In case you were wondering about the glorious life of NBA travel, here’s a 2-day timeline for December 4 & 5:
Steve Nash had 18 assists when he visited his home country of Canada. (NBAE Photos)
8:00am – wake up, surf the usual hoops related sites (HoopsHype, ESPN.com, azcentral.com, usatoday.com) and rifle through recent press clippings and game notes for the Suns / Pacers game tonight.
9:30am – call Tom Leander to discuss our pregame topics for the broadcast. As I indicated in my blog entry from Nov. 20th – live sports is completely unpredictable and we plan only the first 10 minutes of the show. The rest is up to the players and coaches with the TV crew doing our best to stay on top of everything as it unfolds.
10:00am – finish research and note prep for the game and get ready for the day.
11:30am – hop a cab with Tom and Dan Siekmann (Suns director of broadcasting) to grab a quick, greasy bite at White Castle. I’m not much of a fast food guy, but having visited my family in Chicago so much growing up, I can’t pass up a chance for a bag of Sliders. Anyone from the Midwest knows my weakness. As well as In and Out Burger has done since opening up locations in Phoenix, I have seriously thought about trying to acquire a White Castle franchise for the Valley. With all the Chicago transplants, how could it not be a license to print money? I’m keeping it as a back up plan in case this TV thing doesn’t work out.
12:40pm – check out of the hotel, load up our equipment and hop a cab to Conseco Fieldhouse. This is the coolest looking arena in the NBA – inside and out. The design fits the name, with red brick and green steel construction giving it the feel of a Midwest fieldhouse even when it has 18,000 rabid Indy fans screaming for their Pacers. It is a perfect match for the capital city of a state that has had a love affair with the game of basketball (at every level) for over a century. Their PA announcer begins the introductions by saying something like “In 49 states it’s just a game, but this is Indiana!”
1:00pm – crew arrives at the arena and we begin setting up all of our equipment, computer networks, etc. that will make our broadcast look as good as it did in NY two nights before. We hire a local crew and TV truck from which to work in each city and we spend the next 3 hours or so teaching them the things that are unique to a Suns broadcast (music, graphics, video tape elements) and a little about our team and the storylines we’ll be watching for.
4:30pm – after building graphics and editing highlight packages for the last 3 hours, time for dinner in the Pacers’ media lounge: chicken, mac ‘n cheese, mashed potatoes and salad on the docket tonight. Not too bad as free food goes.
5:30pm – return to the TV truck, finish editing tonight’s tease (first thing you see at the top of the broadcast – tonight it’s about the Suns being dominant against the Eastern Conference, Grant Hill’s big night in NY and Jim O’Brien taking over as coach of the Pacers)
6:00pm – confirm our transmission lines with Phoenix and check in with the studio pregame show, Suns Gametime. Tom gets seated and all the announcers talk back and forth to make sure everyone can hear everybody else.
6:30pm – on the air in Phoenix, Tom stands by to be part of the first segment of Gametime. Dan Majerle will follow in segment 2.
7:00pm – We’re on the air live from Indianapolis! The workday that began about 11 hours earlier now reaches its peak.
9:13pm – Steve Nash hits a 3 that buries the Pacers. I’d say it was an amazing shot, but I run out of ways to describe what Nash does. It would be amazing if I hadn’t already seen him do it about 20 times in the last 3 plus seasons.
10:00pm – after a post-game interview with a happy Amaré Stoudemire, we pack up all the equipment that we set up just a few hours earlier, move it to the team bus and load up for the airport.
10:30pm – head through security where all our carry-on bags are checked and we are wanded (do they think we’re going to sabotage our own plane?) Tonight we are heading to Toronto, so the security is pretty tight since it will be an international flight. On the plane we’ll be given customs declarations paperwork to fill out and need to show our passports upon landing at the Toronto airport.
12:00am – after waiting on the ground (not sure why) and watching the snow come down, the plane is de-iced and we take off for Canada.
1:30am – touchdown in Toronto, Ontario. It’s not snowing but it has been recently. The airport is in the middle of nowhere, about 45 minutes from downtown. By the time we arrive and I get my bags up to my room, it’s almost 3:00am.
9:30am – alarm clock rings and I fight the urge to throw it across the room. It can’t be morning already. I stay in bed until about 10:00 trying to get motivated to do something and questioning my choice of career. Selling insurance suddenly doesn’t sound too bad.
11:00am – call Tom (didn’t I just do this?) to confirm the topics for tonight’s broadcast that we talked about on the plane last night. It’s always interesting when we come up to Toronto because Nash is such an icon here. He is referred to as CanJe – or Canadian Jesus – because of his cult following in the great white north. As I crack open the Globe and Mail, it occurs to me that this is the first time we’ve been here that Steve Nash’s face wasn’t plastered all over the newspaper. I guess it’s human nature to get used to things or take them for granted.
12:40pm – check out of hotel, load up gear into our cab and head for the Air Canada Centre. Not as cool as Conseco Fieldhouse, but it has its own charm. It’s a HUGE building and seems to work well for either hockey or basketball – a rarity for multi-purpose arenas.
1:00pm – meet with crew and truck personnel. Toronto is one of my favorite cities to broadcast out of. People are highly qualified, hard working and have great attitudes, and the equipment is fantastic as well.
4:30pm – more media room food after another afternoon of editing and general pre-production (what we do before we go on the air). Pasta tonight – again, not bad. Sometimes you just want to eat.
5:30pm – brief meeting with Leo Rautins, the Raptors announcer who will be part of our analyst swap tonight. Leo played on some pretty good Syracuse teams in the early 80s before a journeyman professional career. He’ll give some good insight into the Raptors rebuilding process and some keen insight on Nash – his good friend. Rautins is the coach of the Canadian National team and is heavily recruiting Nash to play for team Canada. More on that during the broadcast.
6:15pm – after some minor transmission problems, we connect with Phoenix and all the announcers (Kevin Ray, Tom Chambers, Tom Leander) get the chance to talk a little before Suns Gametime.
7:40pm – Rautins joins our broadcast in the trade for Majerle. This trade has become one of my favorite parts of our broadcast. As much as we don’t like to give up Majerle or EJ, Rautins brought great perspective and stories. He spoke of his (and Samuel Dalembert’s) recruitment of Nash to play for team Canada one last time and how watching LB drain 3’s from everywhere gave him flashbacks of team Brazil’s win over Canada this summer. He also interrupted himself mid-sentence to fawn over a power jam by Amaré – “I love how that guy plays!”
10:15pm – a 45-point 3rd quarter opens the floodgates and ends the Raptors’ night. We board the bus and head to Toronto airport to go through customs and hop our flight to the nation’s capital.
11:40pm – flight leaves Toronto. The fellas seem in a particularly good mood tonight. The card game is louder than usual and the table is full. Everyone seems satisfied with having started the road trip 3-0. Mike D’Antoni has stressed to his team since training camp that winning a championship is a process that should be enjoyed, not a destination to be sought. It’s nice to see the players heeding that advice – they really seemed to have fun tonight.
12:40am – we land at Dulles International Airport in Washington, DC, wearily climb aboard the bus for another one of the longer rides from airport to hotel. I can barely keep my eyes open.
1:45am – arrive at the hotel. We stay in Georgetown, just a mile and a half from the White House. Still can’t think of anything but hitting the rack. No game tomorrow (thank God!) so I’ll catch up on sleep and start the whole process over with games against the Wizards on Friday and the Timberwolves on Saturday.
Long days, short nights – those of us who televise sporting events are used to it. And I don’t know any other group of people that enjoy their careers as much as we do. See you on TV.