From the Bird’s Nest: Road Trip-Oklahoma State
It was time.
My broadcast partner Steve Peloquin and I agreed, this road trip couldn't have come at a better time. The anticipation of the season opener and all of the work that comes with it and, well, it was time to get on a plane and go.
We arrived at Landmark Aviation in Lafayette just after noon on Friday. It was great to see all the folks that were making the trip, some of whom we only see during football season.
One of the nice touches that UL provides on road trips is lunch. And, lunch is a po-boy from Olde Tyme Grocery. I chose turkey. Steve had ham. We devoured them pretty quickly. Wouldn't you?
The aircraft from Allegiant Air arrived right on time and after lunch it was time to board. I've never quite understood the security on a charter flight, but that's the way it is. All the passengers had their carry on luggage hand searched and we were all hand-wanded before boarding. Once we were all on board, the team arrived and, by 2:00, we were ready to go.
The coaching staff arrived, dressed in jackets and ties. They boarded along with the team.
The flight to Oklahoma City was a little more than an hour. I slapped on my headphones and read the College Preview issue of Sports Illustrated on the way.
We touched down in OKC and, as expected, the heat hit us as we disembarked. It was 104 degrees when we landed with a stiff breeze. We loaded the three buses (offense on one, defense on the second and the travel party and guests on the third) and settled in for the drive to the hotel.
We were headquartered at a Crowne Plaza. Upon arrival we went to the front desk to check in. It should be noted that room keys for all the players were laid out and ready. Since Steve and I pay our own charges, our keys were behind the front desk. The staff welcomed us as Priority Club members and gave us coupons for free breakfast. My boss will like that. We got our keys and headed up to our room.
Athletic Director (I'm tired of saying Interim) Scott Farmer was having a reception in his suite (the hotel usually comps a suite for the AD) and we dropped by to visit, as did most of the rest of the travel party. Coach Hud stopped by with his wife, Tyla (they had a diet coke) and we all visited for an hour or so. Then it was time to board the buses for dinner.
Oklahoma City has a great area of town called Bricktown, with many restaurants and bars. The AAA affiliate of the Astros is also located there. The bus dropped us off in front of Toby Keith's , where most of the folks went to dinner. But Sports Info Director Daryl Cetnar, Steve and I opted for Earl's Barbecue right next door. Jay Hebert, who played for Sam Robertson and Nelson Stokley in the mid 80's, and father of UL linebacker Andrew, joined us.
It turned out to be a good choice.
Because the Redbirds were at home, Earl's had a special on $2.00 pints. Steve and I each had two meats and two sides...and a few pints. The total bill was $38.00. After dinner we still had an hour to kill before the bus would leave and we found a place to have another and watch TCU and Baylor.
At 9:00 we boarded the bus back to the hotel. There was a Hooters' next door and we wanted to watch the rest of the game. We walked in and, you guessed it, they had a special. $2.00 pints. We watched the rest of the game and then went back to the hotel for the night.
The next morning, Steve and I woke up and went downstairs for a hearty breakfast and then went back upstairs to get a little work done and watch ESPN College Gameday.
I was looking at some spotting charts and glancing up occasionally at the television. If you've watched Gameday, a lot of the fun is what's going on in the background. Banners, oversized pictures and the like, all designed to get a little attention. It's really more fun to watch the background than it is the commentators (unless of course, Erin Andrews is on camera.) So I'm watching and in the upper left hand corner of the screen I see an oversized photo. A familiar looking face.
It was Hud on a stick.
Thursday night we debuted the radio show at Walk-Ons. And, we handed out cutouts of Hud to the fans in attendance. My guess is one of those folks went to the LSU-Oregon game. It was the exact same picture, just blown up to a huge size. Steve said it might have been a cutout of Kirk Herbstreit. But then the face showed up again. And again.
Hud on a stick. The Coach made Gameday.
After Gameday, we kept the tv on and watched Auburn/Utah State. The Aggies really should have won the football game. It just proved to me that Auburn being ranked in the preseason poll was a joke. For that matter, preseason polls are a joke. At about 2:15 we went downstairs to load up for the trip to Stillwater. We departed at 2:40 for the roughly hour and ten minute trip to Boone Pickens Stadium.
Normally, there's a police escort, even if you're staying out of town. For instance, when we headquarter in Montgomery, we get a police escort all the way to Troy. The escort picked us up when we got to the Stillwater exit. They had two cars. They needed two more. It took awhile to navigate our way through the streets to the stadium. But we got there..finally.
Boone Pickens Stadium has been totally remodeled since our last trip there. In fact, I remember very little about the last trip. We took the elevator to the press box and couldn't find our radio booth.
That's because it was on the roof.
So back to the elevator we went for roof access. We found a building on top of the roof that housed the home and visiting coaches, home and visiting radio and stats. Our booth was spacious and, thankfully, air conditioned (it was 101 degrees.) We got all of our equipment set up, tested phone lines and made sure we had updated game notes and flip cards. With all that done, I had time to downstairs and visit with my nephew, Justin Hall, who is a senior at OSU. Justin is the eldest son of my baby sister Tina. He
planned to make the trip to Lafayette last year, but had a teacher who decided to give a test that Friday when the Cowboys came to town. I really thought he should have come anyway....it was only a test. But hey, my sister raised him, not I. But I'm so proud of that kid. He'll graduate in May and then, hopefully, law school. He takes the LSAT in October.
While we were visiting, several folks said "Welcome to Stillwater," or "good luck today." I was the only one in red in a sea of orange. But the folks were nice. Justin, his girlfriend and I got to visit for about fifteen minutes and then it was time for me to go back upstairs, as we were just 35 minutes from airtime.
When you ride elevators at college football games, you're always riding with folks on their way to suites. On the elevator was a blond woman who smiled as I got on. "Welcome to Oklahoma," she said. I smiled and said thank you. "Sorry we couldn't bring you some cooler weather." "It's okay," I said, "it's better than what we have at home right now." "I hope everything works out okay with the storm." She extended her hand. "I'm Mary Fallin, I'm the Governor of Oklahoma." I introduced myself. She said she served in Congress with Governor Bobby Jindal. "When you see him, give him my best," she said.
I'll do that, Governor. With re-election coming up, my bet is he'll be at the radio station one day.
Stopped at press level long enough to get a plate of food (I passed on lunch). Pulled pork sandwich, pasta salad, potato salad and cornbread. Yum.
Back in the booth I'm checking out Oklahoma State's uniforms. I've gotta say, I'm not big into the uniform controversy. I'm picky about baseball unis (white or gray, please) but whatever folks wanna wear on the football field is okay with me. OSU was unveiling its new Nike Pro-Combat uniforms. My only request is, make the numbers easy to read.
Orange on dark grey. And, I'm on the freaking roof. Geez.....but, hey, that's why I bring binoculars. It was still difficult, even with the field glasses. Not a fan of the orange on dark grey. Not a fan.
Got a chance to visit with OSU play-by-play man Dave Hunziker for just a moment. I first met Dave when he was at Western Kentucky. He was there only a year before the job at OSU opened up. Hailing from Big 8 Country, Dave has his dream job. Their pregame show goes on really early, so we only had a minute. Dave is a great guy.
The broadcast went off without a problem, always a good thing in week one. After the postgame show it was time to pack up. It was starting to sprinkle as we made our way down to the buses and it became a pretty good rainstorm as we headed to the Stillwater Airport (I was very happy we didn't have to bus an hour to OKC.) But, by the time we were ready to load the plane the rain had stopped. And, despite all the weather in Louisiana, we were able to fly right into Lafayette, where it was not raining when we landed. Get bags....drive home.
It was a little after two am.
Time to start my two day weekend....my last one until Christmas.