Running the Fantasy Football Marathon with Matthew Berry

Best of the Fantasy Football Marathon (2:17)

A look back at ESPN's unprecedented 28 straight hours of fantasy football coverage... the highs, the lows, the bizarre... and everything in between. (2:17)

So, it's just before midnight on Tuesday as I write this. I just got off the air of the #FantasyMarathon, 28 straight hours of fantasy football broadcasting across ESPN, ESPN2 and the WatchESPN app. I actually woke up at 8 a.m. on Monday to do the podcast at 10 a.m. After a day of production meetings and rehearsals, we were ready to broadcast at 7 p.m. We had decided before the show that NFL Insider Adam Schefter and I would go for all 28 hours, so by the end of it, I would have been awake for 40 straight hours. And here we are.

I have to tell you, it was one of the hardest things I've done. It was exhausting, it was intense, it was demanding and it was, quite simply, the most fun I've ever had on TV.

My plan, before starting the marathon, was to keep a running diary of sorts during the broadcast. But, in all honesty, I forgot about that task for chunks of time throughout. ESPN is a big place, and we broadcast out of several studios and buildings, so I was often just getting off the air and running to another place or trying to grab a quick bite to eat or go to the bathroom. I even changed clothes once.

If I had been smart, I would have made notes by my entries, writing things like "Hour 1" and so on. But of course I did no such thing. So this is really disjointed, even for me. Like I said, I am writing this up while it's still somewhat fresh in my mind, but I am also going on no sleep for 40 hours. So I am loopy.

Below are some random thoughts I managed to jot down during the course of the fantasy marathon, stream-of-consciousness style and in somewhat chronological order:

* Louis Riddick, for whom I have tremendous respect, keeps talking up Jaguars receiver Allen Robinson. He says he thinks A-Rob will lead the NFL in yards per catch this season and discusses what he sees in Robinson's connection with quarterback Blake Bortles. He's nervous about often-sidelined Bears receiver Alshon Jeffery for same reason ESPN's injury analyst Stephania Bell is. Jeffrey is starting to give me the heebie-jeebies. Or is that the energy drink I just pounded?

Other observations from Lou: He feels Martellus Bennett will help fellow tight end Rob Gronkowski, as the Patriots want to control the middle of the field. He's also really impressed by Seahawks running back Christine Michael and says it's "finally kicked in" for him. And he thinks there's some truth to Seattle's "1-2 punch" stuff we've heard about Thomas Rawls and Michael.

* We go to "Fantasy Island!" We've locked Stugotz from The Dan Le Batard Show and Mike Golic Jr. from First and Last in a room where they are forced to watch the entire marathon. They mention sleeper QBs they like, Tampa Bay's Jameis Winston and Tennessee's Marcus Mariota. I prefer Winston.

We have 28 hours to kill, so we are trying a bunch of things to keep the marathon fantasy-focused in some places and goofy and entertaining in others -- because the whole thing is preposterous. "Fantasy Island" is one of these ideas. So is the fact that I now find myself at a table talking to a puppet. We are already off the rails.

* I manage to get in two "Hit 'em with the Hein!" references, a shoutout and private joke of "The Howard Stern Show."

* We are now four hours or so into this thing and there are a million moving pieces -- and I can't help but marvel at Trey Wingo and Michelle Beadle. You have no idea how hard it is to do what they do and make it look effortless. And they do. They're among the very best anchors we have at ESPN -- rock stars.

* Dr. Michael Kaplan comes on late at night. We do a bit on sleep deprivation. I chug my second Red Bull.

* We talk top-10 running backs. There are quite a few differences on my list compared with those of ESPN staff ranks. I am higher on the Chiefs' Jamaal Charles and the Bills' LeSean McCoy than our consensus ranks.

* We're in the middle of Fantasy Football Now (the midnight to 3 a.m. version) and my good friend Mike Clay makes his national TV debut. Well done, Mike. Eric Karabell, who is doing yeoman's work on the radio broadcast of the marathon, also pops by -- good stuff from both. Clay talks about rookies and brings up Titans receiver Tajae Sharpe, currently running with the first string, in a positive manner. The next day the Titans would trade receiver Dorial Green-Beckham.

Sara Walsh is hosting this segment with Mike, and her "IFB" (the earpiece through which the control room communicates with the host to coordinate everything) cuts out. Sara is literally flying blind on national TV after midnight, but she gets through it. She's seriously awesome.

It's fun to be back with Sara, Field Yates, Tim Hasselbeck and Stephania: my Sunday crew. I can't wait for the season.

Meanwhile, Reese Waters is on Broadway. All I can say is, Reese is a trouper.

* It's now the 3-6 a.m. shift and I am on Jalen & Jacoby. We found a league loser who had to get a tattoo, so he's getting it done live on the air. Hilarious.

Matt, the loser, is a Bills fan and, yeah, that's Tom Brady riding a buffalo.

* There's a lot of Sterling Shepard talk on Jalen & Jacoby with me and Anita Marks, who also covers the Giants. She goes to the practices and echoes what we have heard about the receiver. I'm going to have to raise him in my ranks. We all love Sterling Shepard.

Jalen is in a fantasy football league with LeBron James and talks about that. It's $10,000 to enter -- because of course it is. Love Jalen. Jacoby, too. Those are goofy, funny dudes. It's a great vibe they have.

* During the 5 a.m. hour, Adam is talking deep sleepers. His is Tyreek Hill, the talented rookie receiver for Kansas City, who has worlds of talent but also some baggage. Hill has gotten some nice run with the starters in camp and is getting a long look by Andy Reid and staff.

* It's 6 a.m. and it's Mike and Mike time. They are discussing their upcoming draft that night and who should "control" the team. It's an analytics (Greeny) versus film study/former player (Golic) debate, cleverly disguised as friendly ribbing between the two hosts. It's an interesting topic and I'm too tired to go into it here. But I will say that after staying on that show in its entirety and doing segments in all four hours, I have a new appreciation for what pros those two guys are.

* Up next is First Take from 10 a.m. to noon. What's great about this marathon is that each show brings a unique perspective to discussing fantasy. I'm not on very long, but Max Kellerman does say he believes Carolina's Greg Olsen is the No. 1 tight end in fantasy, not Gronk. Stephen A. Smith is shocked and disagrees. Anyone surprised by that?

* I run over to do a quick hit on SportsCenter with Josh Donaldson, the Toronto Blue Jays third baseman. He's in a 12-team PPR league and wants advice. Schefty and I give it to him. He wants to know our outlook on Steelers receiver Sammie Coates: late-round flyer right now but not without issues.

I almost fall asleep before this hit while sitting on the set. I do that nod off and catch myself thing. Luckily I am not on camera. I've had four Red Bulls at this point. Fatigue is really starting to set in.

* Things start to become a blur. I start drinking water to hydrate more. We do a segment on Fantasy Football Kickoff in which I bungle all sorts of words. Ruh-roh.

I recover a bit and the rest of the show is uneventful. We do a "what caught your eye in preseason Week 1" segment. Both running back Derrick Henry of the Titans and wide receiver Tyler Boyd of the Bengals get love. I point out that 153 targets are up for grabs for Boyd in Cincy with Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu gone.

Comedian Frank Caliendo is doing impressions throughout the day. He does a Donald Trump bit that kills me.

* ... and on to NFL Live, where we do the first round of a draft with 10 NFL analysts and fantasy folks. Here's how it goes:

1. Antonio Brown
2. Odell Beckham Jr.
3. DeAndre Hopkins (Riddick takes him over Julio Jones. Louis is very bullish on Hopkins this year.)
4. Julio Jones
5. Dez Bryant (Picked by Hall of Fame NFL running back Jerome Bettis, who says the Cowboys run game will be very successful, which will open things up for Dez.
6. Adrian Peterson
7. David Johnson (Selected by Field Yates.)
8. A.J. Green
9. Todd Gurley (My pick -- how did Gurley fall to No. 9?)
10. Ezekiel Elliott. (Allen Robinson would have been pick 11.)

* I then head to SportsNation with Beadle and Marcellus Wiley, and we're all punch-drunk at this point. Podcast listeners know this, but Beadle is among my favorite people on the planet, let alone at ESPN. It's always fun when we get to work together. It's all laughter and nonsense for a few hours.

* Suddenly -- OK, not suddenly at all -- I've been at this for an entire day now. It's 7 p.m and we're entering the final stretch. I have my sixth Red Bull. My back is killing me, but I am actually good. I can see the finish line. I can do this.

There's a celebrity draft and it's all sorts of hilariousness and awesomeness. We've been checking in with Stugotz and Golic Jr. on "Fantasy Island" throughout this. Now, in an indescribable scene that had to be seen to be believed, with some TV magic, they are "running with the bulls in Pamplona." It's flat-out hysterical. I didn't really know either guy before this, so it was a lot of fun getting to know them a bit.

I don't know how to describe the celeb draft, except that everyone was sort of punch-drunk. The mood was loose and fun, and I don't think I have ever laughed as hard or had as much fun on TV as I did during it. (Editor's note: So, you do know how to describe the celeb draft, despite your state while typing this.) Michael Smith and Jemele Hill were talking trash to Mike and Mike, and they were giving it right back. Stugotz and Golic Jr. continued to roll, and Kenny Mayne was, as always, very funny. Trey was on fire and everyone else got into the spirit of it, including guests Bobby Flay, Terrell Owens, Chad Johnson and Jamie-Lynn Sigler, along with Adam and Louis.

* And then it's a wrap. More than 1.75 million teams drafted during the marathon. Not everything was perfect, but I wouldn't have changed a thing. I am exhausted, but damn am I proud. Everyone worked so hard and it all somehow came together.

Just awesome. When do we get to do it again?