TULSA - People ask me all the time which team do I root for.
When it's an OU fan asking, I say OU. When an OSU fan asks, OSU. When a TU fan asks, TU. You get the idea.
But in reality I root for all the locals, because it usually means that if those teams win, it's a good season, and a good season translates to better coverage. Also means a better bowl trip or NCAA run. Just being honest.
In reality, I lose sleep over three teams. New York Yankees, New York Giants and New York Rangers. It is a seasonal disease with me. I extend to any team that plays the Red Sox, the Montreal Canadiens, and the Dallas Cowboys.
Which brings me to my next subject. I actually rooted for the Cowboys in 1992, 1993 and 1994.
It was obvious they were going to be good, and taking a chance, I decided to give Dallas a bigger piece of our coverage at Channel 2 because our college teams were down in the dumps.
So, my colleague Johnny Thomason (JT) and I would load up the ancient gear back then, haul to Dallas and cover the games on Sunday.
As it turned out, it worked to perfection because by the time the playoffs came around, we were the only Oklahoma media outlet to get credentials for the playoffs, and eventually the Super Bowl. That's why I was rooting hard for Dallas.
It was my first experience with the NFL Playoffs. My years working in Green Bay, the Packers were awful, so the experience I got back then was dealing with losing locker rooms.
This was definitely different. Dallas hammered Philly in the first round. I remember JT and I driving back from Dallas that night praying that our news director would let us go to San Francisco.
We were thinking of everything that we could come up with as convincing campaigns. Of course we played the "we have been covering them all year, how could we not go." card. It worked. Our boss was terrific, although in the back of his mind he must have been thinking Dallas has no chance to beat the 49ers so we will not have to worry about going to the Super Bowl. JT and I knew otherwise, and were so pumped we couldn't think straight.
So we go to San Fran. It is pouring rain, from the minute we land. It subsided once on Saturday for about three hours, but started raining again, and never stopped until we left.
Anyway, the Friday night before the game, we tried to get a live shot from a downtown sports bar, but the rain was killing our satellite feed (not quite as advanced back then). We did the live shot without contact with our own people, did it anyway trying to sync-up our watches through a San Francisco NBC station (they were great), and some how, some way, it got on the air in Tulsa. To this day I still don"t know how we pulled it off.
Saturday, more rain. Walk-through at Candlestick canceled. So we did the field condition story.
Grounds crew guru George Toma was in charge, so we got a good story out of that. The field was a mess, and they were trying to piece new sod on the field. Finally the sun came out, off came the tarp, but the sun only lasted three hours. We were less than 24 hours from kickoff. Heart pumping much?!.
I remember having a good steak that night , but I could tell JT was a little worried about the weather and his equipment. He wouldn't stop talking about whether or not we had enough rain gear and all that. But that good steak put his mind at ease.
I did not sleep a wink Saturday night. Granted, we have had the opportunity to cover incredible sporting events working in television, but this was a first for both of us. The NFC Championship game.
Kickoff was at 1 p.m. Pacific time so we were at the stadium at 10 that morning.
Press pass will-call is open, and now the nerves start kicking in. Do they have our credentials? I don't care how many times we go on the road for coverage, the first worry is whether or not our credentials are there. Not being with the Dallas market media, and the only media from Oklahoma, maybe you can appreciate the anxiety level. You know, the "why would Tulsa want to cover the Cowboys?" questions.
Anyway, no problem, both credentials are there, and even a parking pass, Incredible. We are in!
So now what?
Three hours before the game, JT is checking his weather gear, camera, batteries charged, ready to go.
All of a sudden, this tall lanky guy walks by. Looks familiar, but not a football player for sure. The next thing we realize, we are three feet from Kevin Costner. He was wearing a 49ers hat. He's talking to Terry Bradshaw. I say something like, "loved Field of Dreams," and he says "this field is anything but.." referring to the mud. That was it. My touch with greatness.
JT with the camera, running up and down the sideline, me trying to keep up with a notepad and the extra batteries. Both of us, along with just
about everybody else slipping and sliding in the quagmire.
The play I remember most was when San Fran thought they had stopped Dallas, only to get penalized for holding Emmitt Smith coming out of the backfield on a middle screen. Dallas kept the ball, scored, and won by 10.
Aikman, Irvin and Harper were really the difference. Steve Young was held in check by Tony Casillas and company.
At the final buzzer, all I could think was, "We're going to the Super Bowl! We're going to the Super bowl!"
JT looks at me, and screams, "WE'RE GOING TO THE SUPER BOWL!"
You talk about two kids! It was great. But wait, we need to get interviews, and get our story edited to get it back to Tulsa, or the trip is worthless. No Super Bowl if we do not get this story turned in.
I remember the interviews in a mud-soaked locker room under the first base dugout. Wet dirt was dripping from the pipes thru the ceiling. Michael Irvin was pumped. Troy Aikman was his usual calm self. All the guys were awesome. Time for editing, and we get lost. Lost in downtown San Francisco looking for our NBC affiliate to edit. PANIC MUCH!
We must have gone around the block at least 20 times before we somehow made the connection.
Now we're behind schedule putting the story together. What helped was that JT and I had worked together for years, and I don't know how else to explain it, but you just know what the other one is thinking.
JT is the best, and his alertness to detail is incredible. He gets it done at 9:48 p.m. Tulsa time. We have to feed the story at 9:50. The story runs 5:40, so it will take at least that to be recorded in Tulsa for our Sports Extra show. Our first feed needs to stop. Audio levels a little off. Tulsa wants us to refeed. So we call to get more satellite time and get it at 10:05. Story airs in Tulsa at 10:22. Can we do it? YES!
We wait in anticipation.
We insist on having someone put the phone to the monitor so we can be sure it gets on our show. Keith Isbell does the introduction. We hear the story run. We look at each other and scream, "WE'RE GOING TO THE SUPER BOWL!"
We look down at our boots. Complete mud. We look at our pants. Mud. Shirt. More mud. Our hair, you got it...mud.
That may have been the most satisfying story we ever covered. We followed the Cowboys all year. Got to go to the NFC Championship game, got the stories back, perfect.
By the way, we packed lighter than when we went. The clothes were ruined but, we wouldn't really need them. The Super Bowl was at the Rose Bowl. Plenty of sun there.
Next week. The Super Bowl experience.
Giants 24, 49ers 21
Pats 29, Ravens 27