Story by Chris Graham
There is a regional foosball tournament going on in Staunton this weekend, so naturally, ESPN has a crew on location ready to beam the results to viewers worldwide.
No, really. They do.
“There’s a regional foosball tournament going on, so we decided, why not come here?” ESPN bureau producer Tony Florkowski told The Augusta Free Press during a break in the work that he is leading to get a remote “SportsCenter” studio set up in the heart of the Queen City.
The Byers Street Bistro is playing host to the fourth annual Thunder in the Mountains Foosball Spectacular that kicks off tonight. The restaurant is also serving as a home away from home for “SportsCenter” on day six of the show’s “50 States in 50 Days” tour that will take the popular sports-news program literally across the country.
“We’re also doing things like blueberry-pie eating and cardboard-boat racing. It’s not all just your regular sports. We’re trying to show people things that they may do for fun that are part of what America really is,” Florkowski said.
Florkowski has been in Staunton since Tuesday doing advance work to get ready for today’s telecasts.
“We’ll do two segments for the six o’clock show, and they will be taped probably about 4:15, 4:30. The tournament itself doesn’t start until eight. And when the tournament begins, about eight, 8:30, we’ll shoot our segments that will run on the 11 p.m. and overnight show,” Florkowski said.
“Those will have a lot more action and stuff from the inside, because the players have to get here, and I don’t think you can make a living as a professional foosball player, so a lot of them have to work and then get out here,” Florkowski said.
Florkowski’s focus to this point has been on taking care of all the details that have to be taken care of when you’re getting ready to broadcast to viewers across the globe.
“There’s about 30 people working with us in various areas, from staging, building, lighting to tower and computer help and camera operators and audio,” Florkowski said.
Another key set of details involves planning out how to tell the story of foosball to a “SportsCenter” audience.
“A lot of people have seen the game, although this is a different type of table than many of them have seen before,” Florkowski said.
“What we’re going to try to do is take people inside this tournament, show the faces of the people playing, the intensity,” Florkowski said. “These guys who do this are very competitive. They’re coming from other states to play here, they pay their own way to get in, they pay their own way to stay in hotels. But they come out and have a great time.”
Florkowski, a 24-year veteran of the television business, said he has “never been involved on a project of this magnitude.”
“I’ve only been gone for a week. We were up in New Hampshire on Sunday and Monday. People came out and had a great time,” Florkowski said. “They met Stuart Scott. We showed a little bit of their minor-league baseball game. People made a bunch of signs. I really enjoyed being a part of the whole experience.
“And the buzz is getting a lot bigger here as we speak, so it should be a lot of fun,” Florkowski said.
“More than anything, it’s a chance to give back a little bit. ‘SportsCenter’ is highly viewed. A lot of people enjoy watching it. We thought we’d take it out, let people come on out in these towns and have some fun,” Florkowski said.