Let me start by being honest to you all; I try to hold myself to pretty high standards (with regards to having proof for my claims, or, in the absence of proof, stating that absence) with regard to this blog and the postings I make for it. That said, I am as amateur as these matters get. I don't have special access or connections or “sources”, because, in all honesty, the only difference between me and the guy in his mom's basement is that I've lived my whole life in Texas and I'm pretty sure basements don't actually exist.
But, for one Sunday, we changed that. I don't know what WFAA's sports genius Or Moyal had to do (and I don't want to know, because, you know, plausible deniability and all), but he got a press pass for me, for Sunday's Cowboys-Broncos matchup. The following is a timeline of what occurred, for history's sake.
1:30: I pack up my laptop, my DSLR, and some hopes and dreams, and head to Cowboys Stadium. My navigation tells me it will take me one hour and two minutes.
2:31: I pull up to the stadium, having beaten the estimated time due to superior driving skills.
2:32: The parking lots are lively, but surprisingly well-composed. I was expecting something like the sewers in Demolition Man (“Este carne is la rata!”) or Oakland at any point in Oakland's history. Instead, it was clean, orderly, and moderately sober. I see a pack heading towards the stadium, and decide to follow it.
I suppose now is as good of a time as any to tell you I have no idea where I'm going. I'm not even sure of what I'm going to do when I get there. My strategy of navigation often involves wandering around until I find what I'm looking for; in this case, I don't even know for sure what the target is. I intend to purely engineer my way to the press box, using whatever means I find along the way. I'm kind of like Survivorman, only with (hopefully) less improvised primitive weaponry.
2:40: The mass of humanity has crossed some bizarre, begrassed limousine parking lot (wherein a Hummer stretch limo very nearly backed over a very drunk man in a Deion Sanders jersey) and makes it to an entrance line. There are a couple guys in polo shirts that are yelling. Having both played football and worked for security, I can tell you the guys who are yelling probably know what you're supposed to be doing.
I show one my pass and ask him if I'm at the right entrance. He's visibly annoyed (with good reason, I give you) but pulls out a briefing document and shows me I need to be at “B” entrance. I'm at “K”. There's a lot of alphabet between the two, and a lot more real estate.
2:50: There are a lot of orange jerseys here. There's also a lot of pink Cowboys jerseys, matched up with miniskirts and cowboy boots. Neither look is particularly effective.
3:00: I make it to the B entrance. Only one attendant accosts me about my computer bag, but smiles very politely once she notices my press pass. She still checks my bag. I make it though the wanding, and I'm inside AT&T Stadium. Now, the real wandering starts.
3:10: For some reason, I started by walking up the circular ramp to the 3 & 4 levels. This is a Bad Idea. Once I reach someone in a polo shirt (not yelling) I describe my basic dilemma. She only knows I need to go “downstairs”. Implicit in the statement is “You should know where you're supposed to go, moron”. I deserve that. She lets me in to her section, as a (much appreciated) shortcut.
3:20: I realize my pre-game field access is due to expire momentarily, so I need to start getting serious. I find another set of stairs, with an attendant named Anthony. Anthony was a good dude. Anthony tells me to go his stairs, and keep going down. Eventually, I run into a door that has a sign warning of vehicles on the other side.
That's a bingo, friends.
3:23: I wander around the alley/driveway area until I hear crowd noise. Like manifest destiny settlers smelling the ocean, I know I'm close. I see another group with yellow badges, so I fall in behind them.
It's this point where I start wondering why security hasn't stopped me. I mentioned before, I have a background in facilities' security, which makes it kind of fascinating to me that no one has tackled, tased, or tackled me after a tasing. I mean, I'm allowed to be here, and everything, but the paranoia exists.
Suddenly, I see an elevator that has a press sign. There's a group of people there too, both of which are good signs.
3:27: Off the elevator, and I see a sign that say Restricted Access. Not far from it, there's a sign about Press Access levels. These are good signs, both in general and in my quest.
Turns out, it's to the radio booths. Wanna hazard a guess how I found that out? Side note: NO ONE is allowed in the official replay booth. That one, I found out via sign, rather than tackle or tase.
3:30: I walk into the press box proper, just in time for kickoff. Much like lunch on the first day of school, picking your seat is very important. I think I have an assigned seat, but I feel like I've used up my quota of questions, so I wander the length of the press box (which is pretty massive). This is not before I walk down to the second level of seats. Randy Galloway and Skip Bayless are on that row, so I obviously need to sit somewhere else for everyone's general well being. Bayless gives me the first of what would be two very dirty looks without addressing me.
3:45: I've found a table and made a cursory pass through the buffet line. I post up there through the first quarter. Sometime around then, I decided the whole seating situation has likely been settled. It has, but that's involved someone piling up a lot of stuff in the seat I'm assigned.
Look, I'm playing with house money here. They could kick me out right now and I'd be happy, so I'm not going to bother any of the guys who are here putting food on their tables with their work here with whatever quixotic thing it is I'm doing here.
I find a seat in the dining area at a table that seems empty, and avail myself of the buffet. When I get back, a very nice lady and her daughter are at the table. She notices my credentials say Channel 8 and she used to work there. She doesn't like when I tell her “I just write,” because writing is hard and I should be proud of what I do, which is kind of uplifting. Little does she know I mostly just make jokes about Ninja Turtles and quote strange stats.
Not having any other good ideas, I decide to go back out and see what happens on getting back in.
4:10: The general atmosphere in the stadium has turned. Broncos fans have a psychic shock from expecting to steamroll the Cowboys early and finding themselves down two touchdowns. Several Cowboys fans have preemptively drowned their sorrows. I'm a little concerned for my safety for the first time, which increases my comfort level.
4:25: There's a group set up outside the fence in the end zone, watching the game from the party pass area screens. They're loud, vocal, and well-composed. I like the cut of their jibs. There's also a number of promotional employees breaking down their areas and playing with their iPhones.
5:14: Back inside. I short circuit the stairs process, and jump straight to an elevator. The elevator operator looks at me incredulously when I tell him “Press Box,” and makes me repeat it. He's the first person to see through my veneer, and glimpse the idiot underneath.
5:20: I pull out the laptop and find a table in the dining area with a view of the Jerrytron. Seems like a good enough spot. Jean Jacques Taylor and Tim McMahon have a pretty lengthy conversation right in front of me, and I try to remember if I've written anything mean about either of them, or just thought it.
5:41: A couple producers from Telemundo sit at my table. Oh, god, I'm at the Spanish announcer's table now, and I've seen enough WWF to know how this ends.
5:52: The soap in the press box bathroom smells AMAZING.
5:57: The Cowboys have intercepted Manning, and taken the lead in the last six minutes. I don't know what's happening. This may be something I tell my kids about. Like, when they're grown up, not just right now.
6:16: Dez Bryant goes 79 yards; Cole Beasley goes the last four. Is this what feelings feel like?
6:21: For the first time, the “Get Loud/Make Noise” on the big screen isn't, like, needed. The crowd is actually making noise of their own accord. Like in an actual NFL stadium.
6:28: Romo throws his first interception. I can actually hear Randy Galloway's pulse rise with schadenfreude joy.
That means the story on this game is just about written, because now Manning is playing the clock, instead of playing this ineffective defense. Might as well get out, and hopefully beat the rush of potential DUIs.
I'm packed up at this point, still tweeting from my phone, but moving. I make it down to the field level, and walk past where the post-game pressers are going to be held. I briefly consider trying to get in and ask John Fox or Peyton Manning about Ninja Turtles, but, again, the mass of DUIs I want to beat.
7:05: I've fought the throng, and made it outside. WFAA's sprung for a darned good parking spot for me, and it's at least a mile and a half away from me right now. The crowd in the parking lot and traveling around me is decidedly pro-Cowboy, which means they are drastically anti-Cowboy right now. There's a confrontation in front of me between a stationary partier (who's group has taken a considerable chunk of the sidewalk up) and a pedestrian who takes exception walking around the large men, their coolers of domestic adjunct lagers, and the prodigious amount of spent cans of domestic adjunct lagers.
I keep my head down and keep moving, because I enjoy having my blood and internal organs inside of me and functioning properly.
7:33: I'm back at my car. The angry callers are already on sports radio. I'm parked 4 lanes back from the entrance/exit of the parking lot, and it takes me 14 minutes to get there. Say what you will about the Romans, Jerry could have learned from the vomitorium.
It's about now I notice a trash barrel is smoking, heavily. Exactly nothing good can come of that.
8:04: I'm at 30 and Randol Mill, and I couldn't reproduce the route I took to get here if it meant putting distance between me and the smoking trash can (or Randy Galloway).
My route doubled me back, so I have to drive past the stadium again, which is less than optimal, to say the least. But it's a pretty fitting end to one hell of a wanderin'. I know where I need to go now, for the first time in a few hours. The evening is only missing one thing....
8:45: The first caller that wants Tim Tebow to replace Romo. NOW the night is complete.