Here at Bleacher Report, all of us members have one thing in common: We love writing about our favorite sports.
Whether it's basketball, football, baseball, or soccer, every single writer on this site wants their opinions to be heard.
Most writers here, myself included, would love to someday become a professional sports writer. For anyone who loves watching and talking about sports, there is no better job.
That's why I was thrilled when I was given the opportunity to cover my first Orlando Magic game two years ago. The Magic were playing the Portland Trailblazers and it was hard to believe that I wasn't dreaming as I picked up my media credential. Fourteen-year-old kids don't usually get a chance to meet their favorite athletes, nonetheless hold a tape recorder up to their face and ask them any question they can think of.
Since then, I have covered around fifteen Magic games, most recently last night's game against the Washington Wizards. Even though I have been to a few of the games, it is still a very new experience to me.
Since most of us hope to be doing this for a living someday, I figured I would blog about my experience, from start to finish, here at Bleacher Report. I received my credential because I freelance write for RealGM.com and I emailed the Media Director for the Orlando Magic who approved my request and had my press pass delivered to will call. That brings us to March 19, 2008, and my first blog entry.
3:20—I'm off to Orlando. I have to leave my house early since I live about an hour and forty-five minutes from the T.D. Waterhouse Centre. I have prepared some questions for the players and have packed a bag containing my tape recorder, my camera, a notepad, and a pen. Sirius radio definitely comes in handy also. The Howard Stern Show helps pass the time pretty quickly.
5:09—Arrive at the arena. I pull into the media parking lot and head over to will call. I pick up my credential and head into the building. I pass the Magic locker room and walk into the media room. This room is always full of writers typing away on their laptops. This is also where Stan Van Gundy, the Orlando Magic coach, will be holding his press conference after the game. There is also a television in the room that is usually on ESPNEWS. I set my bag down and head out through the tunnel and onto the court. Several players from each team are out on the court warming up including Antawn Jamison, who I had prepared questions for earlier in the day.
5:24—Antawn Jamison interview. After Jamison has finished his shootaround, he walks over to the visiting locker room to relax for awhile before the game. This is my only chance to get a one on one interview with a player because after the game, there are usually writers surrounding each player. I ask him a couple of questions and then wait to see if Caron Butler comes out for his shootaround. Most players, including Butler on this night, shootaround earlier in the day to avoid the media. Satisfied with my quotes, I head to dinner.
5:46—Dinner is served. I head back through the tunnel and near the player's entrance, is a bunch of tables where dinner is served to members of the media. On this night, salisbury steak, mashed potatoes, and salad is served along with apple pie and ice cream for dinner.
6:17—Watch shoot around. Because it is so close to game time, the media is no longer allowed to interview the players (there are strict guidelines you must follow). Now is when you start seeing the better known players such as Dwight Howard, Caron Butler, etc. I watch a little bit of the shoot around and then walk around the concourse to pass some time before the game starts.
6:35—Back to the media room. After circling the concourse, I go back to the media room. Now is when most of the reporters are preparing for the game. Media guides for each team are available along with games notes, injury reports, and any press releases. I grab a copy of the game notes and a Wizards' media guide and head up to my seat.
6:51—Media seating. The best seats go to the beat writers who have season passes rather than single game credentials. Those are the guys that you see on the baseline and courtside at the games. The rest of the media have seats at the top of the lower bowl. There are tables and nametags for every person and I take my seat. By now, the game is about to start and all of the players are on the court in their warm-ups doing layups or shooting drills.
7:08—Starting lineups announced. Washington's starting lineup is announced and then all of the lights go out. Kanye West's "Stronger" starts playing throughout the arena and the fans are going crazy. Each player is introduced and fireworks go off after each name is rattled off. Hedo Turkoglu would receive the loudest cheers because today was his 29th birthday. After the lineups are announced, the players take off their warm ups and get ready to play.
7:13—Opening tip. The players all head onto the court and do their pregame rituals. Jameer Nelson runs to Orlando's basket and hangs on the net while Carlos Arroyo high fives every player on the team. And I don't just mean slapping hands. Arroyo has special handshakes with every individual on the Magic roster, from Dwight Howard to little used James Augustine. Once everyone is on the court and situated, there is the opening tip. Dwight Howard jumps against Brendan Haywood and taps the ball back to Hedo Turkoglu.
7:38—Gilbert Arenas sighting. Towards the end of the first quarter, a man in a pink suit runs to the Washington bench from the visiting team's locker room. Gilbert Arenas, who hadn't made himself available before the game (surprise!), made his entrance. In the past, most players come out to the bench during shootaround so I was surprised to see Arenas emerge from the tunnel so late. I had assumed that he didn't travel to Orlando with the team so I was pretty shocked to see him.
7:40—End of the first quarter. The first quarter ends with the Magic leading 26-20. Hedo Turkoglu already has nine points and has been impressive. Dwight Howard picked up two early fouls and was on the bench for awhile. One of the coolest things, to me at least, is that at the end of each quarter, someone who works for the Magic brings every member of the media a stat sheet from the scorer's table. It has all the box score for the quarter along with every play listed on the back. It has everything from the attendance to how long the game has taken.
8:02—Live and die by the three. One of the easiest things to spot about this Orlando Magic team is that they live and die by the three pointer. When they're hitting their shots, they are practically unstoppable. When they get cold, they lose leads quickly. This is evident tonight. The Wizards put together a nice run and cut the lead to four points. The next two possessions, the Magic drill three pointers and once again they have a double digit lead. By the way, with a minute and twenty-two seconds left in the half, Caron Butler hasn't done anything. I forgot the guy was even playing tonight, he's been so quiet. He has five points but he hasn't made much of an impact thus far.
8:08—Halftime. At halftime, the Magic are leading 43-36. Hedo Turkoglu has eighteen points and Dwight Howard only has one. During halftime, I head down to the media room to write down some notes and get a drink of water. Everyone is buzzing about Howard, who now has three fouls, and how despite his ten rebounds, he hasn't done much. With halftime coming to an end, I head back to my seat and get ready for the second half.
8:25—Start of third quarter. The third quarter is about to start and the players are finishing their shootarounds when Gilbert Arenas grabs a loose ball and sinks a jumpshot just inside the three point line. He holds his hand up and laughs as he heads back over to the bench. Early in the third quarter, the Wizards start clicking. They've made this a closer game and with the score at 57-55, Stan Van Gundy makes some substitutions. Now, I'm no Phil Jackson but if my team were struggling offensively, I don't think I'd throw Carlos Arroyo, Pat Garrity, and Adonal Foyle into the game for Jameer Nelson, Rashard Lewis, and Howard. Within twenty one seconds, Garrity picks up two fouls (this is not a joke) and the Wizards continue to do well. The score at the end of the third quarter is 67-65, Washington on top. The only bright spot for Orlando has been Hedo who already has scored 31 points.
8:54—Start of fourth quarter. The Wizards continue to play well throughout the fourth quarter and it has become a very close game. Then Mr. Fourth Quarter starts dominating. Hedo Turkoglu has become one of the best fourth quarter players in the league this season. Turkoglu drives to the basket and hits a layup. The next Magic possession, Hedo comes runs down court and sinks a three. The second he released the ball from his hands, everyone in the arena got out of their seats and then went wild when it swished through the net. With four minutes left in the game, Hedo blocks a Caron Butler fade away and then delivers an assist to Jameer Nelson. He's single handedly keeping Orlando in this game and the fans are loving it.
9:32—The game winning shot (almost). With four seconds remaining in the game, the Magic are trailing, 87-86. Hedo Turkoglu gets the ball and drives to the basket and tries to hit a tough layup. In the final seconds of a game, refs usually swallow their whistle and I don't think Hedo got the foul he was looking for when he tried to draw contact. He would finish the game with 39 points, his career high, but it wasn't enough to lead the Magic to victory. Howard would finish the game with more fouls (five) than he had points (three) and he was clearly frustrating with the officiating after the game.
9:43—Stan Van Gundy press conference. After Stan Van Gundy talks to his players in the locker room following the game, he holds his press conference for the media. Everyone gathers in the media room and asks Coach Van Gundy questions regarding the game and the team's next game (which in this case is Friday against the Sixers). Usually these press conferences and pretty brief, especially on nights like tonight when the team doesn't play very well.
9:54—Postgame interviews with players. After Stan Van Gundy answers everyone's questions, all of the writers head into the Magic locker room to talk to the players. Rashard Lewis is interviewed standing in front of his locker. Next, Hedo Turkoglu emerges from the shower and is interviewed. That is one thing that you have to get used too if you want to be a sports writer: interviewing star athletes while they are getting dressed. It's somewhat awkward at first but after awhile you get used to it. Most nights, members of the media are crowded around Dwight Howard's locker because it's always good to get a quote from the superstar. Tonight, however, Howard is clearly frustrated and is not speaking to reporters.
10:21—Leave arena. After getting all of the quotes needed, some reporters file back into the media room to meet their deadlines while others head home for the night. I head out to my car and start driving home.
12:04—Arrive home. I get home and listen to my interviews. I usually type some of the quotes so that I have them available to cut and paste into my article. Tonight, however, I look over my blog entries and start working on this article. It's been a long day so I'm going to get some sleep.
I hope you enjoyed my journal and hopefully Bleacher Report can produce some professional writers and we can all have this dream job someday.