Saturday, September 5, 2009

There's nothing like a day in the press box

If you saw me and/or could sense and feel the emotions pulsating through me right at the moment, then you might think that I would be one of the thousands of young man who will be strapping on the pads and getting ready to bang helmets for a couple of hours this afternoon.

I love college football.

I love football gameday.

I am so geeked up at the moment that I can't contain myself. And the funny thing is, I'll have to keep my emotions in check during the day, especially during the game. (See, like there's no crying in baseball, there's no CHEERING in the press box. More on that later.)

To give you a better idea of how pumped I am right at the moment, let me tell you that I was up just before 6 a.m. on a Saturday so I could make sure I have everything in place and ready to go for the game today. Oh, the game doesn't kickoff until 1:30 p.m.

It's SEVEN hours away, and I'm all a go for some pigskin.

For disclosure time, I am first and foremost a baseball fan. I love spending my days and nights at the diamond either as a fan or as a SID working the game. But despite how much I love baseball, there is nothing like working a football game.

I love the week of hype that just builds and builds and builds with each passing hour leading up to kickoff. The glorious thing about football over baseball is that each game, each week is like a season until itself. It's doesn't matter what the records are for the team's competing on any given Saturday. In college football, every game is like the Super Bowl. If you win you're game that day, you ARE No. 1. Well, at least for that week.

But for that week following a win, you are the best. Period. Who cares who else won that week or who might have a better record. You won your last game, and that's all that matters.

Here's a classic example of what I mean. Overall, the 2005 season was nothing spectacular for the Union College Bulldogs. The team finished the year 4-6 overall and was 1-6 at one point. Yet, in the minds of a lot of Bulldog fans (this one included), that was an awesome season because Union beat University of the Cumberlands (Ky.) in the next to last game of the season 35-34 and essentially squashed the Patriots hopes of making the playoffs. Entering the contest, Union was 2-6 overall and 1-2 in conference play and Cumberlands was something like 8-1 or 8-0, 3-0 in conference play and ranked No. 5 in the nation. But Union not only won the Battle of the Brass Lantern (the traveling trophy for the Union-Cumberlands series), but the Bulldogs crushed Cumberlands playoff hopes.

Another example of this came in the final game of the 2007 campaign. Union was 3-7 taking on No. 17 Georgetown (Ky.) College, which came into the game 6-3 overall, 3-1 in conference play and on the bubble of being in or out of the playoffs. A win and the Tigers are in. Now, I do you know where this story is going - the Bulldogs win. But what you might not know is how big of a deal this win was. See, Georgetown owned Union in football. I bet when the Tigers saw Union on the schedule, they automatically crossed it off as a win. The Bulldogs had not defeated Georgetown since 1938, losing 23 consecutive games to the Tigers. (From 1942-83, Union didn't sponsor football.)

Yet, on that glorious day, Union was the best team. And the Bulldogs rode off into the sunset, feeling like that won it all.

That's the beauty of college football.

Now back to the sports information side of things. Here's a rundown of my typical gameday for a home contest:

  • Up by 7 or 8 am to hope on the laptop to double, triple, quadruple check to make sure everything is in place.
  • Exercise briefly, then fix family breakfast. (Love fixing pancakes on the weekend. I view as my family tradition. It's the one thing I can cook and not screw up. LOL)
  • After cleaning up, it's out of the door by 10:30 and to the office at 11 am.
  • Load up all our gear for the press box. Between my assistant (Gene Renfro) and I, we have two big loads of stuff to take. My car is loaded down, so much I have barely room for my son who insists on coming LOL. My assistant loads up a John Deere Gator. And this doesn't include all the food (Subway - got to eat fresh) another wonderful helper (Heather Cole) picks up for us.
  • In the press box by 11:30 am.
  • Get everything unpacked, loaded and booted up. Sometimes this is simple and easy, and other times technology loves to be cranky.
  • Then by 12 pm, all is in place and it's just time to make sure ONE FINAL TIME that all I's are dotted and all T's are crossed.
  • 1:30 pm - KICKOFF!!! For the next three and a half hours, I'm in stats HEAVEN!!! I am sure you realize there are lots of stats to keep up with in football. But you'd probably be amazed, possibly shocked that how it all gets gathered and all the info I need to know to input. For example, on a simple run play, this is what I hear and then input using the appriorate code, "Run 26, Tackle 55 and 32 at the Union 29." That seems easy, but wait until there's a fumble or an interception or even a blocked kick.
  • Some time between 4-4:30 pm, when the game's over, it's time to print off the stat packets. Since we're on the small scale side of things, we do about 12 packets which go to the coaches, radio crews and media at the game and myself (so I can write the release). I got to see how the 'big boys' handle gameday at the University of Tennessee once, and the reams of paper they go through for one game would last me 4-5 football seasons. NO LIE!!! Of course, NCAA Division I schools have HORDES of media to cater to. The NAIA, not so much - but that doesn't mean the games are any less exciting, believe me.
  • While the stats are printing, I begin writing the release. I write a short blurb and post it on the web so fans can see the result and get a little glimpse of what happened. The full release is usually done by 5:30 pm so that I can make sure the TV stations can have ALL THE INFO before the 6 pm and 11 pm newscasts.
  • Then, it's time to update the record book and stats on the website. Always found it best to do it right after the game because with all that goes on during a normal week, I will forget about it.
  • Around 7 pm, I'm all packed up and heading out of the press box. I take the bulk of the stuff back to the office, and then I head home.
  • Get home about 7:30-8 pm, and then I try to veg and wind down from the day's events. I don't do any more work, but of course, my mind is racing and I'm still keyed up from everything. It generally takes me a few hours decompress.

And the football week begins again on Sunday as I begin working on the game notes for the next game. (Yes, it is a vicious cycle, but it's my vicious cycle. LOL)

During the game, there is no cheering in the press box. Why you might ask? Because we are working. Imagine if you will, you are at your job trying to concentrate at the task at hand either at a desk, on a forklift, in front of a classroom of students or wherever your occupation takes you and right as you try to filter and disseminate all the info flowing your way, someone lets out a big ol' "YES!!! That's what I'm talking about!!! Way to go team!!! Did you see that?!?! Did you see that?!?! That was THE play of the year!!! BAR NONE!!!" You'd get flustered and agitated at the 'offender', therefore, there is no cheering the press box.

(As a side note, due to having worked in the sports media field for now 15-plus years, it's sometimes hard for me to go to a game as a fan and cheer. No lie. I enjoy and appreciate a great play like the next fan, but it's just not in my nature any more to whoop and holler about it. One of the small curses of the profession. LOL)

By and large, I love football gameday not because of the wins and losses (though I do love it when Union wins, makes my job much more enjoyable and easier), but it's the overall experience. It is a blast! And very few people know and/or understand what I (and other SIDs) do at a game. You'd be amazed at all the things we do to help put on a game.

But for me, the ultimate compliment is when I tell someone all that I do at a game and their response is, "I had no idea all that has to happen at a game" or "I never thought about everything that goes on behind the scenes." That's what I want to hear. I want people to enjoy the game and enjoy what's on the field. When I hear comments like that, then that means I've done my job.

Well, as you can tell, I'm excited about gameday. Probably gave you more information than you ever could want, but no one ever accused me of being a man of few words.

So, there's a peak into my world. Hope I didn't bore you. Hope you were able to make it to the end. But most of all, hope you enjoy you some college football.

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