JACKSONVILLE, Fla.— Readers of this column know this space is usually reserved for visiting with band members, interviewing student fans of the opposing team, tracking down bowl officials, highlighting celebrity appearances and writing about people with funny hats or goofy signs.
Today, to wrap up the season, we’re taking you behind the scenes — to the press box. I often have people ask me what it’s like in a press box, and if they can accompany me. (It’s amazing how many qualified notepad-toting professionals exist.)
The scene in here is different than out there. No crazed, shirtless, potbellied men. (I said shirtless). No corncob hats. And please, no cheering. It’s a rule. I don’t care if you’re from the Clemson Radio Network. You’ve got your own little booth to hoot and holler and pound tables. Now go there.
We curmudgeon scribes are most concerned with topped-off Coke cups, ample elbow room, a roster and (cross your fingers) a steady wireless Internet connection. Problems with any of the aforementioned could set a bad tone. It might elicit a short verbal tirade.
For the Journal Star crew, covering a game means writing during the game, communicating about who’s writing what, who’s interviewing who, and who can declare the first game ball.
At one point Thursday, there were, oh, seven different game balls solidified. Then the second quarter started …
We don’t cheer, but we comment on plays. For example, Steven Sipple declared Ndamukong Suh was playing like Rich Glover. (Sipple admits he’s prone to a little hyperbole now and then).
We change our minds. That story you see on Page 3D of the Husker Extra section? It was going to be about Ty Steinkuhler … then about Joe Ganz … then about Roy Helu … then about Ganz … then about Suh … then about Quentin Castille, when he broke a 58-yard run. (It’s a hard decision, especially when interview requests are to be submitted by the end of the third quarter.)
We’re informed by Nebraska media relations folk, who sit behind us on game days, that Castille’s run was tied for the longest from scrimmage by a Husker this season. We quiz each other on who had the other long run.
“Was it from Roy Helu against Oklahoma in the fourth quarter?” I ask.
“I don’t know,” Sipple said. “I didn’t see the fourth quarter.”
With good reason. For late-night games, like OU, you miss game action (particularly in blowouts) when you’re pounding away, trying to send a story by game’s end.
Text messaging has also become popular. Friends and family will text us with their thoughts on the game, or ask us questions about stats, or ask our opinions about play calls. I received only 22 messages during the Gator Bowl. (And, yes, I’m at the game. Thanks for asking.)
The text message of the day Thursday came from Brian Christopherson’s little brother, who wrote, “Maybe they were wrong about us” during Nebraska’s comeback. Movie lines are popular with the Christopherson brothers … anybody know the origin of that movie line?
The most notable text messages on my phone included: “You can quote me in the paper tomorrow by saying I was the one who let the world know clemson could only score on our turnovers…” and “My dad just called and said u picked clemson in the paper. R u nuts?”
(Yes, I am, but that’s because my hotel oversold rooms and sent me halfway to Orlando to spend the night. Seriously, how do you oversell a room?)
Postgame press boxes are quiet. Very quiet, except for the occasional “Not now, honey, I’m on deadline” phone call, or writers from the same paper quizzing each other, “Did you use that Suh quote?” “Have you sent your game ball?” and “Let’s go. Are you done yet?”
* When I set the DVR to record the Gator Bowl, I noticed the time slot was scheduled for 4 hours. I scoffed, not realizing network officials had already planned on taking a timeout after every stinking possession.
* The movie line above is from “Hoosiers,” when Hickory was playing in the title game, and losing early.
* A shoutout to the 2008 seniors, who’ve gone through some trying times but were able to walk away with smiles. Said Tyler Wortman of this season: “I had a blast. There were times, in the past, I mean, where I didn’t know what was going to happen. This is my payoff year, by far.”
Reach Brian Rosenthal at 473-7436 or email@example.com.