When Sean McDonough got the Monday Night Football job, his phone didn’t stop buzzing for days. Friends, coworkers, contemporaries, and colleagues all wanted to let him know how proud they were of him. McDonough had been on what he called a “winding path,” and it finally led him to one of the biggest calls in sports.
ESPN’s Rece Davis has said before that he thinks McDonough is the best play-by-play guy on TV. Mike Tirico once spoke to a group of students at Syracuse and when one of them asked how to be a play-by-play guy, Tirico told them to “watch Sean McDonough.”
McDonough has kept every text he received when he got the MNF job. He scrolls through them now and again when he’s on the road. The names are easily recognizable and include everyone from Jay Bilas to Mike Breen. Quickly it’s easy to see: if Sean McDonough isn’t your favorite broadcaster, he’s your favorite broadcaster’s favorite broadcaster.
“When it’s all said and done he’s going to be in that Hall of Fame group,” Bill Raftery says. “He’s done so many sports well. He’s a quick study, and he has an insatiable appetite to know everything. The key with him is he knows it, but he doesn’t dispense it in a professorial or condescending way. It’s just good, solid knowledge.”
It’s a very short list of guys who can go into any seemingly any sport and call it well. McDonough is one of them. There’s something to be said about being steady and consistent, even if it means getting passed over time and again for the big gigs. McDonough’s rise was quick – he called the World Series at the age of 30. But that’s when the winding path came into play. He called Big East basketball, and college football games from Nevada to Wyoming. And he’d have people always asking why he wasn’t calling bigger games.
“He took the hits that we all take when you think you’re going to be moved into a position,” Raftery says. “He put his head down and worked his ass off. ”