Okay, so maybe it was more like three minutes, but still, those three minutes on air were so worth the seventeen and a half years of obsessing over sports. After the Sony Pigskin Idol was over and I walked off the set, I was in love; not the high school girlfriend love, but like , head over heels, do anything and everything to get that feeling again love. Boy did it feel good!
It is amazing what one phone call can do to you for a month. The month of September went from being a normal month with hours of school and Facebook, to one of the defining and exciting moments of my brief journalism career. As I write this a few short days after my debut, I still get that tingly feeling in my stomach when I think of Friday, September 18, 2009.
Sure, I dreamed that Paul Rudy would be impressed with my resume and would offer me the once-in-a-lifetime chance to be a Sony Pigskin Idol on the Prep Pigskin Report (PPR), but that was in my dreams and frankly, most dreams don’t become reality.
Then it happened-- my cell phone rang one Wednesday afternoon. It was an unknown number and I thought about letting it go to voice mail, but how many times has a person called and not left a message and for weeks afterward you wondered what they wanted? I decided that this call could be of importance to me, and was it ever.
The caller? Allie Wagner, Idol Coordinator for KUSI’s PPR, informing me that I was chosen to be the week three Sony Pigskin Idol. She asked if I was excited, the answer "OH YES!" was an understatement to say the least.
After the call I turned the volume up on my truck radio and started screaming at the top of my lungs. Why, you ask?
Well, that’s a great question, and one that I don’t have an answer to. It was one of those times where I screamed just because it seemed like a good thing to do. Whatever the reason, I screamed and it felt good! Even death couldn’t wipe the smile off my face that day.
From that day on, school went by that much faster and that much less painful knowing that Friday, September 18, 2009 I, Matthew Slagle would be on PPR doing what I love, talking sports.
The Wednesday of the week of my debut, I went down to KUSI’s studios to meet Paul Rudy and write the beginning and ending of my segment. Let me first say this, Paul Rudy is AMAZING!!! Secondly, Turko has a ponytail (No I am not kidding) and thirdly Paul Rudy is amazing, wait did I say that already? After all anybody that gives you the advice, "If the proverbial poo hits the fan keep smiling and keep on going, it has worked for me for 25 years," deserves mad props.
After that, I was not as nervous to go on TV, until Friday around 11 p.m., that is.
The game itself was a good game, a defensive battle with only four touchdowns being scored all game. I was atop the press box with Allie and our cameraman Travis Burgher. I learned what I needed to write down to make picking the four highlights easier, and we sat up there and watched the game.
My nerves were calmed down during the game. I took a deep breath and took a few mental notes about things I should include in this article that I may write:
"Gee those cheerleaders are so distracting, if only they would stop cheering and stand on their little stools and watch the game. Oh wait…they don’t have stools, what a concept" *hint* *hint*.
"It is like I am playing Madden in real life (as I hear play calls from the Hilltop coaches). If only I could see the lines of the routs the receivers are taking…"
"People get paid to do this?!?!"
"This is so cool!"
"I still cannot believe people get paid to do this"
With less then a minute left in the game, Sweetwater threw for a touchdown, and they were down only one point, pending the PAT.
As soon as this happened Allie said, "All they need is to kick the PAT".
No sooner did she say that, I knew there was no way that ball was going through the uprights. Indeed, moments later the ball found the welcoming hands of a Hilltop defender and the game ended with the score at 14-13 Hilltop.
Then the nerves kicked in again. I had to ask the player of the game a question. Allie told me to keep it simple, so I did. "You blocked the game tying PAT, what was going through your mind?"
Nailed it the first time, no need for a retry. Confidence, through the roof.
Then it was time, time to head back to the station to write the script for the four highlights. I caught myself going almost 85 on the freeway multiple times; the nerves were starting to kick in.
At the studios, I watch Travis Burgher edit the highlights, then go with Allie to write the script. By this time I hear Paul’s voice from across the studio as the show has started.
We write the highlights, and I practice the script and get my timing down so I don’t finish talking before the highlights are over. I nail it, several times. Its game time!
I take my spot on stage, and get miked up. Time for the teaser, which is an awkward few seconds of me being on TV, not sure if I should wave, give a thumbs up, pretend to read the newspaper I am holding or smile.
No time to worry as I have to wait on stage for about five minutes before it is my turn. Five long minutes, for me to sit and sweat, sit with my leg rapidly twitching, five minutes for my mouth to dry out to the point I would have to drink about five cups of water afterward to produce saliva.
Five short minutes till I hear, "And welcome our Sony Pigskin Idol to the stage. Matt, the floor is yours."
At this point I am no longer nervous, and the adrenaline is pumping. I start, one minor mistake, and shake it off. Then three highlights in, it happens. I cannot get the name Omar out of my mouth, one try, two, three. Then Paul Rudy’s voice is in my head, "If poo hits the fan smile and keep going"
While it wasn’t a disaster by any means, I had to keep going or the highlights would be too far ahead for me to catch them. So I forget trying to get the name Omar out and keep going smooth recovery. Highlights done, and my ending done. Game Over!
Paul thanks me and another game highlights starts. I walk off the stage to a warm round of applause, my shaky leg get me to the nearest water cooler where I promptly drink all of the water within my reach.
All in all, I felt great after I took a deep breath. I wasn’t perfect, but it was my debut and nobody is perfect.