ATLANTA — I have to admit, when I saw that Los Angeles Football Club was playing at Atlanta, I got a little giddy.
I thought it might be a nice opportunity to cover the game from the press box, but I was a little reluctant in asking Alicia Rodriguez – our site manager -- if it would be okay.
So, after heming and hawing, I decided to ask and my request was granted by both Alicia and the communications staff for Atlanta United.
Now, it has been about five years since I have stepped foot in a press box and it was for college football, as was the case for much of my journalism career. Covering Division I and Division II football, basketball, baseball and softball was the cornerstone of my 25 years in a press box.
All that said, I was still a little nervous about this particular assignment.
Let me preface all of this by saying that Atlanta traffic is abysmal. I am sure Los Angeles is no treat and where I live in Greenville, SC, the traffic is a source for consternation among everyone who has to venture out in it.
Traffic aside, nothing was as exciting as pulling up to the outskirts of the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in downtown Atlanta. From the outside, it leaves a little to be desired with its geometrical overkill around all sides.
Not to mention the fact that it wasn’t all that warm outside, but I was going to be inside so … who cares about the weather right? (We’ll revisit that sentiment in a bit)
I arrive at the stadium and pick up my credentials which allow me to be in the press box and in the team locker rooms after the game.
I get settled – of which my seating was off on an island where only myself and two members of LAFC’s communications team sat (which they were both great to work with, I might add). Everyone else, presumably there to cover Atlanta, sat some ways away from the three of us, which was actually fine with me.
One thing you have to understand about working in a press box is, under many circumstances – high school sports notwithstanding – fandom is absolutely forbidden. It doesn’t matter what outlet you represent, you don’t cheer in the press box.
For the most part, that is upheld, and it was certainly not going to be a problem for me, despite my (personal, internal) rooting for LAFC. But, after the first goal, I realized that was not going to be the case for some of my compatriots on the far side of the press box. Still, no bother though.
The game itself was disappointing for someone who has written and grown to really enjoy LAFC, but your work isn’t done even with the final whistle.
As a journalist covering college and pro sports, you have about three hours of sitting back and enjoying the atmosphere – from the time you arrive at the stadium to the time the game is over – followed by another two hours of nose-down pounding on the keyboard.
First, there is the post-game interviews. Colleges handle it very simply – both teams have about 15-20 minutes to cool off then there is a room where both coaches and certain players come in for the ritualistic grilling from the media.
This game wasn’t much different. LAFC had the media room first. I got the great opportunity of asking Bob Bradley all the questions during the post-game interview. Mainly because there were only four of us in the room, but Bradley, ever the professional, maintained eye contact as he answered my questions.
Then the room started to fill up with a few other members of the media as Steven Beitashour was next in the room – about 10 minutes after Bradley made his rapid exodus.
In a press conference, there usually has to be that one reporter who starts the questions otherwise there is just awkward silence. With Bradley and Beitashour, I was that reporter as everyone else seemed reluctant to ask anything.
Finally, the man of the hour was to arrive in the press room as about 20 members of the Spanish media poured into the press room awaiting Carlos Vela. But, I was allotted all three of the English questions for Vela, of which he answered professionally – in fact all three responded with class and professionalism – then the Spanish questions started rattling off one after another. My limited Spanish found the questions to be of little importance regarding the game, but more about his play with LAFC and the Mexican national team.
After all of that, it was time to clean things up and head back home.
Rain had started to come down and the temperature dropped to about 40 degrees with a north wind. Of course, my ride took about 45 minutes to find me, leaving me cold and wet, but filled with great memories of my first trip back to a press box.
As I tweeted someone, hopefully I can get the same experience in Los Angeles in the near future.
I would be remiss if I didn’t thank Alicia for allowing me the opportunity, the Atlanta United communications staff for their diligence and Aubrey Freckman and Diego Garcia with LAFC communications for their help as well.
Like I said, perhaps Los Angeles next??
What do you think? Post your comment below!