Sean McDonough will be calling a football game involving his younger brother Terry’s team on Monday night, which is to say that nothing much has changed in the past four decades.
Other than the part where Sean landed a dream job as play-by-play man for “Monday Night Football” and Terry became vice present of player personnel for the Cardinals.
But back to the 1970s:
“When I was a Pop Warner football player, he was the one up in the booth saying, ‘McDonough on the carry,’ ” Terry recalled. “He wrote articles about my high school teams. He coached my Babe Ruth team.”
Said Sean, “He was probably 10 years old and I was 14 in the rickety little wooden box at Hingham [Massachusetts] High School field doing the public address announcing. Some of my first experience behind a microphone.
“So there’s a very long history of this, with a long gap in between.”
The closure will come when the Jets visit the Cardinals, part of McDonough’s first season as Mike Tirico’s successor, a relatively late twist in a career in which he called a World Series at age 30.
The ups and downs were what made his hiring for the coveted “Monday Night Football” spot so meaningful for his family. Terry got the news while he was in the Cardinals’ draft room last spring.
“It was a pretty emotional day anyway,” he said. “In my business, we work year round for those three days. It was the first night and I get a call right before we were about to start. My engine was revving pretty good, and then he gave me the news. I was just really thrilled for him.
“It’s not often in someone’s profession when you can hit the top at 30 and then bounce back at 54 and be back at the top again. And it was because of his hard work, and I told him that.”
Said Sean, “I know he’s very proud. He got emotional when I sent him the text that they had offered me the job. Terry’s like me; he’s one of the emotional ones in the family, and we both can cry watching cartoons, and usually do.”
Neither brother is concerned about viewers detecting bias in Sean’s voice Monday night. As he noted, it was far more delicate for Jon Gruden to analyze a game involving the Redskins, coached by his brother Jay, than for Sean to work this game.
“Do I want my brother to do well? Do I want his team to succeed in the big picture? Of course I do,” Sean said. “I’m as close to him as any person in the world. But I owe it to the audience — particularly Jets fans — I owe it to my employers, to everybody on the crew, to approach it like I would any other game and keep any personal bias out of it.”
He added, “I don’t think I’ll be doing a round-by-round critique of Terry’s draft picks. But I think if Terry does come up, I don’t have to cross my fingers to say nice things about him because I totally believe there’s a reason why he’s highly regarded in the NFL.”
It is no coincidence that Sean and Terry gravitated to sports careers. Their father, Will, who died in 2003, was one of the nation’s most prominent sportswriters at The Boston Globe and a pioneer among writers appearing on television.
Their other brother, Ryan, is general manager of the Phoenix Suns. Sean splits his time between Boston and Arizona, so all three brothers live in close proximity, at least in the winter.
“Growing up around our dad, I think we all became passionate sports fans,” Sean said. “My original interest in doing this was it was a way to stay involved in sports, after being around my dad, how much he enjoyed the job, and it never seemed like work, because it wasn’t. It was fun.
“I think in all honesty, we all wanted to be like him. I know for the boys, and even for the girls, he was really our role model.”
Sean is the oldest of five, followed by Erin, a senior vice president at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Terry, Ryan and Cara, an executive at Under Armour.
“People ask me all the time, how does that happen?” Terry said of the family’s sports connections. “And I say, ‘Well, if your dad was a plumber, there’s a pretty good chance you’d be a plumber.’ ”
Terry was the best athlete, but his father correctly predicted when he was a teenager that he would grow up to be a scout, based on the way he would break down the strengths and weaknesses of players after Patriots games.
Sean already had his path figured out by then.
“At first it was pretty aggravating because we were all big Red Sox fans growing up, and in my early teens, he used to turn the TV down and announce the game into a tape recorder,” Terry said. “I’d be sitting there watching the Red Sox game with him and he’d be announcing into one of those old-school tape recorders where you’d press ‘play’ and ‘record.’
“So I think I knew at a very early age — I would never tell him then, but I’ll tell him now — that he was pretty good at it. He loved it. He was a natural.”