This blog is not for the light-hearted or easily offended. If either one of those descriptions applies to you, i would suggest you start drinking before you read this blog. A sense of humor is suggested. If you don't have one that sucks for you … find one and get a life!
You know how you have these days that are so busy and so fun filled that by the time it is evening, it seems like morning was a million years ago? That’s how Sunday felt. As I’m sitting here in the Hartford Airport on Monday morning, I’m struggling to remember the beginning of the journey on Saturday.
Saturday morning was frantic because Daniel didn’t get home from Duke until 12:00 or so on Friday night. This was because he had a late exam in Calc III from 7-10 PM Friday so by the time he finished, got his stuff together and got home it was late. Of course, his clothes were dirty but I had previously told him to throw them into washer and we’d deal with them in the morning. We had a 12:30 PM flight so most of the morning was spent harassing Daniel to quit moving at snails pace and get his shit together; altogether pretty typical if any of you have a 19 year old boy.
We finally got to the airport and the flights were uneventful and on time so I won’t waste your time telling you about them. When we landed at Hartford it was already so dark which seems weird when you live in the south. I had forgotten how much earlier it gets dark up north.
We had been told by the ESPN peeps that we could stay in Hartford but the closest place to ESPN was a Clarion Hotel. We chose to stay there since we needed to be there at 9 AM on Sunday to begin our tour.
We arrived at the Clarion and all we saw was a construction site. We drove past it and we saw a really strange fortress-like building with a really, really tall tower. We reached the end of the road and wondered, “Where the hell is the hotel?” Of course, I started panicking thinking that I had totally fucked up but we turned around and the construction site and the hotel were one and the same. Figures right??
It turns out that the hotel was under major renovation and there were probably about three people staying there. Seriously, it was like a bomb had gone off and of course, Kevin and Daniel started giving me shit about where we were staying. What did they want from me right??? It’s not like the advertising said, “caution, staying in a disaster zone.” I sometimes wonder what it is about plans and me … they never seem to work which begs the questions, why am I put in charge of them??
Fortunately, we found a great little Italian restaurant that was decorated like nothing I’ve ever seen. It was beautiful and decorated to the nines. (hahaha…that autocorrected to the ones…decorated to the ones! I fixed it)
We had a great little meal and then went back to the room to watch what??? You guessed it: sports. I knew in advance that it was a sports trip and Kevin actually demanded Sirius XM Radio in our rental car so we wouldn’t miss a moment of the games while driving later that afternoon.
Now, the host of our little visit was John Walsh. John has a crazy and diverse background and has worked at Rolling Stone, the Washington Post, and for the last 30 years he’s been building up the ESPN brand. In other words, he’s really smart and knowledgeable. We had to go through security, get our visitor passes and we were off.
We met John and he looks like Santa Claus; no really, just like Santa Claus. He told us the game plan, which was a tour of the facility, hanging out in the control room of NFL Countdown and then hanging out on the studio watching them shoot NFL Countdown. After that it’d be lunch and then watching the game with the analysts.
We started the tour and saw a wall of incredible pictures of everyone from Michael Phelps to Billie Jean King to Kobe. The photos were taken for the 30th anniversary of sports SportsCenter.
The satellite farm was unbelievable. Apparently, that location was chosen because it was high enough for all the broadcasting and satellite dishes to have no signal problems. It must work because we certainly manage to get ESPN.
We saw where they taped SportsCenter, ESPN radio, where they had the desks for football, baseball and NASCAR. We got to see where people had their offices and we finally got to hair and makeup. John walks us in there and we meet the producer Seth Markman who produces NFL Countdown. Of course, me being me, I promptly asked for a job for Daniel but unfortunately he said they only have internships for rising seniors in college.
Then John led us through the Executive Suites and we went into the Executive boardroom, where he told us the history if ESPN. It was fascinating. John also had about 7 Emmy’s just hanging out in his office. Trust me, the entire thing was impressive.
Then we went to the control room where Daniel, Kevin and I watched the behind the scenes action of NFL Countdown. To use the word chaotic and fast paced would be an understatement. The front row was the producers, the next row were the people managing the feeds from the main NFL games and the back row were the graphics people who made the graphics and headlines. It was amazing watching them balance everything. Everybody had headsets and you could see the current feed and the upcoming feed. It was wild.
Next, we went to the studio. We walked in and there was Chris Berman, Mike Ditka, Tim Jackson, Chris Carter and Keshawn Johnson. To Kevin and Daniel, these guys were rock starts. They would do a segment and then there would be a few minutes before the next segment and they’d have makeup touch ups or be told stuff that was going to happen next. I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed myself and actually had quite a few funny conversations that I will save for another post.
After the taping was done, we went upstairs to the screening room and had lunch and sat down to watch the games on the 10 TV screens. All the anchors were there and Daniel was psyched to see Adam Schefter and others. Then Chris Berman walked in and he asked us how we liked the show so that was a real highlight for us as well.
All in all, it was a great day and we were only half way done. We took off around 3 and headed up to Massachusetts but ya know what? That’s gonna be another post.
Oh yeah, I forgot. Remember that crazy building I told you about that looked like a fortress? Otis Elevator owns it and it’s the “elevator-testing tower.” So now you know! You can thank me later.