Sunday, May 10, 2009

Road trip!

Care to see what big-time journalists do on the road? Come along with me to the Bandits' game in Newark. I could use the company.

11:15 a.m Saturday -- My plane to JFK in New York pulls away from the terminal, just about on time. You ask why I am flying to JFK for a game in Newark? A round-trip air ticket to Newark on short notice is about $550. Then there's the hotel and car rental. We found a deal on Expedia for a flight to JFK and a hotel near Newark for $333. I would have had to rent a car anyway, so there's just a few more dollars for gas and tolls. The catch -- I have to drive from JFK to Newark, which even on a Saturday makes Buffalo seem like Montana.

12:45 p.m. -- The prop plane arrives nicely, and I zip over to the car rental place. By the way, Enterprise does a really good, personal, efficient job of setting you up. The next time you're in ...

2:30 p.m. -- The traffic on the Belt Parkway in Brooklyn is as advertised, but it's not too horrible. When I go over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, I think of the start of the New York City marathon. Must be fun to go over it at the start of the race with 35,000 of your closest friends.

3:15 p.m. -- I arrive at the friendly Comfort Inn and Suites in Elizabeth, N.J. You can hear the airplanes coming and going from Newark. One of them, no doubt, is an expensive flight to Buffalo.

4:15 p.m. -- I drive over to the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ. The arena is right in the middle of downtown, which was the idea. Downtown looks exactly like those pictures of big city downtowns from the 1940's and 1950's. Except it's 2009. I have a feeling it's not intentional. I get a clue about the night when I go to the parking garage, where a pass is said to be waiting for me. "I'm Budd Bailey from The Buffalo News." "That'll be $15." Apparently they've read my work.

4:40 p.m. -- My college friend John Fraissinet picks me up in front of the arena, and we go off in search of dinner options. John lived across the hall from me in my junior year at Syracuse, and we've stayed friends since then. He's still the same old John, smart and funny. We search the neighborhood for some place to eat -- options are limited -- but find a place in the Newark Hilton. Dinner is the best part of the trip.

5:45 p.m. -- At the end of dinner on our way out, I strike up a conversation with a couple that is in the restaurant ... and she's wearing a Bandits' shirt. Turns out both of them are related to Cory Bomberry and Roger Vyse; I discovered later that Bomberry is actually Vyse's uncle. Kind of interesting that they are on the same team.

6:00 p.m. -- John drops me off at the arena, and the fun begins. I ask where the press entrance is, and am told to go around the corner. I ask there where the credentials are, and am directed to another entrance. I go to the other entrance and ask about media passes, and am given a green wristband. No pass with my name on it, no check, just walk right up and get your pass. Odd. The press entrance waves me through with the magic wristband.

6:10 p.m. -- The press lounge is empty, except for a bowl of potato chips. I find an elevator to the press box, which is ... empty. In fact, the upper deck is curtained off, so you can't see the game. Oh, oh. Back down to the bottom. I ask for help from an off-ice official, who points to the top of the upper bowl at midfield.

6:25 p.m. -- I go up the stairs, find radio host John Gurtler, and take a spot at one of the portable tables set up. There I grab an Ethernet connection to sign on the Internet, which naturally doesn't work. I move for a while to another line, but those are for the off-ice officials. So I'm back where I started. At first I sit down in a different open seat than my original choice. However, I discover that this seat apparently has been used by an adult who has some disabilities. It's pretty obvious that I'm not going to explain why he can't sit in his favorite seat for this game. We rearrange things, and I sit next to him for the game. I see him later in the Titans' locker room; he's something of a mascot for the team and is treated lovingly by everyone in the organization, which is really nice to see. Eventually, someone tells me what the codes are for the wi-fi, so I'm on line.

7:30 p.m. -- Game time. The Bandits may have a home field advantage. In a crowd of less than 2,500, in Newark, the Bandits have about half the crowd on their side. They certainly can outshout the New York Titans boosters, who are less than enthusiastic. Remember the line about quarterbacks - If you have two starting quarterbacks, you have no starting quarterbacks? Very true for arenas too, as the Titans divide their games between here and Madison Square Garden.

7:35 p.m. -- One other note as the game starts -- I'm lucky Bandits' public relations director Chris Ostrander sent me his version of the game notes before I left. Because the Titans supply nothing, not even the Buffalo notes. The information in there is handy to have, but I brought enough stuff with me to more than make up for anything I didn't receive.

7:45 p.m. -- The Titans score the first goal of the game, and my friend to my left throws up his arms, screams, and slaps the table, rattling my laptop. After the second or third goal, I pat him reassuringly and says, "Easy, my friend." He's better the rest of the game. I know this is a difficult situation, and I'm trying hard to treat it with sensitivity.

7:50 p.m. -- The most dreaded words in computerland, "Not responding," pop up on my Internet Explorer. I try to shut it down to log off, and it goes through all sorts of closing functions ... but never closes. Finally, I figure out how to turn it off (there's no reboot button), and then turn it back on. My live blogging suffers a bit, but those are the breaks.

8:10 p.m. -- In the midst of all the computer problem, I realize that I'm not writing down any notes. It's the dullest game in indoor lacrosse history. A 1-0 score after one period? Neither team is doing much. A former intern of our who now works at the New York Post asks, "Aren't the games usually better than this?"

8:30 p.m. -- The first half ends, 3-1, a score that's usually posted after six minutes of play. I type out about eight paragraphs of my first edition story for the newspaper.

9:30 p.m. -- The Bandits fall behind, 9-3, by early in the fourth quarter, their goalie is out with an apparently severe knee injury, and they are showing absolutely no life. We may have a few minutes left to play, but this season is over. At least I can get an early start on the top of the first-edition story. Sometimes I have to write two versions, and delete one when the game-winning goal is scored.

9:40 p.m. -- The clock runs out, the story is e-mailed to the office, and it's off to the locker room. But where is it? My new best friend Steve, an on-line reporter for a lacrosse site working out of Buffalo, head to the bottom level and figure if we keep walking we'll find it. Sure enough, we do.

9:50 p.m. -- The Bandits are predictably down. Darris Kilgour, the Buffalo coach, gives some too-colorful quotes about the goalie's injury. That's never easy to use in a story, but I simply take out the bad words and mentioned that some adjectives have been removed. Hope people get the idea.

10:05 p.m. -- I get plenty of good material -- the Bandits are a fine group for this sort of thing, perhaps because they haven't built defenses to the media -- and head to the press lounge. There's no work stations, so I type on the dinner table. The revised story flies by, perhaps because it's an easy story to write -- team was awful, players downcast, etc. I finish by 10:40, and then re-do the notebook. I'm done by 11.

11:00 p.m. -- My car is still in the garage, and the building is open. Both good signs. I find my way back to the hotel without much problem. But when I try to go to sleep, I'm too wound up to actually doze. So, I continue to read George Steinbrenner's biography -- a review of which will be coming soon to my sports book web site.

The next morning, I wake up early, drive back to JFK, return the rental car, and whisk my way home. My "day off" begins upon arrival.

1 comment:

John Fraissinet said...

I'm confused by your description of your dinner companion as "funny and smart"... I thought it was I that had dinner with you, did you eat again with an entertaining companion?