By: Max Wolpoff
LAS VEGAS – The pre-flight ads on Jet Blue are for everything from their frequent flier program and resorts in far-away places to leggings the have pockets large enough for the newest smart phone models. Thankfully, the Wi-Fi works while we taxi to the runway to get out of McCarran Airport. I am sitting next to an empty middle seat in the exit row with a cameraman for a Boston TV station in the “window” seat. My choice to start the flight is the FCS semifinal between Johns Hopkins and Mount Union. There is a running track circling the field with eight sections of aluminum bleachers the main camera can see. A light snow is falling at undefeated Mount Union.
This morning was the calmest morning of the entire week in Nevada. I packed all my bags the night before after my last sentence got saved onto WordPress. Riding to the airport was along the backroads and not using the strip, which allowed one last look at the amount of injury and accident lawyers in Las Vegas before I got inside.
It was my lucky day for extra screening. This has happened with more frequency as I get older. I was once the only one in line at the airport in State College, Pennsylvania and TSA just needed something to do. They swabbed my computer for whatever the latest thing security was looking for in 2016, found nothing, and sent me on my way to Detroit for a connection back to Boston.
The TV two rows in front of me is watching MLB Network live from the Mandalay Bay casino I just checked out of. I saw no other seekers on my way out, but I did see the decoration in the lobby change from Winter Meetings to Arizona State football. They are playing in the Las Vegas Bowl this Saturday, and I am deducing from these two facts that the Sun Devils are likely staying in the same resort I just came from. Hope they like hearing the same five ads repeated around the clock inside the elevators.
In the time it took from leaving the waiting area for the last time to takeoff, I have calmed down enough to reflect on the last week. Writing this blog in the chosen style relies on moment-to-moment judgement and improvisation. It does not lend itself to sober second thought. The Thompson way is meant to go for the rawest emotion possible in every sentence, even if what I write may come back to haunt me should someone read Parts one to three and judge me on that alone. That is their problem if they take that option of not reading the whole story and focusing only on the most damning of words.
While it stinks to get nothing tangible other than business cards out of this trip, those people could be on the opposite side of the table in a matter of years. I lost count of the stories I heard where someone had a thing lined up in advance and did not need to rely on the randomness of this week to find work. So many unstated factors come into play at big events like this.
If your team is in a certain league, that league has mandatory meetings at a certain time during this week of events. At these meetings, you can meet other teams and discuss with relative ease the stuff that would take too long by phone or email during the season. Things from promotional strategies and alternative uniform nights to player scouting reports and the hunt for that new hitting coach can all be handled in-person.
I may have made that last paragraph up out of thin air, but add on to all of those things you need in the immediate as a team the hundreds of resumes the hiring manager now needs to review, ponder, and evaluate for the positions your team must fill to start the season. And remember, those applicants are not just looking at your team. In a matter of days, teams are expected to judge from a pool of hundreds their priority hire list and set up interviews.
In those interviews, everyone is on a time and space crunch. The fair is only open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and there are other things to do then ask 500 people why they want to work in your city for your team. There are only so many tables, as well. A few people I met had their interview directions to find some restaurant by a TV set and past a Starbucks. In a hotel with multiple TV sets and multiple Starbucks, that can get confusing.
Add to it the mass of people in Vegas for the rodeo, X-LIVE, or any other variety of reasons that people crowd the food court and make lunch break an hour to just stand in line, and the whole weekend can become too much to handle.
Teams need to prioritize the positions they need to fill this week, the ones they want to fill this week, and the ones that can take a little more time. Given my experience, sales and promotions fall into the first camp, while broadcasting is firmly in the last category.
Amazing what a massage, a good dinner, and a few hours of easy sleep can do. Apparently, I missed quite the party at the Gala as a result. The job fair group chat is full of messages describing baseball executives embarrassing themselves on the dance floor while visibly intoxicated. Party on, y’all; just be ready for the Rule 5 Draft early the next morning.
Beverage service is starting as we cruise over Colorado and Utah. The TVs I can see are playing three very different movies: Crazy Rich Asians, The Departed, and My Cousin Vinny. Three movies I like for completely different reasons, but I will stick with FCS football for now before I start some school work.
HOME AT LAST
BOSTON – “Sausages on the grill” is a strange thing to look forward to, but that is what I wanted to eat after a week away from my Boston home. And how I even missed cooking for myself.
The flight had no major problems, except for a few minor pockets of turbulence over the Rocky Mountains and Lake Erie. It was, of course, dark when we landed northeast of city center.
Another Boston media figure, Tom Caron, was on this flight. I saw him at baggage claim talking with someone and checking his phone periodically. I wanted to approach him and remind him of the time we worked the Jimmy Fund Telethon together in 2009, but I retreated from the bold and brash of a few days earlier into the passive kid that did not want to bother anyone.
I had won a contest at some fan fest for the Red Sox a few months earlier in 2009 for a video I improvised about the latest baseball news. It was a “Broadcaster for a Day” contest, and that 90-second video was one of three finalists. NESN neglected to put in an IP tracker for all the online votes, so my family and friends stuffed the ballot box and voted as often as they could until I won in a landslide.
As a prize, I got to sit on the set at the Jimmy Fund Telethon between Caron and future-NBC hockey commentator Mike Millbury for a four-minute segment. For 11-year-old me, that was the coolest thing ever.
I never have enough time to seek out the full video, but I swear Millbury says he is scared for his job somewhere in the segment. It might have been off-air, but I know he said it to me. We got some cool pictures, and I still have a framed copy at home in Maryland. I knew I could be a broadcaster that day, but it is too simple to say that was the only day I knew I would be.
It took a few years after this to realize I was not good enough for the theater world to back into journalism. The theater at my high school was easily the place I spent the most time in those four years, but I was never all that great. My biggest role came as Mr. Mushnik in Little Shop of Horrors, and that was only after hours of watching YouTube videos to learn the “old New York City Jew” accent as required for the character. It took most of rehearsal time to perfect his character walk. It took until the last performance to get his solo song to “good enough;” the pervious performances ranged from “bad” to “passable.”
The show was split into two casts, and one of my best friends was my character counterpart. We would run lines together, trade advice on the accent and walk, and train each other on the particulars of our scenes. He and I frequently reference those few months as some of the best of our friendship. We even ran lines watching NFL games, pausing work frequently to expound on his Oakland Raiders and my Green Bay Packers.
He was easily the better singer, and I needed his help with the solo song. We were in separate vocal ranges, but we managed to make practice work. He will use this as a point of contention if he gets the chance to, the same way most of my friends from high school knock me off the pedestal at every turn. As one of them put it to me two years ago, “you are the closest to his dreams out of all of us,” and they needed to knock me down to their level at times.
Caron grabbed his bag and left in peace, his hair much whiter than the picture I have of that day in 2009. I grabbed my bag of fancy clothes and my bag of regular clothes to find a ride home.
Looking out at the skyline coming into the city, I thought of something cool. Have a “history lesson” feature with rideshare and taxi cab rides. The city is historic enough that there are at least five stories on every street corner, and I think incoming travelers would like to hear about why the Orange Line is orange and why the Green Line is green. The T conductors, at least on the last few Green Line rides I had, have started doing this. Why not have this feature in your ride to work or the bar?
It doesn’t have to be just Boston. New York yellow cabs could make a good name for themselves if they offered that instead of the short TV spots passengers are held captive to in the backseat. Quite literally any city could do this, and it would be awesome if done right.
It is past midnight in this city, but my body is of the belief that it is three hours prior to such a time. I still need to finish the schoolwork I never finished on the plane, and get ready for a basketball call on Saturday afternoon. Is it really Friday? I must have lost track of time while doing the same thing for four days in a row in Vegas.
The sirens blare on Storrow Drive to implore cars to move, but at least there are no trucks flaunting naked bodies direct to my room with no questions asked. It may be the teachings of one of my professors this semester getting to my head, but those ads more than most other things irked me about Las Vegas.
I love watching local TV in every locality I travel to. Often the vibe of the city can be gleaned by not just the news, but the ads shown on the news. Some of these ads are of such low production quality, I could find a film major and two acting majors in one afternoon and we could do a better job. How the ads sell – patriotic appeal, high or low diversity in casting choices, family or individual appeal – is a pretty good indicator of what the area values. Political ads are not part of my breakdown of local television, though it can be interesting to compare ads in one part of Florida to another during an election year.
Not just on the news, but in the streets. How do businesses ask for your money? Is it Vegas- or New York-style where they thrust a flyer in your hands and ask if you want to have a good time tonight? Is it more distant than that? Is it passive because they are the only game in town for what they do and do not need to differentiate from anyone? Watch this next time you travel. Might make for an interesting time, if you are into that stuff.
Despite instincts saying it is closer to 10 p.m. than the 1 a.m. I see on my alarm clock, I know I need to sleep regardless. Maybe I will finally have the clairvoyance to see the greater purpose of this week when I rise from slumber.