I thought I’d post a few thoughts on the day, my first behind the ropes with media access for an actual game. I covered the last two Spring games including a chance to check out the press box earlier this year, but the game day experience is obviously quite a different scene.
10:00am EDT – I shared a few thoughts on what fans should bring to the stadium last week, but gearing up for media coverage is different animal. Along with PC and power, I brought in phone, digital camera, audio recorder, Flip Video camera and all the associated power and transfer cords. The media are supposed to present themselves as neutral observers (Bob Ufer excluded), so I donned a white golf shirt.
2:30pm EDT – After hitting the always excellent 1050AM WTKA Bud Light mVictors Lounge for about a half hour, I walked around the stadium and Crisler Arena, heading into the Big House via the media entrance outside the tunnel:
2:45pm EDT – After getting a few shots on the field (see all the pre-game photos here) I headed up the press box. There are four levels of the press box: 1. Guests of the Regents, 2. Main Press Level, 3. Photo deck (including several TV booths) and 4. Radio (Brandy/Beckmann etc.).
The spring game was a free-for-all as far as seating but obviously that won’t fly for the games. I set up my PC in my assigned seat although found out later I was “double booked” with Steve Clarke of WTKA and GoBlueWolverine fame. No bother, Steve found a more spacious seat against the glass and all was well.
Before heading back to the field I took a look at each level (other than the Regents section) to get a feel. I caught this shot of Brandstatter dropping something serious on Beckmann:
2:50pm EDT – I returned to the field to catch more pre-game warm-ups, caught this shot of Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson, and found hoops coach John Beilein flanked by his lovely wife and AD Bill Martin getting more back-slaps, hugs and fan photos than Sully.
3:20pm EDT – Stood near the tunnel as the band took the field, pretty incredible to watch up close. A couple of the band members were squawking pretty load as they rolled out of the tunnel and onto the field which earned a smile from the new drum major. I then waited for the students to raise the Go Blue banner, which was resting against the east wall before it was scooped up and taken to midfield:
3:25pm EDT: Probably one of the coolest things I’ve witnessed. (Yes, I considered dipping under the chain and heading right for the banner but didn’t want to create a different YouTube moment):
[Ed: note Zoltan Mesko’s excitement in the video, he appears about 10 seconds in. Later we learned that Zoltan was a little too excited, nearly getting killed after a complete misread on the M Club banner jump, video and analysis here.]
3:30pm EDT– Worked my way quickly around the field, passed the student section and up section 23 to get back to the box for the start of the game. I was caught half-way up the section for the national anthem but managed to catch this guy (with awesome seats), who’s not only All In for Michigan, he’s All In for the U.S.A.:
3:40pm EDT – Settled in for the first series but not before grabbing a Coke–make that a Coke Zero–from the new fountains in the press box. They have a very kind staff doling out the food but the drinks are self-serve.
The seating is pretty cramped and if you bring a bag, which everyone does, and any other gear it’s a tight squeeze.
The press box actually has its own play-by-play announcer calling the game to the media. No, there’s no color commentary but the plays are delivered in your typical cadence (“Back deep to field the punt for Western Michigan will be…”). I wondered if I should bring a radio to get the play-by-play, obviously this is covered. Occasionally Bruce Madej or David Ablauf of the media relations department make their own announcement like statistics of note or items like attendance.
3:45pm EDT – Everyone knows you are not supposed to cheer in the press box but it’s not that easy just to turn that off. When Forcier rolls left, motions to Hemingway, pulls up and hits the receiver in stride for the touchdown I have to bite my lip. Thankfully the maize & blue-leaning media member next to me offers a hearty fist bump beneath the table. Later when Denard makes his ridiculous touchdown run there’s a few noticeable smiles and muffled excitement, even amongst some of the salty vets.
5:15pm EDT – Halftime. People queue up to grab a bite to eat and the overall folks are pretty astonished by Michigan’s 31 points and performance of the defense.
I saw the new press area on the tour a few weeks back and it’s impressive. Understandably they obviously didn’t bother to upgrade the bathrooms in the current box with its fixtures that could probably fetch a few bucks from collectors on eBay. Speaking of bathrooms I heard they removed the traditional pee troughs from the men’s bathrooms in the stadium causing longer lines and stomping on another Michigan tradition!! Say it ain’t so?!
5:40pm EDT – Second half begins and obviously things were dialed down quite a bit on the field beyond Hiller making some nice plays and the defense stepping up a few times. This is probably a blessing for the beat writers as the story has pretty much been written – the freshman quarterbacks, the defense, and a little bit of redemption for Rich Rodriguez.
I feel bad for instinctively yet inappropriately yelping a couple times—when Mesko booms a punt I belt out, “BITE!” as it bounded toward the endzone. The ball didn’t stop and I shook my head at my lack of self-control.
The topic of discussion in the box turned to other scores particularly Notre Dame, the crowd noise (hard to gauge behind the glass although the windows were open) and finally the pumped-in music. Tim’s (of mgoblog) eyes popped out of his head when they blasted in Sweet Child O’ Mine in the first half, no doubt sensing a significant disturbance in the mgo-force. Sticking with the sweet theme they rolled out Neil Diamond’s ‘Sweet Caroline’ in second half and the student section roared—it was at this moment I realized that this, sadly, is here to stay unless Brian can fix this too.
7:00pm-ish EDT: The folks in the press box are allowed to head onto the field with six minutes to go in the game and I do. Most of the writers leave their gear at their desks, planning on returning to submit their stories after the press conferences.
On my way down the aisle of section 23 Koger makes that ridiculous catch. I cruised down to the field hoping to catch a few plays but first spotted Rodriguez telling the ref that he intends to call a timeout with one second on the play clock, I believe there were a couple minutes left in the game at this point:
A few minutes later I find Mercury Hayes chilling against the north end zone wall chatting it up. Named one of the honorary captains for the game, Hayes will always be remembered for the final play of the 1995 Virginia game to open the season (in case you missed it, fwd to 8m:50sec). He was standing about 30 feet from the corner where he made that grab fourteen years prior and he told me people ask him about it “all the time.” I shook his hand a grabbed a quick photo:
7:30pm EDT: After the press conference I made my way out of Crisler, back through the tunnel and back into the stadium. This was an interesting sight for the senses. Less than an hour after the game the bowl was just about completely empty. Only a bunch of red cups, popcorn and trash with those seagulls that chill atop Crisler swooping in for a feast. Check it out:
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I returned to the press box, maybe a bit of a lighter mood. No ma’am–it was business time as the media were locked onto their keyboards with headphones in their ears going through the postgame comments. The print media weren’t the only folks working away as the U-M media relations department was also going through their photos and preparing post-game literature. Here’s a little look as the sun started to go down, lights were on and it was business time:
8:00pm EDT – Alas, I’m not a beat writer so I didn’t have a deadline other than the one that requires my presence at Fraser’s Pub to watch the late games, grab a coldy and try the new pizza (not bad). I slung my laptop and gear over the shoulder and headed down the steps of the press box and onto the concourse where crews were clearing out the concessions.
Outside, a few scattered fans are waiting to cross Stadium & Main to head to their cars. A booze-stained Western Michigan student is screaming on his cell phone, begging that his ride back to Kalamazoo not leave without him—a clear signal that my day behind the ropes is over.