Sometimes in sports, an event occurs that seems to be straight of a movie. A buzzer beater to win the championships, a walk off homerun for the series, or an impossible catch to keep a drive alive all qualify in this case. ESPN The Magazine has seized on the human and sometimes amazing drama of sports for their web series: NFL Writers Room.
Right from the kickoff, you must realize that this is a web series for football FANS, not just people who like one team, but people who are familiar with every game, player, coach, and throwback uniform design. You know the type: four different fantasy teams going at once, obsessively tracking player data to predict game winners, and knowing detailed data on every single major player. This is a web series for them.
Created by NY-based production team 12 Angry Mascots, the series is a behind the scenes look of the fictional NFL “writer’s room.” Each week before Sunday’s game the team previews upcoming games and the “dramatic ways” each of them could play out. For example, last Saturday’s episode featured the many different ways that the Minnesota-Green Bay game could have played, with a special focus on the Brett Favre story line. The writers debated how many touchdowns he should score and included a funny debate if Favre should go for a “Lambeau Leap”. In a funny twist, the writers also bicker about if the game’s storyline gels with the theme for the season: “despair & disparity.”
The general concept of a writer’s room for sports is a good one, and the NFL with its intricate plotlines is ripe for this kind of material. However, the series has some type of metaphysical level, intended or not that makes it interesting. In other words, we are watching a scripted web series about a bunch of fictional writers trying to script a real life event. It is not surprising that writers Neil Janowitz and Scott Rogowsky have serious comedy chops, with Janowitz even doing a piece for the hipster go-to magazine McSweeneys.
No it’s not Lost like in its storylines, but it’s interesting. For example episode two had the “Executives” colorfully demanding a change in storylines. It’s a situation that has occurred in countless writing rooms in Hollywood and to see it play out regarding sports is hilarious.
ESPN The Magazine looks to have a body slam of web series on their hands; hopefully they can rein it in for a touchdown winning play. As the NFL season heats up and teams begin the vicious march towards the playoffs, the drama in the room should heat up. One can only think about the inevitable Super Bowl episode and how the writers will rise to the challenge, especially with the two previous super bowls being so exciting. The series tagline on their ESPN channel is “think of it as pro-wrestling …with a ball” and at this rate if the antics of the writer’s room (and the drama of the NFL season) continue, this one could be a body slam of comedy.
Tim Goessling is a contributing writer for Tubefilter and a big time New England Patriots fan. You can read more of his writing at thislalife.com.