On Saturday, I was all ready to go. The Rose Bowl, site of the Gold Cup final, would host 90,000-plus fans and I'd be there to give as much of a full account as possible. With A.C. blogging away even before we got to the stadium, I was also set on providing my own inside info, complete with pictures and descriptions.
And then my phone died.
Well, my phone didn't die but it may as well have. I got a new phone recently, the iPhone 4, and this was the first real test for it. Would it be able to handle the pressures of covering a big game? Okay, well, maybe the only pressure would be coming from my fingertips but still I needed it to do what I asked and it was not up for the challenge.
The phone itself was, and is, okay. But the SIM card was a different story.
Just before 4 p.m., I was up in the press box and the stadium was empty. Inside it anyway. Looked like this.
At 4:30, CONCACAF head Chuck Blazer would give a press conference so I scurried down there at about 4:15. Fans were already being let inside the gates.
As I made my way down to the tunnel towards the press conference room, I saw a team bus approaching the stadium. Although there were lots of cheers for the bus initially, it turned out to be the "away" team's bus. Yeah, the road team that was the United States. When others also realized this, the cheers turned to boos, whistles and small chants of "Me-xi-co" from above.
I recognized assistant coach Jesse Marsch sitting up near the front. I had a clear view of him and others through the window so I stopped to see if I could snap some pictures of the players. At this point, my phone was working fine, thank you very much.
I got two pictures of players.
Once that was over, it was nearing 4:30 so I made my way into the press conference. I had to make sure I didn't step in anything as there was plenty of crud flowing from this man's mouth.
At this point, my phone was in and out. This isn't new to me. In the bowels of Home Depot Center, I don't get coverage. At all. Once I go downstairs, it's like going into a cave. If you have Verizon, you're fine but if you don't - and I don't - then your phone is useless there. At the Rose Bowl, I figured I'd have problems.
I was getting some random messages though but mostly I wasn't able to update much. Wasn't worried.
The presser took a while and I stayed until the end. Afterward, most of my colleagues made their way back to the press box, probably to work on their Blazer stories or perhaps to dig into the chow - food was supposed to have been served at 5 and it was already about 5:10. Instead, I figured I'd try to get as close to the field as possible. There were security personnel at the end of the tunnel, where the cement gave way to grass, but nothing until then. I got as close as I could.
I tried to respond to some text messages. It was taking an extraordinarily long time to send. This was odd. I wasn't in a bunker anymore but rather had a clear view of the sky. Oh well. I figured I'd Tweet some pictures once I got back to the press box, where I had full reception.
Now, just over the tunnel that led to the field were these guys (and gals):
Enthusiasm emanated from this hearty band of supporters. But not everyone was thrilled with them. Where the American Outlaws sat was seemingly not a great place to be. They were pinned into a corner, surrounded by green and black Mexico shirts. I feared for them, especially with these sorts of tough guys within reach of them.
Tough guys... ha. These guys are clowns, hiding behind the force that was the massive pro-Mexico crowd. They had it easy because unlike the American Outlaws, they weren't sitting targets. They could throw something in the AOs and then disappear into the crowd and nobody would know any different. And worse, the people around them may look innocent enough and maybe they're not throwing things or flipping off the American fans but they simply look the other way when that happens.
My stomach was unsettled because I knew the American supporters had no chance. I'd experienced something similar in 1998 at the Gold Cup final at the LA Coliseum, and hoped that those sorts of things were ancient history.
After hearing more taunts from the tough guys in the crowd, I saw some U.S. players begin to emerge. However, at this point my phone said there was something wrong with my SIM card. It was an odd message. I took one final picture.
On my way out, the rest of the U.S. team started coming down towards the field. I saw Jonathan Bornstein and gave him a fist-tap. Landon Donovan was the last player out there and I tried to give him some words of encouragement but he was hyper-focused and probably didn't even hear me.
Back upstairs I went, but I still had the "No SIM" message on my phone. Something was wrong. I'd had a BlackBerry for, I dunno, five years maybe, maybe more, and I was very familiar with it and knew what to do when that phone (or rather those phones) wouldn't cooperate - the old battery pull. This time, though, was different. I was clueless.
In stumbling around the phone, I figured out how to turn it off for the first time. I turned it off, turned it back on but still saw the "No SIM" message. I was angry now. Kickoff was approaching, I had all these great pictures that I knew would have been well-received by my Twitter followers, but had no means to get them out.
(Now, I could have gotten onto the WiFi feed but at this point my head wasn't thinking clearly)
The teams came out onto the field and here I was, all but ready to toss my brand-new suddenly useless iPhone out the window. I longed for my BlackBerry.
I shut the phone off. It was the only thing I could do. I still needed the damn phone, to record the post-game press conferences and player reactions, and the battery was draining quickly. I tried a few times during the game to see if the SIM card magically re-appeared but it didn't. Early in the second half, I resigned myself to the fact that the phone was a piece of crap and I would simply be wasting my time trying to get it to work.
I'd hoped for different things of course, had hoped to have taken plenty of pictures during and after the game, but the SIM card disaster threw me off my game. I had stories to write and I was unable to concentrate on them. I couldn't even call my editors at The Press-Enterprise to check in and all that good stuff. I resorted to e-mails and several went unanswered.
Ultimately, I was able to record interviews and pressers with my phone. It hadn't let me down completely. I didn't get any post-game pictures but at that point I just needed my phone to respond in a better way than it had before the match.
In way, like Mexico, my phone made a comeback that night.
The next day, I took my phone back to where I got it and the salesman was able to replace the SIM card, which had died for some unknown reason. My phone was, and is, working just fine.
My only hope is that it's up for the challenge every night for every game in whatever stadium I happen to be at. Otherwise, there could be an iPhone flying out of my hand at some point in 2011.