Wednesday, April 30, 2008
I went to the show solo figuring I'd run into someone I knew and I'll be damned if lots of good people were there. I was thinking earlier that afternoon I'd only been to the Thirsty Beaver twice. Dear friends of mine open a bar and I've been there twice in the four months it's been open. That's disgusting. I'm an asshole. At least I got to see Brian and Shelia at the show. Campbell was there downing Rolling Rocks and Dan Freakin' Dunn was there, too. Brian and I worked with Dan in Mooresville years ago and he now works for Speed. Danimal whips ass. Brian, Campbell and Shelia whip ass, too. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club doesn't.
"I was thinking 'what the hell should I do with my hand?' She's too hot to touch. I was holding my hand in a fist and I didn't know what to do with it," said Jim.
Most of you know I don't drink liquor since I love it so much and alcoholism is rampant in my extended family. I do make an exception for this open bar party, though. Seven or Eight Crown and Cokes later, I must say I felt great and had no hangover Wednesday morning! We left the party and cabbed it to the Hard Rock for some quality time at the $10 tables. We were playing with a nice couple from LA who were playing no less than $100 every hand. He wasn't winning but was still having a great time. In fact, we spent the better part of two hours at that table quoting Will Ferrell and Adam Sandler movies with these nice strangers. Vegas is nuts. I love it so.
Since Baier and I had the bright idea of taking the red eye back Wednesday, we had an entire freakin' day to "waste" in Vegas. We started at The Wynn for lunch and unsuccessfully tried sneaking into the pool. We did however lose some money at the tables while the married, middle aged pit boss awkwardly flirted with me. Out of nowhere she kept asking me if I was married and had kids and if I was going to come back to The Wynn for a bachelor party. It was weird and I think it affected my luck. We left and continued our tour of casinos spending an hour or so in the sports book at Caesar's. What a wonderful place that is. I could see myself getting into sports gambling if I lived in Vegas, so I'm glad I don't live there. Kinda. We left Caesar's and made our way through The Pallazo, Venetian and Paris.
Our final stop was The Bellagio. I've never stayed there but every time I set foot in that place I have a great time. Whether it's walking around the poker room watching pros play or watching the water shows, it's a good time. Tim and I sat down at the tables one more time and I made quite a run that made me feel a lot better about my time and money spent in Vegas.
Baier and I were in Vegas for less than fifty hours and slept maybe eight of those. It was the perfect amount of time there. I wish we'd had more time at the show and I wish I had more time to meet up with some photogs from across the country I'd really like to meet or see again, but there's so much to do it doesn't leave much time for things like that. I desperately hope to make this an annual trip. It's full of good times and that show never gets old. Don't get me wrong, Maine is beautiful this time of year, but it's tough to beat Las Vegas.
Panasonic's big assed plasma was one of the first things we saw. It really was a BIG ASSED PLASMA! And it looked freakin' amazing even though they were only showing safari videos.
My favorite part of the show is always the new trucks. Every photographer in the country that went to the show raved of WRAL's big blue one up there. It was one of the better Frontline trucks there. I'm loyal to Frontline since it's the only truck I've ever used, plus the rep's a good dude and brings new trucks to town when he has one.
My favorite truck was this Evolution sat buggy from TEC. A Ford Escape Hybrid with serious uplinking power. An inverter and satellite controller filled up the back hatch and you could drive all over the country without anyone knowing you could blast a broadcast quality hole through the atmosphere with your Ford Escape. That's badass. Unfortunately the TEC sales dude started his pitch by ripping other truck companies. That's a pet peeve of mine so Baier and I moved along.
115,000 geeks attended this year's show. I can't even begin to describe how big this show is. It filled three convention center halls. Two floors each and had so much neat shit in there we could have easily spent five days looking at stuff, never getting bored.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
A few months ago Tim Baier applied for credentials thinking we had little chance. Augusta National Golf Club doesn't sell any new tickets much less give two credentials to a cable news station two states away that has never covered the tournament before. A few weeks later, Tim got the call that we were approved by the club to cover the tournament. It took some selling to our news director, but thank God he sent us. This was indeed the greatest assignment I've ever received. The hallowed fairways of Augusta were greener than any hippie can pretend Earth Day is. Even the fescue several hundred yards away from the course where we did our live shots from was that green. We turned some feelgood stories about North Carolina golfers Johnson Wagner and Drew Weaver playing in their first Masters. We also did one with a guy from Greensboro who had been to every Masters tournament since 1977. That was good, but the best part was waking up knowing you'd spend the workday at the most beautiful place I've ever seen. I haven't seen a lot, but I can't imagine anything more beautiful than this golf course. The beauty, history, Tiger's presence, the big assed oak tree we stood under waiting to get sound every day, the way you can tell the difference between a crowd roar for Tiger and a crowd roar for every other golfer. All of these things made for an incredible four days. A four days I may never experience again since we're not guaranteed credentials again next year.
Augusta rules prevented us from shooting any golf, but we were on the putting green for the green jacket ceremony. It's not often I sincerely smile when behind my camera, but when Zach Johnson hoisted Trever Immelman's green jacket upon his Nike emblazoned shoulders, my smile was ear to ear and indeed sincere.
Saturday, April 05, 2008
It definitely sucked, but since we had no snow in Charlotte this year, I was alright with it. I suspect if I had to shoot video of the snow and feed it back, I would have not been ok with it.
If you're covering a major event, pray to Jesus Byron Goggin is running the Sat truck lot. He knows the deal and it shows the minute you pull in and he directs you where to park. Byron spent years covering sports. He's since seen the light and went out on his own a while back, but Ford Field hired him to deal with us the entire weekend. He rented a sweet generator providing us plenty of power, rented the riser with plenty of room for stations from five markets to do live tv and made sure we all had coffee and hot chocolate at all times. Efforts from Byron made this event an absolute pleasure to cover. It was in no way the enormous pain in the ass covering large sporting events typically are. We even had a fleet of golf carts and drivers to transport us from the sat buggy lot to the media entrance. It whipped ass. The NCAA, NFL and anyone else that deals with media for a large event should immediately hire Byron and all media will be happy. Even sat truck operators.
It's an unspoken rule in tv when on the road, you must drink. It's probably like that in other professions, too. Regardless of what kind of day you had, or how early you have to get up the next morning for live shots, you have beverages with your colleagues. More than one. Luckily the hotel bar had a dynamite staff, a kitchen that stayed open until 12:30 every night and buckets of Budweiser on sale for the duration of the tournament. DK, Welch, Ridley and others from Charlotte and around the country gathered downstairs every night for buckets. Hotel bars are a neat place. People drink with reckless abandon because they only have to make sure they can stumble to the elevator to get home. We kept it fairly calm despite multiple buckets each night.
Thanks to the efforts of David and Ryan, we were able to put make some spectacular television from Detroit. It's amazing what happens when you have three people that don't suck at their jobs and care about what their feeding back to North Carolina. We send nothing but top quality tape back home and I'm damned proud of it. I think when you're with people who care about what they're doing, they're better company, too. We had a blast together.
Parts of Detroit may not be much to look at, but the people are spectacular. The town is full of characters. Good characters who were friendly and sincerely welcomed us everywhere we went. It may have been Syed the barback, Byron the Truck Lot guy, Boy Wonder the golf cart driver or one of the many shuttle bus drivers that transported us to the field from the hotel and back several times a day. I loved the people of Detroit. It's enough to make me want to return for another event. I never would have thought that on the way up. I can sincerely say I mean it now.
Because of those wonderful people, I purchased a Detroit Tigers hat and became a fair weather fan for the summer. The Tigers promptly ran out to an 0-4 start. Sorry guys.
Thursday, April 03, 2008
The drive up was uneventful. I-77 through Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia and Ohio. West Virginia brought back some good memories of my summer trips to work on houses in High School. Ohio was boring but I felt comfortable since Jennifer and her family are from there. A few miles south of Cleveland we took the Ohio Turnpike west for one hundred dreadful miles to Toledo where we picked up I-75 north to Detroit.
Detroit is different. To be honest, of all the Midwest bracket destinations in NCAA history, I wondered why we had to draw Detroit. It was a town I'd heard few good things about. Why we couldn't go to Chicago or Indianapolis or Minneapolis or maybe a place I actually wanted to go? All I knew of Detroit was car sales are down which equals fewer jobs which economically equals bad things. As recently as a couple of weeks ago I saw a story on one of the national shows about a Detroit suburb where $300,000 houses were selling for $150,000 due to the heinous market conditions. I wasn't terribly excited about going to Detroit, but I kept an open mind. We arrived before ten Wednesday night, Welch picked us up and we headed to the hotel for food and beverages.
Ford Field will host the Final Four next year so this years Midwest Regional was a trial run for the venue. It was tremendous. 72,000 people could comfortably fit inside the building to watch the basketball games. Some of the seats were really, really far away from the court. Regardless, the setup was well done and looked terrific.
Seeing Davidson this far along in the tournament was great for news. It was great for me, too. When I worked in Mooresville as a sports director, all I covered was NASCAR, high school sports and Davidson. I shot every men's and women's basketball game at Davidson. The men's team never sucked. They were always a well coached group of smart Americans and others from around the world. This year was different thanks to a star, an exceptional point guard and the support of an entire nation. It was neat to see Davidson staff members I used to drink pints with at the Davison Depot get interviewed by CBS, ESPN and Sports Illustrated. Ten years earlier, I was trying my damnedest to get them to go on camera with me at PrestigeVision 4. From really small time cable to national darlings. It was great to see good people do so well.