When the "Monday Night Football" schedule came out, Steve Levy had no way of knowing that the Nov. 9 game between the Jets and Patriots would feature teams with a combined record of 2-13.
But he was looking forward to the matchup then and still is, thanks to a misspent youth cheering for the Jets while growing up in Merrick.
"Absolutely, my brain went right for ‘NYJ’ to see what part of the season, where the game would be and who the opponent would be," he said. "I got a little excited, no question . . . Definitely fired up about the broadcast."
Levy, 55, is fired up in general this season, his first as ESPN’s lead "Monday Night Football" play-by-play man, a plum job that had been a longtime ambition.
He and analysts Brian Griese and Louis Riddick have sought to stabilize what has been an era of many changes in the Monday booth since Mike Tirico left after the 2015 season.
"Our first goal was: Let’s get it off the booth and onto the field," he said. "The game is the thing. It’s not the people talking about the game."
Levy said he feels "much more comfortable, much more in command each week," but for a new on-air team, a COVID-19 world has added layers of logistical difficulty.
And then there is the lack of simple human interaction.
"To this day, the four on-air people and producer and director have not been in the same room at the same time," Levy said, "and we’re past the halfway point of the season."
And there’s this: "One of the things I thought I was best at was laying out and letting the game breathe, and now there’s no crowd to lay out for.
"But listen, I’m hoping we’re in this seat for a long time and we get back to the old normal. I’m ready to punt on this new normal."
Meanwhile, Levy is doing his best to enjoy the ride, and Monday’s stop at MetLife Stadium is a personal milestone.
He lived in Boston for 15 years at the height of the Patriots' dynasty and said his Boston friends will be listening closely for signs of bias.
There will not be any, because Levy has been in the business too long to allow such loyalties to affect his work. Besides, "I’ve kind of detached myself from any Jets fandom in recent years because, quite frankly, they’ve been so bad."
Levy now lives near Hartford, where his 8-year-old twin sons go to school surrounded by Patriots fans.
"They’ve already put the Jets on the clock," he said. "One of my boys said, ‘Dad, I’ll give them one more year,’ and it’s hard to argue with that. I want them to have happy football lives."
Levy said he usually would attend one game a season at Shea Stadium as a youth. His father had a friend with season tickets and "we always got the worst opponent or worst weather game. I loved it. I lived for it."
He recalled a crushing wild-card playoff loss to the Bills at Shea on Dec. 27, 1981, as "one of the great sporting events I’ve ever been to."
It was the last NFL playoff game there.
"I loved Shea Stadium for football," Levy said. "You get to travel and see some of the other stadiums and you realize what a mess the stadium really was. But it was our mess."
Levy said he would rather have two struggling teams in a close game Monday than what happened last year, when the Patriots routed the Jets, 33-0, in a Monday nighter during which Sam Darnold famously was "seeing ghosts."
Still, facts are facts: The teams are 2-13.
"I’m wrestling in my mind: Do we dare put the standings up [on the screen]?" Levy said. "Not in the open, right? We’re not trying to scare people away."