TULSA - Last week we had fun going through the trials and tribulations of covering our first NFC Championship game.
The highs, the lows, the mud and the excitement of getting to cover the event, and what it would mean for the future. That future was getting to cover the Super Bowl. Dallas vs Buffalo. Rose Bowl. Pasadena, California. Sun, not rain and slop.
On the way back from San Francisco the Monday morning after the Dallas win over San Fran, my colleague Johnny Thomason (JT) and I were numb. At least I was.
All we could think about was when do we go to Los Angeles? Do we ask for the moon from our boss, or do we take it slow and hope for the best? We got the moon.
First order of business when we return from San Francisco - make sure the credentials are in order.
The Super Bowl credentials are handled by the NFL, not the individual teams, so it was a different process. We got all the paper work done, and hoped for the best.
Since the first day of Super Bowl activity begins on the Monday before the game, taking a flier I suggest we leave early Sunday. Our news director Ed Scripps said, "OK." I asked him to repeat what he just said. He replies "OK."
The looks on our faces must have sent a very powerful signal, because Ed started laughing, almost as if he had his two grandkids on Christmas getting what they wanted from Santa.
So travel arrangements were made. Leave Sunday before the game, come home the day after the game - nine glorious days!
The prep work begins.
- Get file footage of all the Cowboy games.
- Hook up with the Bills to get Oklahoma connections such as Thurman Thomas.
- Call NBC to make sure we are in the affiliate rotation for "live shots" for each day, and what times.
- Go to Henryetta and do the Aikman family story.
- Head over to East Central High School for the Tony Casillas story.
- OSU and Jimmy Johnson memories.
All of that pre-game stuff would be handy once we get to L.A.
The week went by in a flash.
Late Sunday afternoon we get to LA. JT makes suggestions of story ideas as we drive through the palm trees through Century City. That was Super Bowl headquarters. I remember our hotel was shaped like that apartment complex off Denver avenue here in Tulsa. A cylinder-looking building.
Monday we checked in for the credentials, and again, they are there. Sigh of relief. Now I start to worry as to where to put them for safe keeping. Just what we needed. Have credentials, lose credentials. Not good! Under my pillow? No, maid may throw them away. In my briefcase? Makes sense, but what if I forget the case at a practice or press conference. You know what they say. Keep your eye on your case, because they all look alike. Believe it or not, I put them in the hotel safe at the front desk. Now all I have to worry about is not forgetting them Sunday morning.
The rest of the week is going to be a piece of cake!
On to the first press conference of the week. Most of the coaches and players were just excited to be there themselves, but I do remember how confident the Cowboys seemed to be,and how the Bills were a little edgy. (They would play in four straight Super Bowls without winning one). Day one went without a hitch.
Tuesday was a little more interesting.
Practice and press conferences are a little later in the day, so we went out to the Rose Bowl to do a "getting ready for the big game" story at the stadium. It turns out to be rather interesting.
We pulled up and there was this big white limo parked off to the right, so we wander around, and just as JT raised his camera on his shoulder, out moonwalks Michael Jackson. Jackson was the halftime entertainment, and it was rehearsal time. I remember my first thought being how skinny he looked. He wouldn't do an interview, and had several body guards around him, but at least we got a few shots of him arriving.
We get excited over such little things, don't we?
We did a story or two outside and inside the stadium, and man, the place was gorgeous. If you ever have a chance to attend a game at the Rose Bowl, do it. Just a fantastic view of the mountains, the grass is as green as it could ever be, and the building itself is very unique.
This was also the first year the NFL introduced the NFL Experience. A fan-fest of sorts, with mostly shops for NFL gear, and a few things for the kids. The 40-yard dash, throwing a football threw the tires, that sort of thing. My two young sons will be with me the next day, will have to bring them here.
So I do. The kids had a blast, and challenged me to the 40-yard sprint. I try to talk myself out of it..
"C'mon dad, don't be a wimp."
So I lined up with them at the starting line, and guess what happened? Pulled muscle two steps out of the gate...2 STEPS! Didn't think to warm up before the run. Although I was destined to be limping the rest of the week, it would lead to another touch with greatness.
Next day is media day at Dodger Stadium. This is the circus. This is also where just about everybody with a microphone
or a camera or a notepad gets to attend. It is an absolute madhouse.
The story is not what the players say, but what the reporters ask. This is where the Downtown Julie Brown (MTV) type stuff comes down. Entertainment tonight was there. They could care less about the game, they just want some juicy material, Hollywood-style. I remember the look on Jimmy Johnson's face when Julie Brown asked him the tree question. He was not happy. Emmitt Smith seemed to be more interested in the person asking the question, if you get my drift. Wednesday is done.
Thursday is more press conferences in the designated hotel. This is also where we did our live shots the first four days. I hope I am not embarrassing JT here, but a really funny thing happened here.
JT was getting some footage of all the sports talk radio show tables outside the press room and his camera caught the edge of one table, and knocked radio equipment to the floor.
As JT tried to right the ship, and help pick up the equipment, he looks up and it is Jim Rome. JT had just knocked Jim Rome off the air . According to JT, Rome was great about it. Just got the show back on the air without a problem.
Back to the media press area.
Again, the Cowboys appear confident, almost cocky. Jim Kelly and the Bills not so much.
Even the Buffalo press corps seemed a bit edgy. There was one incident where we were doing our live shots. Each affiliate got five minutes to do their thing, and then step out to allow the next affiliate to get in the five-minute window.
A Buffalo affiliate had gone to great lengths to get a former Bills great to do a live shot for their five minutes. The limo to get him there, the whole nine yards. The next thing we hear, the Buffalo reporter is screaming to his producer back in Buffalo that they need to do the live interview now, because they are running out of their five minutes.
The producer in Buffalo continued to stall, waiting for the weatherman to finish up. Still no interview.
Finally, the live shot floor crew tells the Buffalo folks their time is up - no more time for the interview. All of that preparation to set up the interview, and no interview. The microphone goes flying, ear pieces turn into bits and pieces. The reporter was not a happy camper. Ouch. That must have been some post-production meeting . Trust me when I tell you this. Not a single NBC affiliate missed their designated time the rest of the week.
This was also the area where ESPN and CNN and the rest were doing their pregame shows as well. I turned and my oldest son Allen Jr. was in a discussion with Chris Berman, and my youngest son Kevin was talking football with Tom Jackson. Sports talk runs in the family.
Game day is here.
It is early Sunday morning, and I can't sleep. The game is not until later in the day. JT calls, he can't sleep either. I sort of hint, "Hey why don't we go out to the Rose Bowl and beat the crowd." He goes along with the idea, and so we got on the earliest media bus available. Still plenty of traffic, takes about an hour to get unloaded off the bus... WE ARE HERE!
Granted, I can't move too quickly. Still hobbled from the attempted 40-yard dash. We were so early, the gates for the press weren't even opened yet. We wandered around, and took plenty of pictures. I looked at JT, he looked at me.
WE ARE COVERING THE SUPER BOWL!
Again, we are the only Oklahoma TV station, including Oklahoma City, to be covering this game. So the pressure is on.
The game begins. It is the most crowded sideline of photographers and reporters I have ever seen. Four people deep which made it tough to get the shots you need, but JT is an expert at these sorts of things. Never did he get out of position, despite the crowds. Got some great stuff, and trust me, Dallas provided plenty of good highlights. Dallas dominated the first half.
At halftime, right before Michael Jackson comes out on the field inside one of the floats, I was limping back toward the ramp, and a person in a golf cart stops and says, "C'mon honey, get on the cart, I'll give you a ride."
It's Whoopi Goldberg!
Seeing that I was not walking too well, she took me to the first aid room for an ice pack. WHOOPI! She was really a nice lady.
Second half was much of the same. The biggest highlight of the half was when Leon Lett thought he had a touchdown, only to have the ball stripped at the goal line. Lett denied a TD.
Also, this seemed to be the first time Jimmy Johnson had his hair messed with. Dallas had won the Super Bowl.
Game over. Time for the post game. Another hurried process, although not the same time constraints we had in San Francisco two weeks earlier.
We had one major glitch.
After the game, Troy Aikman was doing interviews for the networks, and since we had done many games with the Cowboys during the year, Aikman and I had developed a familiar relationship.
I asked him to do a live interview for Tulsa, and he agreed. We got to the live shot spot, and I was told by NBC our window has
been pushed back 40 minutes because NBC decided to throw in another program before local news. Obviously Troy couldn't wait that long, so that went down the drain. Bummer!
But overall, what an experience. At the time we were thinking we needed to soak all of this in because who knows if we would get another chance. Little did we know we would be going back the next year in Atlanta.
Same two teams...
All in all, this job has been so good to me. And trust me, I appreciate all of it.
That is also what's great about working in Tulsa. You get the best of all sports worlds. Friday night it's high school sports, the next day Division one college, the next day the NFL. Doesn't get any better than that!
One thing about Super Bowls - they will find a story line even if there isn't one.
Tom Brady is wearing the same socks this season as he wore when he met his wife. Eli Manning has been using brother Peyton's wrist bands the last five victories to ensure a Manning will be playing in Indianapolis. Downtown Julie Brown asks Tom Coughlin if you were a tree what tree would you be and the Giants coach actually answers.."I'm an oak tree."
Here is my story line - Giants 27, New England 23.