We knew the snow was coming, but nobody at NBC Sports could have expected what became one crazy Sunday in South Philadelphia.
And there wasn’t even a football game. To give you a quick background, 610WIP personality and Temple alum Marc Farzetta was and still is a good friend. He was great to me throughout college and after, including my two years as an intern at WIP.
About a year ago, he asked me if I wanted to help out with a nationally televised hockey game for NBC. I could not decline. As a result, I’ve been given an opportunity every now and then to work for NBC during their national broadcasts. This was my first non-NHL opportunity.
And here we go…
11:00 am: Ryan arrives at the Linc, and the NFL arrives at a decision…
Heading south on I-95, I turned on WIP to hear what Rob Ellis and Rob Charry were saying about the game. All the focus was on the impact of the weather and Ellis mentioned that the NFL was actually considering a cancellation of the game.
I’ve never heard about a game cancelled on the same day it was scheduled. Games have been moved up. There have been weather events like hurricanes on the horizon, scheduling conflicts have happened before. But football does not do rain delays, and “school” doesn’t close for snow, and nobody puts baby in the corner, and all that crap… you get what I’m saying. This is football.
I received my credential (it gets me into the building) and my parking pass and got to work. I was given the tour of the areas we would be using inside and outside of the Linc. As I was walking the halls, the rumblings of a cancellation became stronger, more widely mentioned. It took me very little time to realize that this was real.
I was fetching plates inside of the catering area (Temple’s locker room) for our Featherlite Trailer, which was basically the epicenter of the whole operation for NBC. It was there I heard an odd-looking guy sitting on a chair in the corner talking on his phone. He looked like a homeless lumberjack… seriously. He even had suspenders. He made a call, and his only words were, “game’s been cancelled… we’re goin’ Tuesday night.”
He didn’t look like the supreme authority for much of anything, but I looked at a co-worker who was with me… we believed him. I received a text from a superior a minute later confirming what we heard. Pack up and go home now? I don’t think so.
1:00 pm: Dick Ebersol Likes Chicken
Minutes after the news was delivered, Chairman of NBC Sports Dick Ebersol arrived in the back seat of a very nice
car. I would tell you what it was, but there was snow blowing in my face and my eyes were hurting. So deal with it. He walked into the trailer behind his assistant. And he was hungry. He told his assistant what he wanted, and he walked into the room next to us and the door closed.
I stood there unsuspectingly… eating a Reese’s cup. Before I could finish, I was handed a George Foreman Lean Mean Fat Reducing Grilling Machine…
…I swear to God.
I was given a knife, a pair of tongs, and Tupperware containing three pieces of chicken. In no time, I was out in the snow with the “grill” plugged in the back of a production truck. I was provided with a small folding table to put everything on, and then I was abandoned.
I proceeded to make lunch for the Chairman in 35 mph winds while it snowed over Philadelphia. The only thing more odd than me cooking for Dick Ebersol is… well… me cooking at all. I don’t know how to describe to you how bad I am at cooking. Let’s leave it at, “I haven’t won any awards”. I spent a half-hour making one piece of chicken at a time. And another half-hour cleaning off the grill and doing the dishes.
This is what I went to school for.
3:00 pm: “Time to eat!” “Oh wait, no!” “Okay, no, you can eat.”
A number of us had some down time, so we began to grab lunch in the Temple locker room. One colleague was missing, as he was assigned to go to the Four Seasons Hotel to collect some tape for NBC’s Football Night in America. The tape was some video of Vikings players reacting to the cancellation. He was gone for three hours.
The roads weren’t that bad yet, but the time it took to get all the reactions and have it edited left my buddy on the road and twiddling his thumbs. When we didn’t hear back, my supervisor called me into the trailer to let me know that I would be going now. I didn’t even get my first bite. Figures.
I was saved by the bell when he arrived back with the tape just before I was about to head out. Things had calmed down for me again, but everything around me was actually pretty crazy. A two-day postponement for a weekly national broadcast can really cause some problems.
4:30 pm: Feeling bad for the crew
The production crew has been in Philadelphia since Thursday. Many of them live outside of Philadelphia. I met a woman from Texas. A fella from Chicago. Other people from Buffalo, the midwest, elsewhere. These are hard-working people who travel often and sleep little.
These folks spend long weekends all over the country, from late summer until late winter. They don’t see their own beds, their own families for a large chunk of this time. These people just spent Christmas away from the people they love and are coping with the reality that on top of it all, they will be stuck here for at least another 48 hours.
A petite female member of the crew rested in the corner of the Temple locker room and fell asleep. She was as sick as a dog and nowhere near her hometown of New Orleans. She hasn’t seen her family in days. It broke my heart. One of my supervisors and I were having a nice conversation and she was telling me about her plans to have dinner on Tuesday night with her family as an alternative way to officially celebrate Christmas. In the same breath, she realized she would be here on Tuesday night, and not in Pittsburgh. With a seemingly half-forced smile, she continued by saying she should call her mother to let her know.
These folks do so much to bring you the product that we all take for granted every week. I think that stories like this can be humbling and eye-opening. I’m not sharing them to teach you a lesson. I’m merely trying to give you a piece of some of the reality behind the scenes. This isn’t just about us missing out on a Sunday night football game, there is so much more between the lines.
6:00 pm: Ryan meets his idol.
After running back and forth for some random tasks, I was called to the trailer to escort someone to the press box. I opened the door to step in and I was looking Bob Costas right in the face.
Bob Costas was probably the biggest reason I got into this field. To me, he is to sports journalism what Edward R. Murrow is to broadcast journalism. I struggle to arrange my words here in a way that would do someone like this justice, something he would never have trouble doing. Costas has a way with words that could make the most mundane sports moment seem like something truly historic. There will never be another Bob Costas. They broke the mold, man.
And he was looking at me with a smile. Who in the hell am I? I’m just a stupid kid. He’s Bob Costas! I knew it for sure when he said…
“Hi, I’m Bob.” He extended his hand.
“Hi… I’m Ryan. I think I’ve seen you around before.” I smiled, thinking about how stupid of a response that was.
We made small talk during a ten-minute walk from the trailer to the press box at the near-top of Lincoln Financial Field. I ate up every word the guy said, and we were only talking about weather and some historic facts behind the postponement. I dropped him off at the press box and asked if he needed anything else. He said no, smiled, and thanked me. I made my way back.
This sounds dumb, but that was probably the coolest ten minutes of my life.
6:45 pm: Your Sunday Night Football announce team is funny.
This could have been a game for the ages, and they dicked it up!”
Cris Collinsworth laughed after he made the comment. I was given the pleasure of walking him and the great Al Michaels up to the broadcast booth. Given the situation, both men were incredibly lighthearted, and really nice guys. And yes, if you’re wondering, I did have a Tourette’s-like desire to scream “Do you believe in miracles?!” in the presence of Michaels. Somehow, I resisted the temptation.
Michaels was a jokester, too. He had little punchlines. He offered me pizza (not relevant, but hey, Al Michaels offered me pizza… where’s yours?). He used a heat lamp as a substitute for a microwave while giggling to himself. He put smiles on the faces of the people who had been there much longer than he had. A morale booster at the very least.
All the while, Collinsworth kept people snickering with comments like, “just flex the Eagles next week, too. We’re already here until Wednesday anyway.”
It’s good to have some comic relief in the midst of a long day, wouldn’t you say?
7:30 pm: Andrea Kramer is a warrior…
Let the video speak for itself…
8:00 pm: Jim Cantore is also a warrior…
One was at 6:45 pm for NBC Nightly News, and then three for the football show. His last spot was at 8:07 pm. Cantore’s windburned face was soaked with horizontal-traveling precipitation as he did each spot. After completing his on-camera commitments, he returned to the trailer.
His walk back took 15 minutes. His eyes were bloodshot when he returned. It was unbelievable. What’s worse? He did live shots for the Weather Channel outside of the Linc until 11:00 pm, and had to drive himself back to the hotel in a rental car.
The things people will do… big ups to the weather man.
9:00 pm: Driving home… at an average of 25 mph
Two hours earlier, I saw a truck on I-95 moving southbound at about 55 mph. I felt a bit better knowing there was movement on the main highway that I needed to travel on to get home. By the time I was dismissed for the evening, “95″ was covered completely.
The unpredictability of the wind combined with a steady continued snowfall made every mile an adventure. Some areas had a coat, some had a couple of inches. Stretches were slick depending on the lay of the snow. There were points where I was the only car on the road. That was a good thing considering I couldn’t see lane markers.
When other cars went to pass me, my heart rate went up a little bit each time. It was a slow, quiet ride home. What usually takes 25 minutes took over an hour. But I arrived home safely somehow after one hell of a day.
1:00 am: Posting an update, passing out…
No need to elaborate here, I suppose. I return to the Linc Tuesday at 6:00 pm…
…Hopefully for a football game.