SEC Media Days: Lived up to the hype!
I attended my first SEC Media Days unsure of what to expect. Sandra Golden told me before we left on Wednesday that I should be prepared for what I was about to experience. She did not over-promise or under-deliver.
Every sports media outlet with any credibility was there. Over 1200 media people attended over three days to get comments, quotes, video or photos from the likes of Nick Saban, Mark Richt, Les Miles, Will Muschamp, AJ McCarron, and of course Johnny Manziel.
Rabid fans crowded the lobby of the Hyatt Regency Wynfrey Hotel from 7am to 7pm with goofy hats, mini helmets, signs, jerseys and cameras. But the meek don’t inherit an autograph or photo. That prize goes to the loudest and pushiest!
I was impressed at this finely tuned machine that is the most powerful football conference on the planet. SEC Commissioner Mike Slive worked the lengthy “radio row” tirelessly and was as gracious during his last interview on Thursday as he was during his first on Tuesday. Every Ballroom and Hospitality Suite was filled with rows and rows of reporters on laptops or sets for ESPN, Fox Sports, CBS and the like.
For me, one of the highlights of our broadcast was getting to discuss a “uniform drug policy” for the conference with Commissioner Slive, even though he adeptly dodged a real answer. I thought AJ McCarron was candid in saying he knows when it’s time to go home and doesn’t need anyone to tell him who he should hang out with off the field. Vandy coach James Franklin showed lots of charisma as he explained how he promises the parents of his recruits a great education and a chance to play in the SEC. “Anchor Down!”
Never once did I sense that this was a free-for-all, until Nick Saban sat down 10 feet from me and did an interview with a station from Birmingham. We were on the air live as Saban, surrounded by cameramen and reporters, held court. One videographer steadied himself so as not to fall over by putting his foot on my chair. Another guy apologized for using my shoulder as a railing. No other coach or player commanded that kind of ruckus, except for JOHNNY FOOTBALL! Although I wasn’t there on Wednesday morning, those who were said it was bedlam.
But that is the essence of SEC Media Days. The biggest names in college football give unprecedented access to the media and fans alike. Besides, for the first time, I got to vote for the Media Preseason All SEC team. I picked UGA to win the East and Bama to win the West. And by 8pm on Saturday December 7th, we’ll know if I was smart to pick the Dawgs to win the SEC Championship.
It’s NFL Draft Day (…finally)
We’ve been talking about it for months now. At least since the Monday after the Super Bowl. The Atlanta Falcons had the 30th pick then and they have the 30th pick now. Will they make a move just hours from now? Will they give up a 3rd Round pick to draft “their guy” at 18 or 22? Or will they give up their 1st Round pick for a 2nd and 3rd Round pick?
In the morning The Front Row will be talking about him, whoever he is. So will every other sports radio show in the country. What I want to know is, “did they listen to me?”
I said… I’d select a pass rusher with the 1st pick!
Plan A) Get an OLB who can get to the QB. An OLB that can cover a TE would be awesome.
Plan B) A DE who can rush the passer. A DE who can play the run as well would be great.
But if you don’t like who’s left… Here’s the plan…
Plan C) A CB who can start this season. A future Pro-Bowler would be fantastic.
There you have it. I’m a GENIUS!
The BIG QUESTION is: Will the Falcons draft a player from FSU? Will they select one of the available Seminoles to the delight of my friend and co-host Sandra Golden? (Tank Carradine? Bjoern Werner?) You can respond in the comments section
Oh, and here’s a PROP BET for you: o/u 3.5 People who go up to Brian Finneran tonight at Dave & Buster’s and ask, “is FRAN here?” Don’t miss the 2013 Draft Party at Dave & Buster’s, Sugarloaf!
Hope you’ll listen to Sandra Golden, Brian Finneran, and me tomorrow on The Front Row, 9:30am-12n on 680 The Fan!
First Trip to Spring Training
Walking into Champion Stadium at 7:30 on a chilly Monday morning, I was caught off guard by how quiet it was. There was a light layer of morning fog and there was nobody moving around the field at all. The freshly-cut grass smelled great!
Soon Sandra Golden, Brian Finneran and I joined Jonathan Chadwick in the Braves dugout so we could tape interviews with the players and coaches. Slowly, some of the Braves players made their way out of the clubhouse, through the dugout, and onto the field to start taking some swings in their indoor batting cages.
The clubhouse opens to the media at 8am so we made our way in to start chatting with guys who would be willing to come and tape interviews. Nobody wants to yuk it up before they’ve had their breakfast so you’ve got to approach them slowly. You’ve got to remember athletes are athletes and radio guys are radio guys and we’re not at spring training to do the same job.
Time spent in the clubhouse doesn’t always lead to interviews right away. For instance, it’s inappropriate to ask a pitcher to do much of anything if he’s pitching that day but most guys will loosen up on off days. Sometimes they’ve got to eat before the bus leaves for an away game. Sometimes they just would rather not at that exact moment. And since this was my first trip to spring training, some of them didn’t really know who the hell I was.
However, it is our job to get these players to open up to us. They have to trust that we’re not going to make them look bad. We have to be knowledgeable enough to ask good questions and creative enough to make it fun. Kris Medlen was fun. Brian McCann was relaxed and open about his rehab progress. Rookie J.R. Graham had never done a radio interview before but we convinced him to be himself and he was very cool. Fredi Gonzalez is used to answering questions everyday but he’s a professional and answered every question candidly. Chris Johnson who came over in the Martin Prado trade was cool and is excited to compete to play 3rd full-time. And there were many other moments that I hope will lead to a great relationship with the team.
The point is, we did this every day last week. There are worse places to be than at the ballpark every day. After the show we enjoyed the game if it was at home. Champion Stadium at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports complex is modern, intimate, and gives fans unbelievable access to the team. Of course you can’t “WORK” all the time, so I felt it necessary to try and squeeze in some golf and a little pool time at the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek. I was tempted to visit Mickey Mouse, since he’s just a mile or two away but maybe next time.
If you’re a real Braves fan, make the trip if you can. It’s well worth it!
Baseball vs Football
I love Football! I consider it my favorite sport! I love it for the
speed, the strategy, the athleticism, the play-calling, and even the
violence... and there's nothing like the passion of College Football!
BUT, since Baseball is finally here I have to say there is something special about the game of Baseball. You really can't compare the
two. In fact, I think Baseball is more of a thinking man's game.
Here's why... on one hand you could say Baseball is a much slower
game. There's all the time between pitches with players tightening
their batting gloves, re-setting their helmets, adjusting their junk, taking the
signs, spitting etc... etc... But in between each pitch I consider
how I'd pitch to a certain batter. I wonder where the batter is going
to try and put the ball in play. I like the tension between the
pitcher and batter on each pitch. Man-to-man. Mano-y-mano. It's
Can Kimbrel throw this heater past him? Will Medlen get a batter to
swing at a great Slider? Will the runner get caught leaning too far
at first so Hudson can pick him off? Is the Ump calling a fair
strike-zone? Men on 1st and 2nd, 1 out, single to Right... does the
3rd base coach wave the runner in?? There's a new situation with
every pitch based on the count... how many outs you have... how many
men on base...?
In Football, you have to keep your eye on 22 men on every play! But
who can do that?? In Baseball, as soon as the ball is in play, there
is only one guy to watch as he fields the ball! He can't hide. If he
blows it... we ALL see it. If the third baseman throws it over the
head of the first baseman, it's an error and we all see it. In
Football, if the Left Guard holds his man, we'll probably need a
replay to see it. In Football, if the Cornerback holds the receiver
we need slow-mo to see it from another angle! But in Baseball, if the
SS doesn't handle the short-hop just right, we all see it and we don't
need a replay to get it. The runner beats the throw and man on first!
And, unlike football where 1 TD doesn't change the game dramatically,
one hit can alter the entire game. If you're down by 4 runs with
bases loaded in the 8th... how awesome is it to see a guy jack a grand
slam??? He blows the game wide open!!
Football is a game of strategy for sure! It's a BIG event with
gladiators looking to kill each other on every play! But, Baseball?
Man... On a muggy July night at Turner Field... with a cold brew and a
bag of peanuts...? There's nothing like watching the boys of summer
as one batter and one pitcher go face to face on every single pitch!
I am a bad Dad
I am a bad Dad. Apparently, I have no regard for my son’s safety or future because I let him play tackle football. I say this as more and more reports come out about the dangers of concussions related to football injuries.
Maybe it’s because I played Pop Warner football as a kid. Maybe it’s because I cherish my memories of playing football in high school. Maybe it’s because I think my son might be good enough to play football in college. Or maybe it’s because I want to expose him to all sports as a child and let him decide which one will find HIM, if any.
My son has played basketball, baseball, gone to lacrosse camp, and recently said football is his favorite sport. I don’t know what the future holds for him. I don’t know if he’ll even play sports in high school. But as long as he wants to play, his mother and I will support it.
I understand the odds are against any kid playing college sports after high school. In fact only 2 % of high school athletes will go on to play collegiate sports. Your odds go up if you’re open to playing at the FCS, Div II or Div III level. But let’s see it for what it is. A scholarship to play athletics at the collegiate level is a chance to get a college education in return for playing a sport you love! It’s a dream, right?
Back to why I’m a bad Dad. Knowing what I know, I wouldn’t ever want my son to experience long-term problems from head trauma. But I am honestly more worried about his knees from playing football. I have had two knee operations. The first was playing football in my senior year of high school because of an ACL tear and cartilage damage. The second was playing baseball in my freshman year of college and it removed my ACL (I don’t have one) and about 2/3rds of my remaining cartilage. I’m staring down the barrel of knee replacement soon, so I don’t wish that for my 12-year-old. Yet I’ve had as many concussions as knee operations.
But football isn’t the only sport where kids can suffer head injuries. It happens in skateboarding. It happens in gymnastics, cheerleading, soccer, and even just riding a bike. Injuries in sports happen all the time. If he suffers any injury we’ll have to consider future problems from continuing to play that sport.
However, I honestly believe the rewards of playing team sports outweigh the possible risks of long-term injury. Team sports teach kids a lot about responsibility, sportsmanship, and life in general. A team (like a chain) is only as good as it’s weakest link. Is there anything more humiliating than being the guy who missed his block and allowed a sack? Conversely, is there anything better than being a part of a team that wins a championship of any kind, at any level? While he’s a kid, I want him to play whatever sport he’d like. If that means a trip to the emergency room one day, I’ll have to risk being called a bad Dad. Meanwhile, I just love being Jack’s Dad.