By Ryan Casey
Arizona Daily Wildcat
August 30, 2005
This summer sure started out slow. I'll tell you what, serving is not for me. The only thing I got to write at Olive Garden was "medium-well" or "extra breadsticks." I tried as best I could to use my journalistic skills ("How's the salad?"), but after one month, I quit.
Thank goodness, because the Pacific 10 Conference Football Media Day was around the corner.
After securing a way to get to Los Angeles, where the event was to be held, I had to make sure I was actually allowed to go.
Sure enough, "Just show up" became music to my ears, and a few days later I found myself at LAX, scurrying around the airport to find the infamous "red curb" that strangers kept telling me about.
I asked anyone with ears where I could find my hotel shuttle, which was supposedly free. Nine times out of 10, the response involved "red curb." The 10th? A cold shoulder.
Fast-forwarding to the hotel lobby (I found the red curb), where the clerk called me "Mr. Casey" - lady, I'm only 19 - I was finally checked in at the Sheraton Gateway Hotel. Now I only needed to kill 20 hours until media day started.
It was around 2 p.m. local time, so I stared out my window at all the passing planes. "Maybe 'SportsCenter' is on," I thought. It turned out to be "Around the Horn." Needless to say, the television wasn't on much longer.
I needed a mission, something to occupy my time with. Realizing that I knew nothing of the conference - where it was going to be held, how long it was going to last, etc. - I blew the dust off my journalistic skills that hadn't been much use as an Olive Garden employee and shut the door behind me.
As I would soon find out, there was one major problem: No one else knew anything about the conference either.
Defeated, I returned to my room and prayed that "Around the Horn" was over. As the TV blinked on, my answer was staring me right in the face: "Pac-10 Media Day Information," complete with times, rooms and even the heart-warming note "free breakfast."
After an early bedtime, I woke the next day with plenty more to do than the day prior. Jason Kleinman, a friend of mine whom I'd be covering the event with, called me around 9 to let me know that he was in the lobby.
We headed over to the main room to check in and grab some free garb, including a Rose Bowl thermos, a Pac-10 bookmark and a "TBS Sports" bag. We then made our way to another ridiculously large room full of media guides from around the Pac-10.
After testing the strength of the supplied plastic bags by stuffing 10 different media guides in them, Jason and I found our way to our seats at the press conference. "This is it," I thought to myself. "This is why we're here."
FSN, ESPN, ABC - it seemed like I was watching "Sesame Street," letters flying across the screen. KAMP. We fit right in.
"Obviously, we're very excited to be here. We're very optimistic about the start of the season," said Arizona football head coach Mike Stoops, signaling the start of the press conference.
Stoops was accompanied by senior safety Darrell Brooks, who was wearing the brightest shirt you'll ever see.
As a whole, they fielded a mere three questions during the eight minutes that they were up on the podium, and mine wasn't one of them. I wasn't about to ask a question in front of the national media. I've seen reporters get ripped apart many times.
Once Stoops and Brooks exited the room, Jason and I followed suit. Thankfully, the Pac-10 had turned the second floor of the meeting rooms at the Sheraton Gateway into interview rooms, so Jason and I seized the opportunity.
We ran into Brooks first. He was relaxed, seemingly unfazed by all the attention.
"We expect nothing less than a bowl game," he said. Pure gold.
Stoops had seemingly disappeared into thin air, so Jason and I spent the next few minutes searching for him.
Finally, after introducing ourselves to Arizona Athletic Director Jim Livengood and Sports Information Director Tom Duddleston, we were able to find him: Stooooooops.
"I think it's the greatest time in sports when a season gets started. Everyone is excited and optimistic about the year," he said.
"We're no different," he said. "We feel like we have a chance to have an outstanding football team."
Following the conference, Jason dropped me off at the airport, where I began to turn the days' events over in my head.
As I was waiting to board the plane, I noticed Livengood, Duddleston, Stoops and Brooks in the back of the line.
The airport intercom rang out: "Now boarding Group 'B.'"
I made my way down the airplane aisle, put my laptop in the overhead compartment and stuffed the media guides underneath the seat in front of me, drastically reducing my foot space in the process.
Brooks' shirt could be seen from rows away, and even though I wasn't looking up, I got an urge to put sunglasses on.
"Hey, man," he said, squeezing in to sit in the window seat, his coach taking the seat directly across the aisle.
"Darrell," I said, "I'm digging the shirt. Pick it out yourself?"
"Nah," he said. "The lady at Express helped me."
After talking with him for a few minutes - he's already graduated, going for a second degree - I opened my book. Jason Bourne was in the midst of his third adventure.
"Hey, are those media guides?" Stoops asked me as we were getting ready for take off.
"Yeah" was all I could muster. Imagine that, Mike Stoops reading about football.
"You just made his day," Brooks said moments later. "Look at him, he's like a little kid, all content and everything."
Ryan Casey is a journalism junior and the sports director at KAMP Student Radio. His radio show can be heard Wednesdays from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. on 1570 AM or at www.kamp.arizona.edu.