VSN Travels – Week 1 (Ottawa, KS)

Well the first trip of the 2010 season is in the books and so begins my “VSN Travels” blog. The first game of the season featured Ottawa against Baker. The excitement built nicely for this game as the long standing rivalry hadn’t played in 17 years. However, it was the 79th all-time meeting between the two schools. So what were our lives like as we made this trek to Ottawa, Kan. and back to Grand Island, Neb.?

Day 1

We begin on Friday with a scheduled leave time of 10:00 a.m. I arrived at Jason’s shortly before and after tying up a few odds and ends we were in the vehicle ready to go about 11:00. After a quick stop for fuel, clean the windshield and Arby’s, we were on our way. I think we had one of the nicest ladies in the world help us in the drive thru at Arby’s. Our stop there ended up longer than we had hoped, due to them dropping Jason’s order of mozz sticks and having to remake them. In the end we got our food and enjoyed it on the way out of town. Hey, it’s food….tough not to enjoy.

The trip was about five hours. We stopped once in Concordia, Kan. to use the little boys room and grab a water. I took over driving at that point so Jason could work on some stuff for the broadcast on his computer. Little known fact about our trips, drive time=work time. If we weren’t physically on the computer, we were talking about the game and preparing for the broadcast. Some people tend to think it is like a little vacation and we watch sports. There is a lot of work done on the road to make this all successful. In fact, as I write this we are on the road home from the game. Jason worked on the open and when finished had me watch it to see what I thought. Yes, I am still driving, but a little multitasking is okay, right?

We rolled into Lawrence and made a 10 minute stop to Best Buy, and then it was back on the road for the final 20 miles. We showed up on Ottawa’s campus around 4:30. The press box was the first stop. I know this may seem hard to believe, but you can’t do an internet broadcast without an internet connection. Our first goal was to make sure an internet port was working correctly. After doing a few different things we were able to get connected and felt good about things for Saturday.

We went to eat dinner with the two Ottawa Graduate Assistants, Bret Beachner and Nick Davis. It was my first time to Driver’s Sports Bar in Ottawa. I ordered the Philly Cheesesteak, but didn’t realize I ordered off the baby menu. I thought the sandwich size was a little smaller than what I have seen in other places, but it was darn good for what I did have. After the food we got checked in to the Comfort Inn, home for a couple days. I whipped out the computer and began working on game prep. Jason was working on things on his computer.

After working for a couple hours we decided to head to Bret and Nick’s and just hang out for a bit. Bret worked with us last season so it was good to hang out with him. And he is a Chiefs fan, like myself, so we caught the Chiefs preseason game on TV. We finally went back to the hotel and decided to call it a night after a little more work.

Day 2

Saturday morning started at 7:30. We grabbed breakfast on the way out the door and to Ottawa U. Some hotels give you cereal and not much else. I was very pleased with the breakfast option at the Comfort Inn. I had a sausage and egg bagel sandwich with some Fruit Loops….breakfast of champions, my friends. While eating, we ended up in conversations with people who would be attending the game that night. The one lady was the mother of OU starting WR Chris Davidsmeyer. Some other folks we talked to were from Beaver Crossing, Neb. They said they were there to watch their daughter be recognized as part of the Ottawa Brave softball team conference championship. At the time I didn’t put two and two together, but the day before a friend from college said her sister played softball for OU and told me her name and to find her. My friend, who I watched play softball in college at Doane, is also from Beaver Crossing. It turns out I was talking to her parents and never realized it, until today (Sunday) when it is too late. It is indeed a small world after all.

Wal-Mart was the first stop of the day. I love that almost every town we go to has a Wal-Mart and Radio Shack. They are lifesavers. Painters tape was the product we were after. It works okay to tape down cables.

Set up and tear down are my two least favorite things about the broadcasts, but it must be done. Jason and I ran the necessary cables and tested everything. The only issue we were finding was internet connection. It was not working properly with the Tricaster, the system we used to video stream the games. About 11 Jason decided to head back to the hotel to get his laptop to see if the internet connection would work on there. I stayed at the hotel to work on some game prep and also so I could be a part of a fantasy football draft at noon. Yes, I took time for this. Am I a fantasy nut? Well, I have been involved with teams since I was 14 (10 years) and have tried every sport at least once. This year I have five fantasy football teams….you decide.

The draft began right at noon and each team was given five minutes to make a selection…way too long. It took over two hours to get through the first nine rounds and we had 20 total rounds in the draft. I spent the entire time with my good buddy in Dallas. We co-own the team because the entry fee is $100. Last year we won the darn thing and had enough money to pay for our entry this year and then some. All while drafting, I was working on game prep. Talk about multitasking. Jason showed back up to the hotel and began to get ready. Shortly after 3 I asked when he wanted to leave for the field and the response….3:30. Oh boy, now it’s time to kick it in gear. I told my buddy, Chris, to finish the draft with whoever he wanted (four rounds left). I shaved, showered, got dressed, gathered what I needed and was walking out the door at 3:30….MONEY!!

Sonic was the pregame meal. It didn’t don on me until we were at Sonic that I hadn’t eaten since breakfast. That’s what happens when you’re busy. But the cheeseburger was great. I set up my stuff in the press box and then just walked around for awhile. I talked to the SIDs, Ads, radio guys, coaches, some players and fans. It seems to be my thing before a game to walk around and talk to people and get a feel for the atmosphere. At 5:30 I was in the booth and ready to go. The pregame show began at 5:45 and we were underway.  Ottawa had Subway sandwiches in the press box at half time. That hit the spot. I love it when press boxes have food….I like food.

After the game I walked down to congratulate some of the Ottawa players on a 24-14 win and talk to some of the Baker coaches as well. Then, clean up time. It didn’t take long before we were packed up and ready to head out. After a stop in to the Ottawa coaching office, we headed to Taco Bell for a post game meal. More….Food! We made it back to the hotel shortly after 11. Initially we were going to explore the Ottawa nightlife, but began work on some things. Jason was working with the Tricaster and I began checking scores from the day. Then I wrote a Post Game blog that was a follow-up to my First Down Classic Preview written earlier in the week. By the way, there is nothing that I like more than writing a blog and being criticized all week…..then things happen to make you look right. BOOM!

Shortly after 3 a.m. it was time to hit the sack. A long day, but hey it’s football season…no complaints here.

Day 3

At 7:50, yes just four hours after going to sleep, we were up and loading the vehicle. A quick stop at the breakfast bar and we were on the road by 8:05. We detoured to Baldwin City to stop in and talk to Mike Grossner, head football coach of Baker. He had said he had some Wildcat apparel for us, so I figured we might end up with a t-shirt. Well, we got the t-shirt….and gym shorts….and a hat….and a hoody. I ended up with a whole wardrobe from Baker and yes, I will be wearing it.

The drive home was nothing too exciting. Jason and I chatted about the game, plans for the week and plans for next week. We made it back to Grand Island around 2 p.m.

Trip No. 1 is in the books. Next week will be an extended trip with a game on Thursday and another on Saturday. It is a short week in the office and looking forward to seeing the top two teams in the country next week.

Check back next week for thoughts on the games, post game thoughts and another edition of “VSN Travels.”

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