When the Buffalo Bills play the heavily favored New England Patriots in their first "Monday Night Football" game at home in a decade, their fans should be rooting for the Tess Effect.
That’s the phrase "MNF" play-by-play man Joe Tessitore became known for over the years while calling several major upsets and ridiculous endings in college football.
It led to the creation of the hashtag #TessEffect.
The Bills could use some similar Tess Effect craziness against Tom Brady and the Patriots.
“I agree they could use a little bit of that,” Tessitore said in a telephone interview. “Let’s see if Buffalo can grab a little bit of that hashtag.”
Though even the staunchest Bills fan thinks the team has as much chance as they have of winning Powerball, Tessitore said the ESPN crew is happy it is coming here.
“You guys can talk about the realities of your team and you think this game may not be competitive, our crew has been looking forward to this game for a while,” Tessitore said of Bills fans. “When the schedule came out, everybody was very excited on 'Monday Night Football' to get up to Buffalo because we understand that place and those fans.
“We understand like man, it’s been a decade … You get in the playoffs, you get on the 'Monday Night Football' schedule. We understand that no matter what is on the field, those fans are up for a good time and are going to be your great Buffalo fans. So we have been stoked for this thing. When you say 'Monday Night Football' in Buffalo, it conjures up what that tailgate scene is going to be like starting mid-afternoon all the way up to kickoff.”
A native of Schenectady, Tessitore occasionally drove with his father to Bills games growing up. He’s had wings at the Anchor Bar. He came through here on his way to see some family members in Toronto. He was the play-by-play man on one of heavyweight Baby Joe Mesi’s fights. His late father is a graduate of Niagara University.
“So I grew up rooting for the Purple Eagles,” said Tessitore, who listens to Rochester native Chuck Mangione’s “Feels So Good” before every game.
Of course, experts don’t expect Bills fans to feel so good Monday. But Tessitore isn’t buying the idea the game is a mismatch despite the Bills' offensive problems.
“The way I always view every NFL game, the guys on the other side are NFL players, too,” said Tessitore. “It is not like the Patriots are going to play a FCS college team. They are about to play a team full of professional football players and know what they are doing and do it very well.”
So he is giving the Bills a chance?
“I give every NFL team a chance every week they take the field,” said Tessitore. “I understand the limitations. I understand how challenging it is to sign a quarterback (Derek Anderson) two weeks ago who was sitting on the couch as a free agent and throwing him in as a NFL starter. I understand with your star player being concussed (LeSean McCoy) and breaking in new people and some humbling experiences. But this isn’t Alabama playing a FCS team (when) there is literally no chance.”
A marketing major at Boston College, Tessitore is proud to have landed one of the most visible broadcasting assignments on television. When he was tapped to replace Sean McDonough and become the sixth regular play-by-play man in "MNF" history, he immediately thought of his heritage.
“I was filled with gratitude for the opportunity, incredibly excited about it and understanding it as a legacy job… very, very aware of how short the list of broadcasters who had the job before and wanting to cherish that,” said Tessitore. “But truth be told my first reaction was that of my immigrant family.”
His mother came off a boat with eight brothers and sisters and his grandparents came to an Italian-American area in Schenectady. He grew up in in an Italian-speaking family and neighborhood.
“One of the ways my aunts, and uncle and especially my grandfather, who didn’t speak English, assimilated to America culture was by watching sports television,” he said. “That was a link we had, a connection we had. In fact, I used to impersonate Howard Cosell for him.
“So my first thought was really not about me and the opportunity, but was about my mother, who is still with us, and my grandparents, and just the idea of how great a freakin’ country this is. That a bunch of people can get on a boat in Naples, Italy, far after most of the wave of immigration to this country, not speak English, and I could be born to an immigrant and end up having one of the most high-profile jobs speaking perfect English on television to the country. At least, I hope I do.”
Tessitore has been by far the most impressive of the new "MNF" trio and the only one who isn’t getting heavy criticism on Twitter.
He has had a simple message for his teammates, two-time Super Bowl winning defensive tackle Booger McFarland and former Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten: “We didn’t hire either of you to try to be the perfect broadcaster or try to fit some mold … We hired them to be Booger McFarland and Jason Witten. We hired Booger to be a strongly opinionated, irreverent, outrageous character who authentically sounds like a guy who grew up in the country of Winnsboro, Louisiana, sounds like a guy who played nose tackle and doesn’t really give a ... about what he says or who cares what he is thought of and just be your funny, irreverent, football smart, savvy self.
“And we hired Jason Witten to be Jason Witten, a guy who just played 15 years in the league at the highest level and future Hall of Famer and not try to role play.”
The trio has bonded over dinners, travel and talking football. Tessitore said listening to them is “gold.”
“The more that version of them shows up on the air and reveals itself, which last Monday night it did, the more you get the authentic version of them, the more it is going to pop," said Tessitore. “I don’t know if we are any good right now, but I know that someday, hopefully, if we do this long enough, people are going to think we are.”
McFarland went where no analyst went before last Monday when he said that while wide receivers like Odell Beckham Jr. are divas who go to the locker room to go to the bathroom, defensive lineman do their business on the sideline. “I was smiling because I know that’s the Boog that I hang out with,” said Tessitore. “And Witt jumping in with ‘too much information’ is exactly the Witt I hang out with that would say that to Boog.”
“This is a long-term plan to develop chemistry and grow into things, just like drafting a rookie quarterback or a rookie running back and building offenses … We just want to be who we are. We are real passionate football guys who have a lot of fun and we have smiles on our faces and we really love being there.”
If the #TessEffect strikes Monday night, Bills fans will have smiles on their faces, too.