-Written by Erik Sargent
Video via ThePostGame
The final whistle of the first half blows, and the teams on the football field exit to their locker rooms before the TV network cuts to more pricey commercials, signaling the beginning of halftime.
You might go grab another beverage or bite to eat, but you’re rushing back to your seat before this block of commercials ends, because it’s time for the halftime show.
The Final NFL Sunday is the closest thing to a national holiday for sports, and it’s the most watched television event each year, as millions of people tune in not only for the last football game of the season, but entertaining advertising, and most importantly – the halftime show.
Coldplay, Katy Perry, Bruno Mars, Beyoncé, and this year’s performer – Lady Gaga – are just some of the larger than life performers who have played the halftime show in recent years, and it’s become a milestone event for entertainers.
Every year, extravagant stages are set up and taken down in minutes, and entire concerts are performed in the block of what usually amounts to a half hour. As quickly as it begins, it’s over again, and the football players are back on the field competing for a championship.
How does this happen? How is it executed so quickly? Who is involved in moving the pieces? These are all questions we had when discussing the The Big Game, and we were fortunate enough to speak with Rob Mondora, a field team member for Touchdown Entertainment, the company responsible for putting on the big game’s halftime event. Mondora started in 2009 when the game was in Tampa Bay and Bruce Springsteen was the main performer, and shared some insights into how this prime time entertainment takes place.
“I was fascinated the first time I saw it, and that’s why I wanted to become a part of it,” Mondora said. “The people that do the production work, we have our first rehearsal about 12 days prior to the game. We have about eight or nine rehearsals throughout that period of time, and they usually take place in the evening, with a couple of days off in between.”
Touchdown Entertainment is contracted by the NFL each year, and they are responsible for all the execution required in finding man power in the designated city, and briefing and training them on how things are going to take place.
“The majority of people are actually volunteers from the local city, wherever the game is happening,” Mondora said. “They put out a call to volunteers, usually about four months before the game, and people sign up. These people can be from every walk of life, and they are pretty much thrown into show business immediately. It takes a lot of muscle to get everything out on the field, and it takes a lot of practice and team work. It’s been done this way for over 20 years.”
Rehearsals and Training
“The first meeting, everyone meets as a group. It’s explained what is expected of them,” Mondora said. “Safety is the number one priority, and staying focused on what we are doing, that type of thing.”
After the volunteer movers are briefed on their assignments for the game, the rehearsals begin.
One important thing to consider when thinking about this moving process – the volunteers are not trained in moving, and are often learning on the fly as to how they are supposed to do what is being asked of them.
Stage leaders – usually local union organizers – are hired to coordinate what is happening with each individual block of staging, and they are responsible for getting the volunteers into the proper grouping in order to complete the move effectively.
“People are broken up in to groups depending on the size of the staging, I’d say an average of about 10 people push a piece of the stage onto the field,” Mondora said. “It’s usually people that have no previous training doing something like this, so it’s an amazing feat how everything can come together with people that aren’t really trained in this.”
With safety being a major emphasis while moving, it’s important the volunteers use proper moving techniques and form, along with the instructions given to them by the organizers of the event.
According to Chris Dailey –general manager at professional moving company TWO MEN AND A TRUCK®’s Houston location – relying on people with the most experience will help everyone achieve the task at hand.
“One tactic we always try to do at our location is pair inexperienced movers with the most experienced movers,” Dailey said. “The experienced movers will know what to do and can quickly tell the inexperienced movers what to do while moving an item.”
Dailey commented on how having the staging pieces on wheels – which they are – will create the smoothest transition when trying to complete the move in a rush.
“Wheels definitely help move larger objects quickly,” Daily said. “Having them already on wheels, or already being able to put them onto something will get them moved quickly, especially in cases with a long walk involved.”
Completing the process
Time is of the essence when getting everything staged, set up, and broken down again. There is even a clock running from the second the players leave the field until they get back.
The NFL allows a certain window of time for everything to be completed during halftime, and it’s important for the volunteer movers to ensure the moving process is done quickly and efficiently, allowing the show to run smoothly.
“Most of the halftime shows consist of 30 or 40 pieces of staging that need to be rolled out onto the field, assembled, and have the wiring connected and ready to go,” Mondora said. “That process needs to be done within nine minutes. The halftime of an NFL game can be no longer than 30 minutes, and you have about nine minutes to set it up. The performance is usually about 13 to 16 minutes, and you usually have about seven minutes to get the staging off the field.”
With the halftime performances continuing to become more elaborate and more and more pieces of staging being added each year, it’s a process that continues to evolve. The attention to detail required to pull this off in such a tight window is off the charts, and it’s truly an amazing moving experience.
As movers ourselves, we can always appreciate a good move, and hopefully this gives fans of the big game something to think about next time they see this happening live.
“It’s very well-choreographed, and after the rehearsals, it’s a very fine-tuned machine,” Mondora said. “It takes a lot of team work, you’re working with a couple hundred to get the job done, and it’s a very rewarding experience when it’s all completed.”