator talks career, lessons in broadcasting

Jonathan Colon | Staff Photographer

Sean McDonough, an SU alumnus and ESPN broadcaster, addressed a group of students in Newhouse on Tuesday night.

It was Sean McDonough’s father, the Boston sportswriter Will McDonough, who Sean said he credits with setting him on the path to broadcasting. Sean was introduced through his father to “Monday Night Football,” which he now serves as the play-by-play commentator for on ESPN.

A night after broadcasting the Philadelphia Eagles and Green Bay Packers game Monday night, McDonough was in Syracuse on Tuesday night, when he spoke in front of a group of students in the Joyce Hergenhan Auditorium in Newhouse 3. McDonough, a Class of 1984 Syracuse University alumnus, returned to Syracuse to accept the Marty Glickman Award for Leadership in Sports Media.

McDonough recounted parts of his career in the sports broadcasting field, from covering the Syracuse Chiefs in the minor leagues, to reaching the Boston Red Sox and eventually CBS. McDonough also spoke at length about his decision to leave for ESPN, replacing fellow Syracuse alumnus Mike Tirico on Monday Night Football. He added that Tirico encouraged him to take the spot.

McDonough said his experience with the Chiefs, where he called 400 games before the age of 22, helped him earn his position with CBS.

Jonathan Colon | Staff Photographer

Throughout the presentation, McDonough provided broadcasting tips for students. He emphasized having a strong relationship with his crew, from the on-field spotter to his co-commentator.

McDonough detailed his prep routine for a Monday Night Football game, starting from his briefing with team members Jim Carr and Jon Gruden to his meetings with the home team on Saturdays and the away team on Sunday and Monday.

“Treat every game as though it’s the Super Bowl,” he said.

McDonough also emphasized the importance of behind the scenes team members such as researchers, who summarize press releases and other news coverages into a document for the broadcaster. McDonough also advised aspiring broadcasters to “learn, but don’t imitate” from broadcasters on television and credited his style to broadcasters such as Ned Martin, Dick Enberg and Jack Buck.

He also said he holds himself to a professional philosophy and was critical of commentators who are “homers” for certain teams on national networks.

“We (commentators) are there to enhance the viewer’s enjoyment of the game,” he said. “A well-placed story, a sense of humor, perfect stats, facts, whatever.”

McDonough’s presentation was well-received by sophomore broadcast and digital journalism major Noah Wolfe.

“I actually grew up watching his games,” Wolfe said. “So when I found out he was coming to campus, I knew this was the event I wanted to go to.”

Newhouse Sports Media Center Director John Nicholson was also complimentary of McDonough, saying there’s “extra entertainment value” when he speaks.

“I guess because Sean is so good and so smart and so funny,” Nicholson said in an interview after the event.


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