Well, not really accredited. Hell, I’m not even sure I know what that means. But I did have my first “journalistic” experience ever last Friday. By sheer luck, I was invited by a friend of a friend in public relations to attend an NFL-related press conference being held the day before the draft. Yes, me. Invited to a press conference where a prominent NFL player would be present. As a journalist…nay, as an “all-star blogger about sports, lifestyle, and NYC” (seriously… their words, not mine).
(The press conference was to announce the NFL partnership with the Cayman Islands as the destination for the QB Challenge for the next three years.)
Naturally, I jumped at the opportunity to attend (though not before asking “How on earth am I qualified for this?”). And so I showed up Friday to the Rainbow Room at Rockefeller Center, dressed in my
best cleanest suit (I had to go to work after), eager to get my first taste of being a member of the press. As I rode the elevator to the 65th floor and handed my bag over to the free (FREE!) coat check, I could barely contain my excitement. This was really happening!
I walked over to the designated room, and checked in with my friend. I’m not going to lie, I was a little disappointed. I thought for sure that I’d be given some kind of cool pass, some badge of honor declaring me a bona fide member of the media. Instead, she wrote my name down in a very plain looking notebook, informed me that we’d be getting started once the NFL player showed up, and told me to grab a drink (non-alcoholic) and make myself comfortable. As I turned away, ever so dismayed (seriously, no press pass, non-alcoholic drinks, DON’T YOU KNOW WHO I AM?!), one of her colleagues introduced herself to me. She pointed to some pieces of paper (people in the biz like me call them “press kits”) and then said “And you can grab one of these bags too.”
“Oh… nice,” I said as I picked up a bag nonchalantly and held it coolly by my side, secretly wanting to shout out “OMG, A FREE DUFFLE BAG, THIS IS THE BEST DAY IN MY LIFE….EVERRRRRRR!!!” while clutching the bag to my chest and twirling around on one foot. It was all I could do not to open it up, investigate all of its compartments, and calculate exactly what length of trip it would come in handy for and whether it met TSA requirements for carry-on luggage.
I took a seat with my Diet Coke and waited for the event to start, though I quickly realized that the start time, officially listed as 11:15, really meant “whenever the hell the player wants to show up.” I sat quietly, observing the other attendees enter and check in. A number of random sports writers dressed in stereotypical khakis, boat shoes, and sportscoats showed up, and I observed them schmooze with each other while waiting for things to kick off. And while I realize that joining their conversation with them might have helped me pass the time, the truth is I was paralyzed with fear. I was afraid of opening my mouth lest they ask me who I thought was going eighteenth in the draft and realize (upon my flustered answer of “uh, Oden?”) how big of a mistake it was for me to be there.
I was introduced to the Cayman Islands Director of Tourism, who was one of a handful of representatives present from the British territory for the press conference. After explaining to her who I was (a blogger), how I get publicity for my blog (using phrases like “organic growth” and “social networks” that might not have made sense in context), and how I have made a living out of doing this (“um, I haven’t…I have a day job”), I learned a few things about the Cayman Islands from her, such as:
-The Cayman Islands are comprised of three beautiful islands, the largest being Grand Cayman, and offer a mix of metropolitan and tropical lifestyles.
-Contrary to popular belief (including my own before having this conversation) and John Grisham books, the Cayman Islands are not a haven for financial shadiness and white collar criminals. Though financial services is one of the territory’s major industries, much of this business is comprised of legitimate operations of US and British companies. Or so they say… I say “send me there on a free trip to see for myself.” (They say “no”.)
-There are no polar bears or smoke monsters at the Cayman Islands (OK, she didn’t really tell me that.)
Finally, after about an hour of waiting, the best part of the event came. The featured guest – everyone’s favorite not-really-drug smuggling, “Ron Mexico” pseudonaming, dog-fighting quarterback, Michael Vick – showed up and the press conference began. Vick, the representatives from the Cayman Islands, and the representatives from the NFL took their places at the front of the room and delivered some speeches about the NFL-Cayman agreement, including a speech from Vick in which he said playing in the QB Challenge was one of his childhood dreams. Although the speech seemed canned and a little lame, it was awesome to see a pro athlete like that up close in person. He was a lot shorter than I imagined.
After the press conference, the reporters crowded around him with recorders and asked him some non-QB-Challenge-related questions (I stood a little further back and snapped the picture above). It was interesting to hear his responses to their questions, and from what I remember, they all sounded pretty sincere. When asked about the neglected dogs / dog-fighting incident, he explained that it was a house he hadn’t been to in years, that a cousin had been using it, and that in the future he needed to be more careful about who he “took care of” (makes sense to me). What stuck with me the most was when he was asked about the Virginia Tech tragedy and the money he donated for the victims – it was clear that as an alum, he was personally affected by what had happened. He had taken classes where the shootings occurred, had a fondness for the community at Virginia Tech, and wanted to do what he could to help.
Perhaps the funniest moment came after one of the NFL representatives announced that we should only be asking questions related to the QB Challenge, the Cayman Islands, or the upcoming draft. One of the attendees (perhaps a writer from a travel magazine) spoke up and said something to the tune of “Do you plan on partaking in any activities while down in the Cayman Islands, like scuba diving?” Vick gave her a look that said “Lady, are you serious with that question? Is this what I got out of bed early for?” and then said “Nah, I won’t be doing that.”
All in all, it was a great experience. I got my first taste of “media”, got to stand within two feet of a major pro athlete, and somewhat legitimized this here blog.
And then I got lost on my way to work, my journey from Rockefeller Center to the financial district involving three trains and a stop in Brooklyn. Yes, after living here for three years, I’ve worked my way into the New York City media (albeit briefly), yet I still can’t figure out the subway.