Maybe this is interesting to other people. Maybe nobody cares. Either way, it’s my blog, and I’ll do what I want.
So, thanks to the ace photography of The Capital-Journal’s Ann Williamson, we have extensive documentation of what it was like to cover the Orange Bowl and the NCAA Tournament.
For fun, I add captions.
This is in Detroit, I’m pretty sure the day before Kansas played Davidson in the Elite Eight. Unlike during the regular season, the locker rooms are open for certain periods of time during the NCAA Tournament, allowing people like me in there to ask Cole Aldrich about rappers for what became the most-commented-on blog post in Capital-Journal history.
The good part is that all the players are available, and you kind of just walk up to them and start talking. Most of the conversations are on the record, but some, like the one I’m having with Cole in this photo, are just B.S. sessions. For beat guys, it’s a good chance to have a little bit of real human interaction with these guys. I don’t know for sure if it ultimately makes much of a difference in the way these guys react to us, but I think it does. I think they feel more comfortable talking to us because of the familiarity, which is good.
I’m not sure the players enjoy this all that much, although they’re usually in a fairly good mood, particularly the ones that don’t get interviewed very often.
This is what’s known in our business as a gang bang. Nobody likes gang bangs, but most of the time, it’s the only way to get the quotes because, unlike in the (occasionally) free-flowing NCAA Tournament locker rooms, we have such limited access to the players.
We call them “gang bangs,” because reporters are crass people.
This is us gang-banging Aqib Talib in Miami about a week before the Orange Bowl. I don’t recall asking Aqib a question that day.
Here is KU football coach Mark Mangino escaping the media beast in Miami. As you can see, it is not necessary to dress nicely in order to be a sportswriter.
I don’t know if I’d necessarily call it a perk of the job, but one of the nice respites is that your press credential gets you into all of the games at a particular tournament site. This was in Omaha, where KU and K-State were both playing. I believe Kansas had already played that day, meaning the KU media (from left to right: me in the blue, Ryan Greene of the Lawrence Journal-World, Tom Keegan of the LJW, some hosers) were free to watch and scoff at the poor bastards that had to cover Kansas State-Wisconsin.
Leon Liebl of Kansas City’s NBC affiliate looks especially delighted.
This was hilarious, because, since we were right behind the Cats’ bench, we heard everything Frank Martin was saying. Frank was not pleased with poor Jacob Pullen at the time. Or ever, really.
“I’ve got no problem not putting you back in the game,” he said at one point.
Open locker rooms are awesome … except when you have a question you really need to ask of a specific player. Like, for example, Brandon Rush or Mario Chalmers or Darrell Arthur and not (far left) Cole Aldrich.
This was at Sprint Center in Kansas City after KU had won a thriller of a Big 12 title game over Texas. One of the best-played games I’ve ever covered. Both teams were on some super-human plane.
That’s me in the green on the right, trying to extract a personality from Mario Chalmers. I failed. Everybody did. We always did. His personality is only a rumor at this point.
The photographers are obviously pretty excited about the Big 12 trophy sitting alone in the middle of the floor. Somebody should have used that as a metaphor for Kansas’ boredom at winning Big 12 titles. It would have worked well, since KU would later find out it was a No. 1 seed in the tournament.
As you can see, it is not necessary to be in peak physical condition in order to be a sportswriter.
Because there was nothing else to do, I stuck my recorder into the Sherron Collins gang bang. I eventually asked him the same rappers question I asked Cole, but I don’t think Sherron really wanted to think about it.
Since we were in Detroit, I asked him about Eminem.
“Once upon a time in my life, I was an Eminem fan,” Collins said. “But, you know, I’ve kinda grown out of it a little bit.”
Obie, The Androgenous Orange Bowl Mascot, is also the Ubiquitous Orange Bowl Mascot. It turns up everywhere, including to Kansas’ beach party on Miami Beach.
This was a private party, but they let the media in there so that we’ll take pictures and write about how awesome the Orange Bowl is. It works.
As you can see, you don’t necessarily have to dress the part to go to Miami Beach as a sportswriter.
It was only December but a long layover in Atlanta, on top of all the work I had done and was going to have to do in advance of the Orange Bowl, was taking its toll.
Here, I’m working on what we call a notebook. It’s — imagine this — a collection of notes. Newspapers use these to serve two primary purposes:
1) To allow writers to report things that did not fit into any other stories.
2) To fill space and have “a presence.” For example, we wanted to make sure that, for about two weeks leading up to the game, we wanted to have some kind of Orange Bowl “presence” in each day’s paper, which only means that we wanted something in the paper that was at least vaguely connected to the bowl or Kansas football. Thus, I had to write this bad notebook at KCI.
Even better, my bad computer’s wireless was all jacked up, so I had to use Ann’s machine. Note: This would later come into play the night of the national championship game.
As you can tell, by the time April 7 came around, there wasn’t much enthusiasm left among the Kansas media. Just look at our faces. We look like we all just finished a four-day bender with Nicole Richie.
Nonetheless, we had the wherewithall to recognize that we were at the Final Four, and that was pretty cool, and that we may not ever cover another one. You just never know.
Later that night, my #@$%&^ wireless went down again, right on deadline. So I had to transcribe what was on my computer to Kevin Haskin’s computer, word-by-word, in order to file my story.
Incidentally, a couple of secrets.
1. I wrote this story before the game even started.
2. I wrote this story on Mario Chalmers because Ronnie Chalmers was the only person in the KU locker room I could get close enough to quote. From start to finish, there’s no way I spent more than 11 minutes on this story.
3. My game story, I had to file as soon as the game ended, meaning that when Mario Chalmers’ made his miracle, I had to do a select-all, delete on the story I was writing for a KU loss. I remember the “KU loses” story was going to wonder if maybe defense doesn’t win championships, after all.
There was a lot of foul language flying around on press row when that shot went in.