Scott Hanson can finally take a breath. Seven hours of commercial-free football have come and gone, a marathon that feels like a sprint every second of the way. Lights dim in the studio as viewers from every corner of the world go about their Sunday evening. Hanson does the same.
Any professional athlete will tell you recovery is as important as preparation in the pursuit of greatness. Hanson believes it too, even if he’s calling the action -- rather than dictating it -- as the curator and conductor of the grand weekly ritual that is NFL RedZone, reaching millions each Sunday. It takes a lot out of someone.
“Recovery is the correct term I would use,” Hanson laughs while speaking to The Big Lead, “because I am fried after an episode of NFL RedZone.”
Hanson’s stamina is the stuff of legend, praised in profiles examining his nearly-superhuman ability to stand in one spot and play the role of commentator and statistician for as long as he does on a weekly basis. His study of the players and teams featured each week is as detailed as you’d imagine. His postgame ritual? Equally as important.
Like all great storytellers, Hanson prefers to start at the beginning. He’s up at 5 a.m. PT and in the studio an hour later. The games begin at 10 a.m. and Hanson utters his catchphrase: “Seven hours of commercial-free football starts right now.” Then he and the RedZone team are off to the races.
At day’s end, the final seconds tick off the clock and Hanson gives his sign-off. The red light blinks off. Then the host must prepare himself for the shock of leaving the information-wreathed bubble of Sunday afternoons.
“The first thing I do is pull out my ear piece, my IFB, as it's called,” Hanson explains. Throughout an NFL RedZone episode, Hanson’s IFB connects him with his producer, director, and game audio from whichever matchup is on-screen at the moment. It’s a torrent of numbers and names. Disengaging from the direct line of information can be a bit jarring.
“This is not to sound too dramatic, but it is true: I kind of brace myself on the anchor desk that you see me standing at because I almost lose my equilibrium a little bit,” he says. “It's like half of my head has had constant stimulus going into it. It kind of freaked me out the first couple of times that it happened. The sound of silence in the studio, it's bizarre. It's like you've never heard anything so quiet. Then my body starts to react. I think my body knows, ‘Oh, the show’s over. The show is over.’”
But even once Hanson adjusts, his day of work isn’t over until he takes off his makeup, either at the studio or at home. This is a crucial step in Hanson’s ritual after a day’s work, and he attacks it like he would any other part of his job: with great precision and enthusiasm.
“I either jump right in my car and head home or I'll swing by the makeup room and wipe all the makeup off my face,” Hanson says. “That is, that is therapeutic. I don't like having the makeup on my face, it's necessary, but I don't like having it on. But when I take it off, that is the cleansing of the end of a RedZone episode and it kind of lets me start to think about relaxing a little bit and recovery.
“If I hadn't taken makeup off in the studio, I have a washcloth waiting for me at home and I take a bowl of water and microwave it. It gets nice and hot, steamy, and I dunk the washcloth in and I heat it up to where it's just hot enough where it won't burn me but hot enough that it just feels like a sauna or like a Jacuzzi. And I throw that washcloth on my face and just take a great wipe of the makeup right off and it feels like you can exhale.”
Once Hanson has fully shed his television persona, it’s time to take care of his basic, human needs. By the time he arrives home from the studio, he hasn’t eaten any food or drank any water for 10 hours, cutting himself off from all consumption three hours before showtime. Hanson insists he tries to stick to a healthy regime during the week, but on Sunday night, he indulges.
“I'm pretty dehydrated and pretty hungry [after the show]. I'll fire up some delivery food to my house,” Hanson explains, excitement building in his voice, using the same audio cues he would on a broadcast to indicate his favorite part is coming up. “I get home and a lot of times it will be cheeseburgers or Chinese food or Italian or some greasy Mexican food. Whatever I want because it doesn't matter what happens to me. I don't need to watch the intake come Sunday night, and I love it.
“I usually polish it off with Ben and Jerry's Chubby Hubby ice cream. I don't really eat ice cream even though I love it just because it's not good for you. I usually do not eat it, but on Sunday night I allow myself to have a sweet treat.”
Hanson would probably talk about Chubby Hubby for hours if he could, like Bill Belichick and left-footed punters. When asked why that particular product and not any of the other hundreds of Ben & Jerry’s flavors available, he gives an in-depth description of how much he loves each ingredient (chocolate-covered pretzels, caramel swirl, and vanilla ice cream) and how it all combines into one delicious ice cream cocktail at the bottom. Much like his narration of even the smallest action on a football field, Hanson can make it sound like the greatest thing in the world.
Once Hanson is settled in, fed and hydrated, he finally gets to join the hordes of fans who watch him every Sunday in simply watching football. He may talk about the sport as a job, but he is a self-proclaimed football junkie. He has five televisions in his living room; the biggest, front-and-center 70-inch screen is tuned into NBC’s pregame for Sunday Night Football. The four slightly smaller, 50-inch screens surrounding it feature every studio analysis show he can find recapping the day’s action. The man cannot get enough of the gridiron.
This part of Hanson’s night isn’t just for the love of the game. He self-analyzes the RedZone performance from the day, watching highlights of plays he broke down in real time to make sure he covered the appropriate bases and what could be better next week. Most nights, Hanson is proud of his team’s performance, and happily explains RedZone’s hit rate on TDs shown throughout the years is quite high.
“If anyone else has a highlight show going on out, I'll fire those up even though I've just watched in real time, all of those touchdowns and highlighting all of that. I just scour them to go over to my head, ‘Did we have everything that's in a highlight show hours after RedZone, did our audience see every bit of that live, or seconds after it happened?’ And I'm proud to say that our success rate is probably mid-to-high 90 percent, that anything you see on an NFL network highlight show you saw live, or seconds after it happened, on NFL RedZone.”
Like many of us, Hanson takes a great but simple joy in his post-work routine. Sure, some aspects are fundamentally different-- Hanson has to make sure he drinks enough water post-RedZone, otherwise he’ll cramp up in the middle of the night. He’ll be up late on some Sundays, agonizing over a slight mispronunciation or statistical error on air. But what happens on Sunday night, even if it’s as uncomplicated as eating a pint of Chubby Hubby, helps make Hanson the beloved personality he is each week.
Monday morning arrives. Hanson may have some aches and pains, residue from a 10-hour marathon of speaking rapidly without hydration. But more often than not, Hanson says he awakes with a sense of satisfaction from the show, the reward for a job well done. It’s one of the many things he loves about his job. It’s why he allows himself to eat cheap food en masse on Sunday nights.
“When we have a good show, there is a real deep sense of satisfaction knowing that when the millions of people who watch RedZone go about their day-- they go into the office, they go to work, they drop the kids off at school, they do whatever they are doing on their Monday-- that if they watched NFL RedZone, they know everything. Every major thing that went on in the NFL yesterday. That's what we strive to do. And when we have a good show, there's a real sense of satisfaction.”
Hanson speaks with great enthusiasm and passion about this job; about the nights he spends scrolling Twitter and appreciating the sheer joy others feel while watching him work, about the encounters he has with fans out in public who almost always ask him how he can possibly prevent himself from using the bathroom for an entire show, about the fist-bumps he dishes out to his crew after another successful Sunday. It’s the tone of a person who has found their calling and wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. A person who appreciates every step in the process of trying to be the best version of themselves, even the smallest ones.
Like those he covers, Hanson takes only a moment to appreciate what he’s done before he’s ready to look forward.
“I'm not awake for more than 10 minutes on Monday morning when I'm already thinking, ‘How good is this Monday Night Football game tonight?” Hanson says. “‘Oh, I can't wait for them to kick off.’ It's constant football for me.”