Covering the Final Four…is a blast in HoustonBy
I’ve covered two Winter Olympic games, the Rose Bowl, the NBA Playoffs, but I’ve never had as much fun covering a sporting event than I have here in Houston for the Final Four.
And some of the best moments happened behind the camera.
On game night–when the Butler Bulldogs took on the Virginia Commonwealth Rams–my role was two-fold. Get photos and provide updates for social media and www.wthr.com during the game…and then act a “runner” for our sports team after the game.
My media credentials offered me access to the game floor–a wonderful view of the action on the court–plus a chance to get some pics of the “moments” during the game. (see below). I’ve certainly watched these games on t-v as Butler has progressed in the tourney this year and last–but being there–among the record 75-thousand fans–the electricity in the air–unsurpassed.
I ran into Charles Barkley–who stopped for a photo op and a little conversation. (WTHR photographer Matt Whisner met former President George H.W. Bush–now a Butler fan!)
During the second half, I kept tabs on the action from the Media Center in Reliant Stadium–a room full of sports and news teams from all over the country covering the game. Even after more than 20 years in this business, being included among them seems unreal.
While the competition is certainly intense on the court–it’s also “game-on” for reporters. We want to have the best coverage–and if possible to have it first. Our game plan was this–Eric Yutzy interviews the players and coach inside the locker room. Dave Calabro broadcasts live for our special coverage after the game from the live location outside Reliant Stadium. Matt and I would relay the video from one to the other. (we figured it was about a quarter mile from the locker room to the live location)
Because of NCAA rules for coverage –unless you’re the network airing the game–television affiliates are not allowed to show highlights until both games were finished.
(And they’re serious about this rule. A CBS affiliate thought they’d be ok to get reaction from the Butler team on the court right afte the win. But according to the photographer shooting the video the NCAA ordered them to erase what they shot)
So the buzzer sounds…and we’re off. My role afforded me access to the locker room after the game. A new experience for me. Right after the team enters–a hoard of reporters, and cameras move in like cattle. Everyone vying for the great interview. I stay close to Eric and sports photographer Matt Wilkening. A team who work so well together it’s as if they choreograph their every move. I know I work with some talented people..but to see them in action is a thing of beauty.
Eric first approaches one player…gets a few questions in..then it’s off to the next. Once that interview wraps up Matt Whisner takes the SD card and literally runs it from the locker room to the satellite truck so that Dave can “pitch” to it on air.
Meantime, Eric continues with more interviews..then I get the SD card and I start running. (It’s at this point I realize two things–1) I should have packed sneakers 2) I am really out of shape!)
I meet Matt half way and pass off the card like a baton in a 100 meter relay.
We do this three or four more times–it comes off flawlessly on the air (Dave’s a pro)–and our viewers are able to hear from the players right after the game. None the wiser.
In the middle of it all, I just thought to myself–“this is so fun”. It’s quite an adrenalin rush. I love being “on-air”–but being part of this team–doing my part to cover this amazing Butler story was a thrill as well.
And the best part is, I get to do it all over again Monday night.