Sunday, July 17, 2011

Help! Not just anybody

Last night I got to thinking about how collaborative the work of sports journalism often is. Frankly, that's what makes it fun, and I thought I'd take the time to acknowledge some of the people who assist in making sure reporters get the stories they need, with last night as a specific example. 
Stats people, interns who hand out meal tickets, roster and stat sheets, the catering crew and the cleaning crew, all the operations staff, heck, even security, are all part of making an event go smoothly. Plus, it's fun to chat with those who are soccer fans whenever there's any dead time, because they often have a unique perspective on the action.
There was a credential problem when I went to check in at the Coliseum, but since the Galaxy media staff was working the match and knew I was on assignment for MLSsoccer, they produced a new one for me. In the pressbox, reporters caught up and chatted about the Copa America, on display on all the TV screens in the box.  I also caught up with Irene Guiterrez of SUM, who had helped me get interviews from El Tri players at the Gold Cup final. She's going to be in the operations staff in San Diego for the Real Madrid-Chivas match, and I've known her since she was an intern for Chivas USA.
Before the game started, I found out Dave Denholm of ESPN radio wanted to have me as an on-air guest for a few minutes during the match. 
Dave's a great guy who doesn't hold back on his soccer opinions, so of course I agreed. We did our on-air bit towards the end of the match, with him considering Kaka the man of the match for his influential spark in the first half, while I opted for Fabio Coentraeo (Jim Alexander and Luis went for C. Ronaldo). 
After the game, everybody rushed for the mixed zone in tunnel 11. Not wanting to fight the spectator crowds by walking the stadium stairs, I tried a tactic that had worked before, which was exiting the stadium, and going to the top of the tunnel. A media credential usually gets one past the security stationed there, but this time, it didn't happen. Security kept us outside the gate. There was also some kerfluffle when Zach Galifinakis (yes, the actor/comedian) tried to leave via that gate with an escort of four LA Sheriffs. Thinking he was one of the soccer stars, the crowd rushed him, and he was forced back behind the gate, idly kicking a autographed soccer ball around while his personal assistant braved the crowds to go fetch his SUV and drive it up to the gate to collect him and his entourage. 
I wasn't the only media person at the gate. A bunch of reporters had followed me (they won't do that again), and we were now stuck and in danger of missing the press conference and the player mixed zone. Security was completely stubborn, saying that they didn't have clearance to let media in via that entry. Luis had his phone with him and called Patrick Donnelly, the Galaxy chief media dude, to rescue us. He sent Justin Pearson, another Galaxy media guy, over and we finally got inside.
The presser was about to start and the wall of camera guys had their equipment blocking entry. I tried to weave my way through the tripod stands, but tripped. "Only for you, Andrea," said Rodney, the CBS camera guy, helping me to my feet and through to the press space. Once the presser started, Patrick got the media microphone to me so I could ask Mourinho a question. Unfortunately, I didn't have as good luck with any Real Madrid players, who basically treated the media like annoying gnats that needed to be brushed away on their way to the bus. Xabi Alonso was the one player who did stop briefly, making him a hero to the LA press corps. The Galaxy players were more accommodating, but coming from the presser, I couldn't get through the crush of reporters at the mixed zone barricades until almost all of them had passed by. 
Except for Beckham.
Justin assured us Becks would stop for the local press, and waved him over to us. So in the end, we got the quotes we needed to file our stories.

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