A crowd of Bills fans will get to spend its pre-game tailgating time on national television Monday night.
ESPN will set up its Monday Night Countdown pregame show in Lot 4 of New Era Field before the Bills’ game against the New England Patriots.
The Countdown program runs 6 to 8 p.m. The first 70 minutes of the show will be held on a set erected in the lot. Buffalo is one of about five cities this season that ESPN has picked to be an on-site location for the pregame. Normally the pregame show is aired from inside the stadium.
“Each year on our Monday Night Football schedule we try to identify some of the more unique and passionate fan bases,” said ESPN coordinating producer Matt Garrett. “When the schedule came out this year, certainly Buffalo was one of those cities that jumped right up to the top of the list in terms of heading out for a tailgate show.”
“Buffalo is well-known league-wide as having some of the best fans in the NFL and having one of the most unique and intense tailgate scenes,” Garrett said. “For us it was an easy pick.”
ESPN did three tailgate shows last year. The idea is to capture the same kind of atmosphere that exists for ESPN’s College Football GameDay show, which has been traveling around the country on football weekends since 1993.
“We love to draw frankly as big a crowd as we can,” Garrett said. “You think along the lines of College GameDay. We’re trying to achieve that type of scene. We’d love to have fans come out. Our talent likes interacting back and forth with them. The more the merrier.”
ESPN was on site for tailgate pregame shows in Oakland in Week 1 and Green Bay in Week 6. The network is hoping to go to Philadelphia for a Week 13 game and maybe one other week.
Garrett is a Rochester native who grew up a Bills fan and used to have Bills season tickets. He’s well aware of the festive atmosphere in Bills tailgate lots. He’s also aware that the dubious practice of slamming fans through picnic tables is not permitted in stadium lots this year.
“Sometimes when we’ve done these shows, we’ve set up in a spot where there’s a good shot of the stadium in the background,” he said. “In Buffalo we wanted to drop ourselves right into the middle of the tailgate scene and let it fill in around us. We want to show the authentic tailgate experience in Buffalo. We’ll have cameras not just right at our set but also kind of roving throughout the lots and the rest of the tailgate scene.”
Lot 4 is the largest lot on the east side of Abbott Road, across the street from the stadium. Stadium lots open four hours before the game.
Suzy Kolber hosts Monday Night Countdown, along with Randy Moss, Charles Woodson, Steve Young, Matt Hasselbeck and Louis Riddick. ESPN personality Chris Berman will make an appearance on the show, and it’s likely Thurman Thomas will, as well.
The game will be the 16th on Monday night in Orchard Park and the first since 2008. The Bills are 17-25 overall on Monday night and 8-7 at home.