I had told a few of you that I was being given the privelege of attending the Detroit game on Wednesday night with a press pass, earned by working games as a color analyst for high school basketball, baseball, football, and softball on a popular southern Indiana radio station. Now that I have some free time, I thought I'd give everyone a little inside perspective on my night, and how things go from a media point of view on game night at Conseco.
I went into this totally not knowing what to expect, so needless to say my eyes were wide open, like a tourist seeing the inside of some famous landmark where normal tourists arent allowed to go.
It was really really cold here Wednesday night if you recall, and like usual my radio partner (attending with me) was running late, so we left my home in Bloomington a little later than we had planned. I was hoping we'd have access to some great and secret inside parking garage to shield us from the wind, however that wasn't the case, so we parked on the eastern side of Conseco, paid our parking fee, and treked our way in thru the snow and howling wind all the way to the press door, located on that side of the building thankfully.
Once thru thru the door, we were met by an intern sitting at a table handing out press passes. I assume that some regular guys have their own passes for every day, but that may not be the case, because he had still unclaimed passes there for Mark Montieth from the Indy Star. If Mark ever arrived, I didn't see him. Because of our somewhat delayed arrival, only Montieth and us still had passes there waiting. After an ID check to make sure we were indeed who we claimed to be, we had our passes and were turned loose in the bowels of Conseco.
Winding around a bit, we passed several offices with many names outside the doors, most of which I assumed were low level interns. We passed the main press conference room, and also a couple of nearby smaller TV studio rooms, with small little places to conduct TV interviews in private I guess.
Then, on to the media room/gathering place. If anytime a media person ever complains about their jobs, you should punch them in the nose, because pampered treatment is the norm in here. A nice place to hang your coat, media guides provided for both the Pacers and that night's opponent, any pertinent stats and game notes you would want were all provided.
Several computer hookups were along the outside walls, all labeled by what press outlet may be there. I saw the main ones you would expect...IndyStar, Associated Press, Detroit Free-Press, Pacers.com, etc etc. In sort of the way that Conseco is adorned with pictures of former Pacers, this room is adorned with pictures of famous or semi famous media types that no doubt have covered the team in the past. Pictures of Sekou Smith, Bob Collins, and other former Indianapolis media types are all over, along with several televisions mounted on the walls all tuned to either ESPN, Fox Sportsnet, or the internal Conseco Fieldhouse feed.
There were lots of media types in the room, even though tip off was now within a half hour or so. There were all there no doubt, as I was, for the media dinner provided for free before every home game. I sat surrounded by Dave Calabro from channel 13, Mike Wells, Bob Kravitz, Rich Nye, David Benner from the Pacers office (a very nice man who chatted with us at halftime), several camera guys, and other Pacers/Conseco front office types. A member of the Harlem Globetrotters (who performed a skit at halftime promoting the teams appearance next wee) was also in the room.
This was an exceptional dinner by the way. 3 cheese manicotti, potatoes au grautin, and some sort of great tasting pork chops along with a really good salad bar was the menu selection, along with some other items that I didn't eat, so therefore don't remember. I was told this was both free AND all you can eat, so those of you who know me know this made me a very happy Pacers fan! Dessert was some sort of cinnamon/bun cake that I didn't have, and some sort of chocolate/yellow cake that I would have eaten, but that were were too late to get any of.
While stuffing our faces, many of us were faced with a decision: Continue on pigging out and watch the beginning of the game on television inside the media room, or scamper to the elevator, ride up to our seats, and be there for tip off. Here I saw a difference in television and newspaper....the print guys reluctantly trudged off, where all the tv guys (all Indianapolis stations representated) mostly lingered and continued eating. I wanted to scamper to make the introductions, but my radio partner wanted dessert, so I waited on him and watched the first 5 minutes on television, with the radio broadcast instead of the television being used on the internal feed. Finally, totally stuffed, we made our own way to the media elevator to head to the game itself.
The media elevator was fun. Apparently, there is a long time employee who has worked this elevator for years and years and years, even dating back to Market Square Arena, and he is kind of a local legend. Unfortunately, I can't remember his name right now as I type this. But he wasn't running the elevator tonight, a young intern was. This seemed ot be of great concern to people on the elevator, and our young intern/elevator man didn't know where the normal guy was. He even said he hadn't seen him in over two weeks, which seemed odd, but what do I know?
It seemed funny to me that the team or the arena makes this poor guy, who does nothing but ride up and down in an elevator all night asking you what floor you want, is made to dress up in a shirt and tie and dress clothes. I mean, it isn't like anyone besides local press is going to see him anyway. And it isn't like you saw lots of fashion model guys in the press room, although Anthony Calhoun from channel 8, Calabro, and the rest of the tv guys all had suits on of course. I don't know why, but seeing this young kid in an uncomfortable shirt and tie pushing buttons all night struck me as funny.
Anyway, we made our way to the arena. Now, as a group of peon radio guys from down south, were weren't seated along press row on the floor. I was told we might have been but that Detroit television brought a couple of extra people, and that along with the normal crowd of folks down there meant that they were sitting us up above the lower bowl, on the concourse, at those big long press tables you see usually when you are there, you know the ones with the little TV's on them? Anyway, that is where we sat, with plenty of room and a great perspective on the game, being able to see clearly each team's bench, although we were nearer the Indiana bench than Detroit's.
Interestingly, as I stood around in the press room before the game, I heard the Detroit tv guys discussing how their team was having chemistry issues relating to Allen Iverson. Big surprise there! Scuttlebutt is that some of the players feel that Coach Curry is being way too accommadating to Iverson instead of laying down the law. I feel sorry for Curry and told the guys this, even though in reality what do they care what I think?
Anyway, apparently there are major issues with the starting lineup and playing time in Detroit, concerning Rodney Stuckey, Teyshaun Prince, Rip Hamilton, and Allen Iverson. Apparently it has been mandated by Detroit management (at least that was the gossip) that Rodney Stuckey must start. Coach Curry believes apparently that he needs Teyshaun Prince in the lineup defensively, so that leaves one spot open for Rip Hamilton and Allen Iverson. According the Detroit media guys, Curry had went to each of them and asked them about their willingness to come off the bench as a sixth man, and each of them ahd strongly refused....each of them badmouthing the other. So, the apparent solution for Detroit for a while is a compromise that at least keeps the peace but doesn't really help their team: Start all of them, play Rasheed Wallace at center, and go small. I was anxious ot see what would happen at the end of the game though, when that wasn't as easy to see....apparently Coach Curry thought against us it was wise to send Rip to the bench, a major reason why I think we actually won the game.
Anyway, as members of the media, you have some other perks. At the end of each quarter, you are given by the PR staff a complete statistical breakdown/box score of the quarter. You are also given a written description of every thing that happened each possession and at each dead ball, broken down to the second. I spent some time wondering who it was that had that thankless job! At the end of the half and game, you are given these as quarter breakdowns and for the entire half and game. The game summary is apparently known as the "book", which you get about 20 minutes after the final horn in the media room.
At the half, we watched the Globetrotter guy, then made a quick trip the the private bathroom in the media room, before having some snacks provided there for everyone. Bob Kravitz seems to be popular with lots of the Conseco Fieldhouse workers, as he spent some time discussing with someone low level about the Colts news. It was from Kravitz that I heard about the Colts changing special teams coaches.
As the last 3 games had before with me in attendance, this game of course went into overtime. I know from experience that beat writers hate this, because they have a deadline to meet. This had another unintended effect I found out later, which was that some of the TV guys elected not to go back to their stations, but to instead stay at Conseco and do whatever spots they were going to do from there.
So after the game, I wanted ot head to the press row near the court down where Denari and Wuinn Buckner sit, but instead we headed back down the elevator to see Jim O'Brien's press conference. I had this vision of a crowded press conference, with people jumping up to ask questions and struggling to get picked to ask something. However, I quickly found that was not the case. In fact, I believe it was just a couple of guys in there asking stuff, and indeed it was over in a matter of minutes. I asked my radio partner where everyone was, and he replied he figured they were all loafing in the media room, and that I would find out why as soon as we got there.
This was a funny sight to me. It was all sorts of media guys, all looking uncomfortable, like they were waiting on something to happen, just kind of shuffling their feet. Turns out there is some sort of story about not being the first one to crack open the free beer the Pacers provide the media after the game. Let me say that again for emphasis sake :FREE BEER!
My radio partner had no qualms about breaking this rule, but before he got there Bob Kravitz popped one open so it was ok. I actually don't know if there is really some sort of "don't want to be the first guy to drink" rule or not, but if there was Kravitz didn't seem to care...and I liked that about him. It also probably helped him that I don't think he had a deadline, where some of the others did, and a few other media types were probably still on the way from the Pacers locker room/interview room.
Anyway, free beer was nice. Nice cold Miller Lite, in a huge barrel full of ice. I just sort of became a fly on the wall, listening to the various conversations going on around me as we awaited our media game books. After they finished their respective duties, Mark Boyle and Chris Denari came down to join in the festivites and hang out. Mark particularly was happy and well relaxed I thought, and he is bigger than I thought, which is an odd though to have but it's what ran thru my mind....I didnt know he was that tall. I also looked at him looking dapper in an expensive looking dark oin striped suit, which is in contrast to my own radio normal radio attire, which looks like I slept in an alley the night before a game. Maybe Mark thinks you can see him on the radio!
I was also told that Quinn and Slick never come to the media room, which if true seems a little weird to me. They are missing out! Maybe they have their own hangouts in the building somewhere with some privacy. Maybe Slick hangs out with Bird and the coaches, who knows?
Lots of guys weren't drinking of course, they were working. For many of them, the work was just now beginning. Conrad Brunner was online doing something on Pacers.com, the Detroit Free Press guys were working hard along the west wall of the room, and a photographer was downloading game pictures he had taken, I assume to send somewhere to somebody for publication. A serious looking Mike Wells was along the south wall near Conrad, typing his story into his laptop, I thought looking grouchy while he turned around and looked at Kravitz chugging his Miller Lite. I wonder if their office is like most offices in the country, with office politics, grudges, jealousy, backstabbing, etc etc. I bet it is. Actually, it turned out as I was leaving the Kravitz told someone there that he is writing a long, detailed article about Danny Granger, setailing his background, history, childhood, etc etc, that will appear in the Sunday edition of the Indianapolis Star. I guesss there is probably less pressure with a story like that instead of the deadline heat Mike Wells may feel.
Lastly, just for fun, I inquired from the Pacers media relations staff what is necessary for our own Pacersdigest.com to recieve a press pass to cover games. She grinned ( I think our existance is well known there I am guessing, although maybe Im reading into it too much) and told me that because we are a message board, the team wouldn't issue us one directly. However, she told me that there was a application process thru the NBA league office, accessible somehow on NBA.com. Hicks, get to work! I think full time press credentials is well worth it, even if just for the free gourmet all you can eat buffet and free drinks! Maybe we should try to be nice to David Stern for a while.......yeah, you are right, probably not worth it lol.
I have a series of articles/postings I am working on analyzing in a painstaking detailed way our team defensive issues. I hope to start that series of articles, which will be pretty long (to none of your surprise no doubt) in a day or two. It looks like it will be about a 3 or 4 part piece right now.