Author’s note: This article is a first person account of my first experience as a member of the media covering a Giants game, it’s written as a first person narrative and not as an object, factual report as are most items on Giants360.
Excitement and a modicum of anxiety were both plentiful when the email unexpectedly arrived from the Giants announcing that a Giants360 media pass had been approved for last night’s preseason game. I’ve attended dozens of games over the years, but never as a member of press, not sitting amongst sportscasters and sport writers that I’ve been watching and reading for longer than I care to admit. Questions flooded my brain… How do I dress? What do I bring to with me? How early should I arrive? Where do I enter the stadium? What about parking?
Following many of the beat writers on twitter, I reached out to one, Patricia Traina of Bleacher Report, Inside Football, and SportsXchange, and asked if I could email a few questions. She graciously consented and I learned that the press box is business or business casual dress, arriving three hours before the game is recommended, and most importantly, there is no cheering in the press box. Being a lifelong Giants fan, that last item would present a challenge.
More on that later. I also reached out to the Giants PR office, which sent the media approval to ask for any guidelines to ensure compliance. I received some information on post game procedures, including the locker room interview procedures (no photography permitted), and post game press conference accessibility for both the home and visiting teams. It was also noted that no cheering is permitted in the press box. Apparently this has been an issue in the past, as this point is being driven home. That, or my reputation in the Giants/Metlife Stadium stands is more widespread than I originally thought.
Gameday arrived. Packing up my iPad, paper, pencil and clipboard, the chargers for both iPhone and Ipad, binoculars, some snacks just in case, and a bottle of water into my brief case, I left at 3:45 for a trip that takes 30 minutes without traffic. In New Jersey. 5 minutes later, I was on the ramp for Garden State Parkway North seeing bumper to bumper traffic. Perhaps it was the holiday weekend, construction, an accident, or another unknown obstacle, but 30 was minutes not happening. Recalling travel to the games of my youth, I exited to Route 22 east, the route my father and uncle would take to avoid the tolls, at that time 25 cents, now $1.50, and made my way to McCarter Highway, through Newark. My 30 minute trip devolved into 30 minute through Newark itself, but I was still well ahead of kickoff.
Pulling into a parking space at 4:45 with my general admission parking pass, I picked a spot in my usual game day parking lot and looked for a security guard. It’s quite a hike to the stadium and I didn’t want to find out that my brief case was considered contraband in the press box. Told that it was, I pulled out the iPad, iPhone, clipboard and accoutrements, put the binocular around my neck, left the chargers, snacks and water behind, and set off to find the Will Call window and my press pass. The security guard has no clue where the Will Call window was located, looking back, this might have been a clue that his information was sketchy.
Walking straight in toward the Metlife Gate, I asked another set of security to point me toward Will Call. They sent me to the Pepsi gate. On the far side, was the Will Call window, and in little white envelope was the golden ticket, the press pass, that brought Giants360 into the other side of Metlife, that we’ve all heard about but had never seen. As I walked up to security, with my items in tow like high school textbooks, I see three people having their bags screened by security and I momentarily debated returning to my car, three parking lots away, but I decided it was too far, and I was already behind the schedule I set for myself. Through the rabbit hole I went and past the door marked “Press Entrance.”
Flying blind was the order of the day, and in this situation, the best strategy to follow is to keep ones eyes open, mouth closed, and follow someone who appears informed. The gentleman I followed immediately entered an elevator, I followed and asked the operator in a low voice, “Press box?” He nodded and I relaxed for a moment. Exiting on the sixth floor, was followed my elevator mate through double doors and saw two tables, and lots of security types in suits. The ladies behind the tables said, please check in, and I said my name, hoping it would be on the list.
She checked it off and told me where my seat was and pointed down a long hall. I am in row 3, seat 4. As I walk down the hallway I see stairways lettered A, B, etc, so i keep walking assuming the numbers would be coming up soon. No numbers. I stopped and asked an official looking chap who walked me all the way back to A and we found my assigned seat. What a view. Other than metal window dividers, an unobstructed view of the field. I counted at least 26 forty inch flat screens that scroll stats and provide replays during the game. The seating is leveled so the people above and below you will not be in your way even if they stand up during a play – a huge difference from sitting in the stands. I look around and realize there is one other person in this section of the press box with me, down one row and to the right. Local sportscaster Bruce Beck, who is going over his notes intently. I hoped to get a guy nod in to him at some point, but he never looked back.
Settled in to my area, I went to explore the community. The back area has a small commissary and tables and chairs with large windows that overlook the parking lot outside the Pepsi gate. The Giants have a reputation for taking care of those that cover the team and the food service is complimentary, including, much to my delight, all the coffee you can drink. In discussing this with others in the press box, the Giants rank among the league leaders in this department, which is not surprising given the organization, I’m certain the Steelers and Patriots are also in that category.
I had hoped to meet Patricia Traina, but found out she was on the other side of the press box and made a mental note to look for her after the game. She did not have to take time out of her extremely busy schedule to answer questions for a nobody, and that sort of kindness deserves an in person thank you and a handshake.
Tweeting out pregame observations and statistics, the time was flying by and kickoff arrived before I knew it. There were two huge differences between watching the game in the press box and watching the game in the stands, besides air conditioning. First, there is an announcer, different from the stadium loudspeaker announcer that give a constant flow of information throughout the the game. Statistics, injury updates, and player information, much of which I tweeted out for the benefit of Giants360 followers. Second, the glass mutes most of the crowd noise. Granted it was a smaller than usual crowd in the preseason, but still, even when they could be seen cheering, the sounds were muted, which gave watching the game an almost ominous quality.
What was amazing was the view, with my trusty binoculars in hand, seeing the plays develop from the birds eye view of the press box was ideal. Seat 4 was near the north end zone, and the angle allowed quick scanning of uniform names and numbers, and perfect angles for sight lines of blocking. The replays on the monitors provided immediate confirmation of thoughts before tweeting them out to the world.
Being a lifelong Giants fan, and regular game attendee, fighting the impulse to cheers when someone made a good play was challenging. There is no cheering in the press box. Patricia Traina said it, the Giants PR office said it, and cheering couldn’t be heard in other parts of the press box. I suppressed it. The others section A were also fighting to keep themselves under control. Understand that I come from a vocal family, especially when it comes to football, so it will be an accomplishment. This will get easier with time.
After each quarter, someone magically appeared and passed out a stats sheet and drive summary for the quarter just concluded. It allowed the making of notes for the game summary and to confirm suspicions about both team’s performance. At half time, some snacks were provided, for which I was thankful given that mine were in my car.
The press notes say that after a 10-12 minute cooling off period, the locker room will be open to the press and that press conference will be held in the designated areas. Being a rookie, I interpreted this to mean that we had that time to clean up, police our coffee cups and plates, and make our way down to the designated area. Since no one one in section A, row 3 was moving, I thought my assumptions valid, until it came to light that none of us has gone down to the press area or locker room before. I went back to my follow someone who seems aware strategy and a few of us went off to find the press conference. That’s when we learned that to get to the Patriots designated area, you are permitted to cut across the field. Not knowing where the Giants are was located, and our designated target obviously headed to the Patriots section, we stopped and asked a group of security at mid field where the Giants press conference was held. He pointed to another door off the field.
Hustling through, we walked in on the tail end of Tom Coughlin’s after game press conference, got to stand five feet to his left, next to Gary Myers of the New York Daily News, and heard the coach talking about how John Jerry played the entire game because he needed the work. The conference ended and the Giants spokesperson said, “The locker room is open.” Lesson learned regarding the press conference. Move rapidly after the end of the game to ensure a prime seating and a full press conference. Adapt or die.
Following the masses, we made our way to the locker room and found it beginning to thin out, but some players still present. Following more of Ms. Traina’s advice, I spent my first time observing (And tweeting out my observations), rather than trying to be obtrusive. I saw Eric Herman, dressing by himself, undisturbed by reporters, immediately prior to being added to the reserved/suspended list. I did get to meet Ms. Traina and thank her in the locker room, she was focused and busy, but I glad to have thanked her in person.
Victor Cruz dressed and then gathered a crowd as he talked about looking ahead to Detroit, leaving the preseason behind, and becoming a spectator after leaving the game. He likes to see a good game, and the Giants win, but mostly no one get hurt and the young players make their mark. Cruz was glad to avoid overtime, as he wasn’t playing and couldn’t leave.
John Conner, now the presumptive starter at fullback, depending upon the severity of Henry Hynoski’s injury, was talking on camera by his locker. Steve Weatherford, sharply dressed in a sports coat, was talking to a reporter. I tweeted about his good fashion choice, and included his twitter handle. Later I saw that the man himself had favorited.
Weston Richburg was also encircled by a big group of reporters, and spoke about enjoying the challenge of playing multiple positions, saying it helps his versatility in case of injury. This week, says Richburg, he focused on left guard, and the intricacies of that position, and that will likely be his focus until Geoff Schwartz returns.
As the last of the players filed out, so did I, and noticed the team packing gear onto a Budget truck, presumably for shipment to Detroit. The efficiency of preparing for travel this far in advance is noteworthy. Game gear on the way, practice gear to be used for preparation. I glanced at my power readings, 25% on my phone, 23% on my iPad. Leaving the chargers behind was a close call, but not critical. Next time, I can bring them along. In my brief case.
Much was learned on Giants360 maiden voyage, and we hope you enjoyed the inside look at press coverage of a NFL game. Live tweeting the game was a blast and will be regular feature on Twitter. If you don’t already follow, @Giants360, you’re missing out on the fun. Any questions on the experience, send them along, I’m glad to answer. Follow my personal account, @Hyprcaffeinated for the same wit and wisdom on life as the Giants360 account provides on our favorite team.