Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Arthur: Learning

My entries aren't just going to be a running log of my experiences doing play-by-play for the Dragons, but this weekend was new in that it was my first away game. My first game was at home; my second would be in Chicago. Not only had I never been there before, but I'm not used to this kind of travel.

I'd done some business travel back when I was myself, but it was seldom this regimented - if I could, I'd allow myself some time to see the sights or otherwise spend some quality time. I was a freelancer, after all, and you can write anywhere.

This weekend, I barely noticed I was in Chicago. We did a lot of the groundwork at the Friday planning meeting at home, making sure we were up to speed on Chicago's players and a roster move that the Dragons had made. I was a bit of a target; Mike all but said I was unprofessional and unqualified. He's probably right about the second, although I don't know if I'd go with the first. I've been spending practically all my waking hours over the past two weeks trying to improve my skills as a broadcaster, and I don't think I ever coasted. George was pretty diplomatic in handling it, pointing out that Mike hadn't been particularly sharp in his first game and he hadn't had a lingering illness to deal with, but also being pretty pointed about how that had to be behind me.

Saturday was a blur; there was the airport, hours spent flying to Chicago (and lost from flying East), and hotel check-in. By the time I'd hung my garment bag in the closet, it was already six-thirty. I had a quick meal at the hotel restaurant and then retired back to my room, watching a couple of Nell's old games on a portable DVD player before heading for bed.

Sunday I was up early to check out and catch a train out to Lancaster, where the team was actually playing. Even though the game started a one o'clock local time, we had to be there hours earlier, doing last minute prep, doing our makeup (if we were covering baseball or football, there would probably be hair and makeup people on staff; I was on my own), shooting coach and player interviews to insert into the broadcast later, talking with the person doing the local sports report back home.

I did better on the actual play-by-play this week. I'm helped a little by the fact that men's and women's lacrosse are somewhat different, so Mike is the one supplying most of the actual analysis. I tried to look at it like I was trying to keep someone updated over the phone without saying something that is too obvious to anyone looking at the screen and giving Mike a chance to chime in. Then, at the end of the game, I ran down to the locker room to do a couple stand-up interviews. I drove George and the cameraman nuts because I tended to position myself wrong, and wound up facing the player while the camera got a good shot of my back.

Then it was back upstairs to pack my things up and head back to the airport. Mike gave me the cold shoulder, and I half suspect he moved my stuff so that I wouldn't be finished in time to share a cab with him. I don't know why he was in such a rush; it's not as though he was going to get on an earlier flight and avoid me.

I hope like hell that Nell never slept with him. I only mixed business and pleasure like that once or twice in my old life, so it doesn't seem like something I need to be karmically punished for over and over again.

If she did, though, it seems to just be part of the problem. George caught up with me in the airport bar and sat down beside me for a talk.

"That was better," he said. "You still seem to be having a little trouble shaking the rust off, though."

"What can I say? I had one of those vacations that you need another one to recover from."

He laughed and took a sip of his beer. "Been too long since I've had one of those. Anyway, you were pretty solid this week--" I snorted. "What?"

"'Solid' means 'unpraiseworthy', 'average', or 'undistinguished'. It's what you say about forgettable work." Nearly every polite rejection letter or review that stopped short of actual praise that I'd ever received included the word.

"See, that's why I like working with people like you. It's not about being 'good enough', but being the best. It can make you a pain in the neck, but usually pays off. Anyway, any faults with your game-calling are made up for by my magnificent direction." He barely contained a goofy grin as he said it, so we waited a couple seconds and burst out laughing.

"No, seriously, you're OK, and you'll get better. It would be great if you and Mike could work on your chemistry, though. Both games have been fairly close, but chemistry is what keeps people tuned in to a blowout."

"I'll try. It's just--" I stopped; it seemed wildly inappropriate for me to complain or try to gossip about Mike.

George knew what I was thinking, though. "Don't worry about Mike. He and Al hit it off right away when we first teamed them a couple years ago, so he kind of resents you even though Al's the one that took the radio job in L.A. He'll get over it."

"Ah." Good to know.

"Besides, the guys above me like you. Our ratings for the Stealth jumped fifteen percent this winter, you know, and I don't think there was a sudden influx of new fans of the sport. Maybe Mike just doesn't like that a woman in the booth gets more ink just for being a woman than he gets."

"Glad I can help."

"We do thank you for it." He just sort of looked at me for a couple seconds, then did the too-quick grab for his beer meant to camouflage that a guy thinks a girl is attractive but doesn't think he should say it but which only highlights it. It sloshed a little, and I felt the need to take a quick drink too, so he didn't look or feel silly (of course, that probably just signaled that I'd noticed and made him feel worse).

"Anyway, we're getting good feedback about you. They might want you on-camera more."

"That's... great." I suppose that's what Nell has been working toward. I guess it's good to know she was getting there.

They call our flight, and we separate. Then it was back to San Francisco, and another week of trying to catch up before another game.


1 comment:

Scott said...

I know how it feels to have people look at you on a job and say "You should be better." Of course, I've only ever been in my own body, so I didn't have that extra grief, but it was still an unfortunate feeling.

Good to hear from you in any case, Art.