This is my home-game entry for Week 34 of therealljidol. I invite you to read the many fine submissions and the other home-game entries. This week we were supposed to write on two of three topics: "Back in the Habit," "Brown Baggin' It" and "Thrown to the Lions." Then we were supposed to ask a partner who had never participated in LJ Idol to write the third topic. I teamed up with miranda_lane, who wrote about the topic "Back in the Habit." I addressed the topic "Thrown to the Lions."
Anyone who thinks that football isn't a violent sport hasn't seen it from the sidelines. I have. In a corollary to that statement, I'd add that anyone who thinks Gatorade is a better sports drink than water has never had to handle a cable that's been dragged through a puddle of Gatorade and then caked with sideline dirt. Unfortunately, I have.
When I was a broadcast/cable major at Penn State, my videography professor presented the class with a unique opportunity: to serve as grips for ESPN in the home game pitting Penn State against West Virginia. I eagerly volunteered, looking forward to work with such a prestigious network. Of course, I would soon learn that my job would be far from glorious.
Grips are effectively stagehands, the people who schlep equipment or run errands for the skilled employees. A small group of us showed up at the ESPN truck on a beautiful sunny fall morning. We were given a rundown of which tasks we could do and were asked to volunteer. Not knowing any better, I agreed to help pull cable.
One of my classmates, who later won an award for his local news anchoring, chose to help capture sound. His job was to follow a cameraman with a parabolic microphone to capture crowd noises. Later, he would tell the rest of us colorful stories about the cheerleaders and fans he got to watch. Seems that, even then, he was smarter about his career choices than I.
Those of us unlucky enough to have chosen cable duty would soon find the job was harder than it looked. Basically, our job was to make sure that, as our cameraman ran up and down the sidelines, his cable did not tangle in the feet of any of the team members, coaches, freelance photographers, and others arrayed along the sidelines. This meant fast action: as the cameraman ran to get his shot, we had to grab the cable and navigate it through the sideline crush.
After it got dragged through some Gatorade in the second half, the cable was not only heavy but also caked with reddish mud. Fortunately, we'd been warned to wear an old T-shirt. Soon, it was streaked with brown and red. I felt like an extra in a war film.
We had several close calls throughout our day, the worst of which was when we narrowly prevented a freelance photographer from getting clotheslined by the snapping cord. Our perspective of the game was limited to the three or four feet that surrounded our portion of the cable, so that my experience of the game became a blurred closeup. We were on the West Virginia side, and they were losing. We could see the sweat running down their arms, along with trickles of blood from tackle injuries. Our day was punctuated by the grunts and smacks of the players colliding on the field.
When the game finally ended, I felt as whipped as the losing West Virginia team. As they limped off to the locker room, I wiped my grimy hands on my jeans and brushed my sweaty hair out of my eyes. My arms would ache for days, a souvenir of the sidelines, along with my permanent souvenir: a check stub from ESPN for $50.
I knew right then I'd have to rethink the idea of a career in broadcasting.
If your position title is also a verb, the work is going to be rough.