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Tales from the Press Box

My sports reporting life has been a bit awkward, but at least it nets a giggle every now and then. A story of my second time in the press box, and my new and only Frank Beamer story.

Joshua Schneider- SB Nation- Gobbler Country

My life now has a Frank Beamer story, and as it goes about as my transition to press box reporter has been- awkward and funny. But in the end, I’ve been blessed to see things from a different angle than I ever have.

I’m one of the least likely people you’d see in a professional press box. Ex-high-school-football players, there are plenty of, sure. A lot of people covering the game have personal appreciation for it from their own experiences. I’m also not a ‘professional’- I’m a writer for an SB Nation blog, sure, but I’ve got no professional training. Writing is a hobby for me- I was writing fiction and some occasional blog posts since I was a kid. While it is years of ‘experience’, it’s intermittent. Heck, I’m trained as an architect by the VT CAUS, and my affinity for writing there always got a little bit of a head scratch. But it’s always a blessing to be able to pursue multiple passions, and I love football and writing about as much as I love architecture. So when I find myself looking down on Worsham Field from up there, it’s just a unique feeling. I took a little vacation to come down for homecoming and help cover the game with my father- he was on the sideline as usual, I’m a little more used to the going back and forth with twitter and the game than he is.

Thing is, I’m stuck as somewhere between a fan and a professional. I’m only there to cover the Virginia Tech angle, and we’re kind of volunteers. Rule in the press box, pretty obvious as it is, is no cheering for either team. All people there are supposed to be objective reporters, and many are- they graduated or come from elsewhere. This is their day job, and they’re paid as their main salary to be objective. I’m mostly told to speak my mind and I’m allowed to be as biased or unbiased as I feel necessary. So when I’m told that I cannot celebrate at all, it kind of stinks. I’m here to report on and cheer for the team at the same time. So of the two games I’ve covered (ECU and Liberty), there’s actually been a lot to be excited about to keep a lid on, which is more difficult than I imagined at first. I’m not a guy prone to emotional outbursts about anything else in my life. But, try telling a fan that can feel something inside him welling up every kickoff and wants to whoop, yell, and/or scream at every good (or bad) play, and it’s no wonder that I’m wound up like mad by the time we get out of the press conference after the game.

I can tell you a few things about the press box- it’s a lot of talking back and forth. We’re much the same in there as everyone else is at home- watching the game and keeping an eye on whatever else is going on in the college football landscape at the same time. Of course, my twitter feed is tuned in to many of the other SB nation sites, so I get responses and see things there. This weekend, the topic stream was just spread all over the place: Wow, UVA’s up big on CMU! Wow, UVA’s giving up the ghost against CMU?! Whew, UVA got back on top of CMU… was the start. On twitter I was watching Iowa’s SB Nation affiliate, Black Heart Gold Pants, have a complete meltdown about the abysmal state of the Iowa-Rutgers game. Everyone was surprised about Georgia being utterly obliterated by Ole Miss and Michigan State gagging against Wisconsin. Then there was the incoming celebration from the players of the past and the excoriation of previous offenses (Darius Redman's thoughts in particular were a sight to behold). And of course, most importantly, everyone was…well, as excited as you’re allowed to be up there…about Virginia Tech and how It was plainly obvious the team was out to make a statement by rubbing ECU’s face in the Lane Stadium stand concrete. Everyone was pretty oohed and aahed about Jerod Evans and his TD run, and people were pretty impressed with the return to special teams excellence this week- no one can really think out a good Shibest-based Beamerball replacement, so the latter is sticking for now. But the whole thing is a huge story swap and a back and forth that can be very entertaining and nerve-wracking at the same time- you’re darting back and forth between conversations and watching the game and are permanently scared of missing something. At least, I am when I’m up there. There’s only so much ‘live tweeting’ that we’re allowed to do, but we’re of course responsible for doing as much as possible for our various followers.

The press conference afterward was interesting this week. A lot of people went out for individual interviews, so I was the one to ask the one question Ken Ekanem got in the whole deal. For me it’s an eternal struggle to decide whether or not to ask a question- I don’t want to be ‘that guy’ who asks the obvious question that’s just going to get me a stare and a stock answer, but I don’t want to go away thinking I left something on the table. At least I felt like the question I asked Ken was football strategy related and I got an answer I wasn’t expecting- basically boiling down to the fact that, yes, there are moments in a football game where luck in a blocking scheme screw-up can make people look better. According to Ken, on that sack, the Hokies had the ECU slide protection read correctly, but the tackle slid the wrong way, and he and Tremaine just ended up completely unblocked. Luck, ladies and gents, is still a major part of the game.

As for the Beamer story? I of course would be the one to run into one of the most famous college coaches in the bathroom, as he was up there for some reason and fussing in his sports jacket pockets in front of the sink because he couldn’t find his comb. I got a bit of small talk as he apologized for taking time, but it just left a smile on my face. I just grabbed 10 seconds of time with a man that is one of the coaching legends of our time, and it was just about a comb. Nothing spectacular, just an odd combination of happenstance. Kind of like how an architecture intern ended up a ‘sports reporter’.