Monday, November 12, 2007

The Naples Trip - Part Two

Friday morning came a bit too quickly for me. Normally I'm one to be able to jump up when the bell rings (especially when I'm on the road) but not this morning. This trip would wear me out like few ever have - a likely result of the energy that I put into making our broadcast one to remember.

After my interview with Tony Savino, I got ready and jumped in the PT Cruiser for a quick ride. I came all this way and needed some road sign pics! I got a handful, but it's tough to shoot them in nearly direct sunlight.

I didn't have very big plans for Friday. In short, I wanted to try to have some fun - whether it be by going to the beach, playing golf (or the mini variety), batting cages, or something. In the process, Nick, Jason and I could talk and get comfortable with how we would call this game. I also wanted us to review notes. It didn't happen that way.

Instead, Jason and I started by having breakfast at the Waffle House (ah, grits!) before heading to the players hotel - less than five minutes away. We were greeted like old friends there, and even a sense of celebrity, as a few people who had never met me heard my voice and recognized me. That never gets old, but it is weird.

We chatted and laughed with Coach Al about the interview with Coach Kramer, and the Greenwich coach told us about their practice the night before, when some Naples people (players? thugs? students?) stood and pounded a fist into an empty palm. All an act of intimidation, but Coach Al would have none of it. He said they could resolve the issue right there, or on the field the following night. Cody Gifford (yes, THAT Cody Gifford) was a target of taunts, and I guess that is going to happen when you're the product of famous parents, one of whom talked incessantly about you on her famous morning talk show. For his part, Cody just shrugged it off.

The hotel visit was very productive, and comfortable. I'm never sure of where I stand with the Greenwich community, but this trip assured me that they seem to like me - they really like me. The Dunster's, Bisanzo's, Hahn's, Parelli's, Catalano's, and too many other families were all too happy to see us. We appreciated it.

For Jason and I, the relaxing day that I had hoped for had been whittled down to just a few hours, in which we would go to the beach, walk the Naples pier, watch some fish get caught, possibly see a dolphin frolicking in the distance, talk with some more Greenwich families, stand in the Gulf of Mexico (I would have gone in further if there was more time), grab lunch at Checkers, jump in the pool and hot tub at the hotel, get dressed, and pick Nick up. In other words - showtime was upon us!

The Gulf of Mexico and Naples Pier

We arrived at Staver Field at 4:30. In my mind, I was content to sit in the car until they let me in, or stand in the parking lot and talk. I just wanted to make sure we had a parking spot. In reality, Jason got into the facility and a few minutes later, returned to bring us in. Our booth was open and ready for us well before 5:00, giving us plenty of time to prepare and watch the crowd build.

The only trip-up during this stretch was when a girl walked into our booth and tried to tell us that our banner would have to come down because they had some other banner to put over ours. I said we had permission from the athletic director, and that seemed to resolve it.

Our booth, and the all-important banner.

Three news satellite truck would be on hand for the game. At least three writers from Connecticut were there (Jesse Quinlan, Paul Silverfarb, and Dave Liebratore). Two radio stations would call the game. And oh yeah, anywhere from six to twelve thousand people would attend it. In short - this was a big deal.

Florida football - flags and the mall. The overflow crowd would have to park there as well. Note the TV satellite truck.

In Connecticut, Sean Kilkelly got our coverage started with a tremendous pregame show that featured Mike Quick from MSG, Sean Patrick Bowley form the Connecticut Post, and Tim Parry from...everything! And finally, shortly after 7:00 Eastern Standard Time, on Friday night, November 9th, 2007, it was time for us to take to the air.

Sean opened up with the traditional theme music, and threw it to us, where all we could hear was Fairfield University basketball in our headsets.


WGCH has become the flagship for Stags hoops. It seems that they also had a game that night and after much discussion, we (WGCH, that is) agreed to carry the game on tape delay. So we (I'm trying to sound like a team player here, yet I had nothing to do with this) prepared to tape the Fairfield game and somewhere along the line, a button or setting went wrong, delivering the sound of Stags hoops to our headsets.

At that moment, after months of buildup and preparation, I was faced with an option: meltdown or survive. I chose the latter, but felt the former building. Why in the name of Guglielmo Marconi would we do this? Could we possibly bleep this whole thing up?

Um...yes. But we didn't. On the first try, when Sean "sent" it to us, I refused to talk, because I wasn't sure we would sound good. On the second try, we talked, but I could tell that it was tough to concentrate. Never one to panic, Sean worked feverishly to make things right, and let's be very clear here - this was not his fault. In Florida, we could see that the crowd had stood up for a moment of silence, but we had to figure out why (turns out a member of the Naples band had died the previous evening - that's a story that we needed to tell). We just had to remain calm. Eventually things worked out, the Stags were out of our headsets, and we got down to calling the game.

The next three hours or so went as I kind of hoped. Sort of. Being way too hard on myself, I'm not convinced we gave it our best call, but I'm probably being unfair. The reviews have been quite favorable, so I'll just shut up. Yet behind the scenes, there was more BS about Fairfield basketball (which nobody in our audience was interested in), a few more technical problems (the average listener wouldn't know or care), and mistakes (which I know and care about).

At one point, following another Fairfield conversation (gotta keep promoting it), I nearly lost it on the air. I made it clear that we had "more important things" at that particular moment. Give me a break - both Sean and I had been promoting the game all night.

What I'm trying to say is - butt out.

On then field, Greenwich had their chances. I'm not sure they would have won, but they could have made it a really fun night. Yet in the end, was it really that much of a disappointment?

To me - no. I've had a few days to think about it. I don't know how the players feel.

The final score.

Following the game, we trudged to the one place near the team's hotel that we knew would be serving dinner (it was 11:00) - Hooters.

Oh please. Don't give me that crap about the women. It's like going to a strip club (which I've never been to). I'm not allowed to touch, so what's the point? Just get me my dinner and let's call it a night, OK?

That's what we did. I was out by 1:00 Saturday morning. I would need to be, because we were up and out of the hotel just after seven, and onto our final Waffle House breakfast before hitting the airport, where we had a very uneventful trip home. It was time to return to reality.


I really could have used another day there to sort out life a bit and cherish what we had done. It just wasn't meant to be. We never have enough time, do we?

And that's that. It was over too quickly, but was perhaps the best experience of my years as a play-by-play announcer (the Syracuse games are in the same class). I'm proud of it. That's probably the way we should all feel.


Tim Parry said...

Waffle House, Checkers, AND Hooters? Rob, you've got to have an iron stomach! At least if you did any of the all-you-can-eat buffets, you'd been able to ignore the veggie group!

My pal Jason once said this about Hooters: The food sucks, but who cares?

Rob Adams said...

Actually I wasn't too hot for Checkers after the Waffle House breakfast on Friday, but didn't have any better options. Still you're right that it wasn't exactly the best choices for my digestive system.

Now, have you ever been to Hubba in Port Chester!?! Woo Hoo!!