Monday, October 08, 2007

Week 5 - Such Great Heights

San Francisco, CA -- 10/7/07.

The Postal Service croon in their Garden State sensation, “Everything looks perfect from far away.” After 48 hours in the Golden State, I’d like them to reconsider. Things are even better up close. I’ll prove it to you.

On Sunday morning I woke up with John Clayton. Scary, I know. And not just because we’ve never shared a drink, let alone a conversation, but because Clayton’s morning report on ESPN can make or break a beautiful day before you even get out of bed. The Hall-of-Fame football writer offers up-to-the-minute insights and injury updates from around the league and as I eased my way into consciousness, I was startled by the news that Derrick Mason could miss the day’s game.

I shot up and asked Lauryn if she had heard anything? I can only assume all Ravens employees receive a text message from Brian Billick whenever a player’s status is in question. (I don’t know what Billick’s Verizon Plan is like, but he should really consider using Twitter instead). Lauryn’s phone sat silent, but I needed more intel. Not only was I concerned about the Ravens’ chances against the 49ers without their #1 wide receiver, but I had Mason starting on my fantasy roster against our league’s defending champion. Could we call Ravens GM, Ozzie Newsome, or even Derrick himself? We did have a phone list but opted to keep our jobs instead and as we headed down to the lobby, there had been nothing new from ESPN or Mr. Clayton. Where were his sources now? Maybe they’ll call me next time because as we prepared to leave for Monster Park I spotted Mason mingling with a few folks, giving his trademark smile (can you trademark a smile?) and practically playing hopscotch on his jaunt to the bus. This just in from Millbrae (our hotel was far away, more on that coming up) Derrick Mason is a go.

Now San Francisco is routinely regarded as one of the most inviting cities to visit in the country. However, our lodging in the Bay expanded the definition of the Area all the way to the airport. The hotel did feature room service and even a list of emergency tips in case of an earthquake, but San Francisco looks the same from Maryland as it does from Millbrae so Lauryn and I decided it was worth the trip into Frisco for the day.

After walking over the freeway to the closest train station, we were on our way. Of course we didn’t know which way we were on. Our planning stopped at dinner reservations so we just followed the crowd and departed the train at the station with the most activity – Powell St. Powell St. is the starting point for the world famous cable cars that still serve the city, however, the line to board the bus with no wheels went on for multiple blocks. It appeared that if we were going to see anything today, we would have to start walking. I grew up outside of New York and walked most of Manhattan in a day, how big could The City be.

On a map, Union Square and the Marina District are 2.8 miles apart. That is if you are looking at a map printed on the backside of a diner placemat. If you happen to have a topographical map in your back pocket, than you would realize that unless you plan on tunneling through Nob Hill, the distance is much more daunting. Of course, when Lauryn and I set out on our self-guided walking tour, we were using the diner variety and two hours later, found ourselves fighting for each step. Our tour took us through Russian Hill, Nob Hill, and I have to imagine at least part of Mount Rainer. Fortunately San Francisco might be one of the most picturesque places on earth so each climb around a corner brought with it an incredible view of the bay and at least one of the famed bridges. When we finally began our descent, we landed in a vat of Chocolate, at least it smelled that way when you closed your eyes, as we made our way to Ghirardelli Square, where they still give out free pieces of their cocoa.

I was saving myself for lunch, however, as we waited to be seated at a hole-in-the-wall seafood spot I found on CitySearch. Not only did they offer ahi-tuna tacos and poke tuna topped salads, but it was right around the corner from Lauryn’s favorite girly store, Two Skirts. The prices kept me pacing outside, but as I spent time on the sidewalk I noticed a ground swell of people heading down to the waterfront. Either a whale was beached or we had stumbled upon something to do for the afternoon.

When the members of U2 sit down to write a song, do they think to themselves, “This would be great in concert,” or “This would be cool in an iPod commercial,” or “This would be perfect for the closing credits of the Olympics.” I have to imagine at some point all of these thoughts enter their creative consciousness, however, one idea I doubt receives much discussion is, “This song would be ideal for an Air Show. Especially an Air Show performed on a rare cloudless day in San Francisco, USA (they write their songs in Ireland, right?).”

Regardless of U2’s intentions, the Blue Angels of the U.S. Navy and the Lukin’s of Baltimore were treated to “A Beautiful Day” on a beautiful day along the banks of the San Francisco Bay. Lauryn and I didn’t plan on taking part in the Fleet Week festivities, but when six fighter jets fly by at more than 400 mph, you tend to take notice. The aerial event drew thousands of on-lookers who were not only treated to some high-flying trickery, but color commentary from an announcer, comments from the pilots themselves and a soundtrack in between sound barrier breaks. They probably could have just put the Kenny Loggins classic form Top Gun on repeat and been done with it, but the DJ dipped into some more recent tracks and U2’s timely tune stood out on what truly was a beautiful day. Don DiRaddo unfortunately did not see the show up close, but he did see the planes land back at the hotel, apparently an advantage of staying near the airport. I think he would admit that watching them with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background was probably a little more rewarding. No worries Don, I promised a YouTube clip and you got one:

After Lauryn agreed to the ridiculous idea of returning to the hotel to change for dinner, we took a cab back to the edge of the Embarcadero to dine at one of the most recommended restaurants in town, Boulevard. Any restaurant that has their own cookbook is probably worth trying and just the smell of the sauces was enough to satisfy our appetites. Well not really, fortunately the sauces come with food and we dined on scallops, crab-stuffed calamari, halibut, pork loin in peach chutney, and some sort of fancy s’more that cost $10 and was worth even more. As if they knew a blogger was in attendance, as soon as we finished our meal, a firework show broke out over the Bay. You can’t get that in a cookbook, another victory for up close viewing.

Unfortunately there were not many fireworks on the field during the Ravens 9-7 victory over the 49ers, but there was some serious action along the sidelines. Our wired Raven this week was Mike Flynn. Mike Flynn plays center, so we weren’t expecting any difficulties in tracking his movements. There were difficulties in tracking his sound though as the frequency carrying his feed had some severe interference. Don had to make a few trips up to the Sling Box Press Box – yes, they have a sponsor for their press box – and when he finally found a frequency that worked, we had to figure out a way to change the signal at the source (i.e. taped under Mike Flynn’s shoulder pads). Not so easy during the middle of the second quarter of a game, but technology stepped in and saved the show. For the first time in RaveTV history (I think, who has such records) we had a remote control on hand that sends out a sound signal to talk to the receiver and tell it what to do. I won’t use a wife joke here, but maybe a boss joke. No wait, that’s the same thing. Anyways, we got close to Flynn and fired away at the pads. We all looked over at Jeff who gave use the thumbs up. We were out of the Danger Zone (get it, Top Gun reference).

As luck would have it, as soon as the mic was mastered, Mike Flynn got injured. We literally filmed one series of action before the big guy went down. I wont tell you everything he said to the doctors, not just because of the privacy issues, but because they were laced with some not so sweet words, but Flynn was headed to the locker room. And that’s when things really got going. I’ll try to describe the scene at old Candlestick, now Monster Park. Apparently fans have access to the field. Not all fans, but a certain section sitting near the entrance to the Ravens locker room appeared to be allowed to use the restroom located on field level behind the bleachers. Remember, this stadium was built for baseball so the configuration is a little confusing.

As Dr. Leigh Ann Curl led Flynn off the field, Jeff, Lauryn and I continued to film. When we arrived at the tunnel entrance an unidentified fan heading to the bathroom made his way in front of Flynn, and get this, put his hand up and told Mike to wait a second so he could pass. The look on Flynn’s face was priceless. As he would later tell us on the plane, he was in his own world at that point and if he was more of a hot head, he might have gotten physical. A punch to the mid-section would have been fine by me. I’m sure it hurts, just ask my friend Parker who not only works on the animated comedy American Dad, but was written into the show last week, only to be punched below the belt by some sort of alien who talks like Brian from The Family Guy.

As I alluded to, Flynn and the rest of his teammates were able to watch highlights of the game as we flew back East since Lauryn brought enough equipment to edit the show on the plane. Flynn watched the replay of his injury and the fan incident, which we shared with teammates making their way down the aisle. Chris McAlister took a listen, as did Ed Reed, who offered up some production tips for my Manager of Broadcasting. Does he know about the Emmy’s? He did agree to be wired for Yoga, yes, Yoga, later this week. Of course it was two in the morning at that point so we’ll see if he remembers. At 35,000 feet, it sounded like a good idea. But as this weekend proved, up close is when you really reach great heights.


Dewey said...

Glad you had a nice time in San Francisco!

Jarrett said...

Boller could've really shown you guys a good time over there.