Road Trip: Western Kentucky – From the Bird’s Nest
There's been a lot of debate over the value of a weeknight football game. I'm not going to go there, but I will say this: As creatures of habit, having your schedule thrown off isn't the greatest thing one can experience.
Part of the routine didn't change. Airport at noon. Olde Tyme Grocery for all and a 2pm departure. Miami Air was our carrier for the trip. We've used these guys in the past and, frankly, I was really happy to see the plane. Miami Air has always been very professional and very dependable.
This was only our third trip to WKU for football. In the past, we flew into Nashville and stayed in Music City. But this time the decision was made to go straight into Bowling Green and lodge there on Monday. And, leaving from Bowling Green after the game would save some time on the trip home. (Besides, how much partying can you do on a Monday night, no matter where you stay?) We were headquartered at the Holiday Inn/University Plaza, where Cajuns baseball and basketball have stayed many times. In addition to it being the best full-service hotel in the city, there were three restaurants within walking distance: Steak and Shake (which made Steve Peloquin drool throughout the visit), Montana Grille, one of the better dining places in the city, and Double Dogs Bar and Grill, with televisions galore.
For the first time, I had plans that weren't the same as Steve and our analyst, Gerald Broussard. I've mentioned my friends Chris and Celya Glowacki in previous WKU blogs. Not only were we seeing each other for the first time in six months, but we were also celebrating Celya's new job, which would mean they would be relocating to Indianapolis. That part made it a little bittersweet, but I was happy for them. We chose to eat at Mariah's downtown, a restaurant I was familiar with. The visit was great, as always and the food at Mariah's is very good. (Prime rib, medium rare for me, please.) We realized we'd see each other again soon, since the Cajuns basketball squad had a game in Louisville later in the year.
I, therefore, did not have an opportunity to view dinner with my fellow media members. But I was told that Steve devoured a hamburger in a minute and forty seconds. Now THAT'S impressive. (Yes, I got the text message while we were at Mariah's). I wondered if Double Dogs had some kind of reward for that tremendous feat.
Tuesday morning, breakfast was at the hotel. I started by having breakfast with Athletic Director Scott Farmer and a few of the fans who were on the plane, but moved when Gerald and Steve came down. The Holiday Inn had a breakfast buffet...but also had eggs cooked to order. Gerald ordered an omelette and I ordered eggs.
Steve? The eggs on the buffet were scrambled, so that was good for him. Now, understand when I make comments about Steve and the way (and the speed) he eats, I never exaggerate, though that may seem hard to believe. He started piling eggs onto his plate and I swear, had the equivalent of a dozen eggs on his plate. A few slices of bacon and some breakfast potatoes and he was good to go.
Gerald and I got our breakfast and went into the next room where everyone was sitting. And we just shook our heads. Steve had about two bites of egg left and a few of the potatoes. It might have been his most impressive feat yet.
On the road, G and Steve room together and I room with photographer Brad Kemp. Brad and I have known each other for about thirty years and we're close to the same age. And, normally, we'll watch College Game Day and the beginning of the early games on Saturday. On this trip we found out we had another thing in common: Neither one of us watch "The View."
Daytime television on gameday sucks when the game is on Tuesday.
While in the room I got a text from Coach Hud's wife, Tyla. I didn't see her when we got off the plane and she needed to deliver my pre-game candy bar. Now, since we won at Akron it had to be pumpkin shaped Snickers. Problem was, she couldn't remember whether she had given me the regular or peanut butter. So, she gave me both with instructions to only eat the one from the last trip (regular, yet pumpkin shaped). I did, and put the other one in my bag.
When it was time for lunch, SID Brian McCann, the Advertiser's Tim Buckley and I headed down the road. I suggested Rafferty's, only to find out Brian had eaten there the night before. I then suggested Toots, which is kind of like Hooters...without the Hooters. But just as we were about to pull up, Brian saw Penn Station and almost wrecked the van in excitement. Penn Station is a great place to get subs. They're very popular on the east coast and in Brian's home state of Ohio.
So long, Toots.
The cheesesteak was actually very good. Brian made a good choice. Come to think of it, he hasn't made a bad choice yet this year. And, he got extra points because it was "free cookie Tuesday."
Afterward it was back to the hotel to pack and get ready to go to the stadium. As we got ready to leave, Gerald informed me Steve made three trips to the Steak and Shake in the short time we were there. It was only a ten minute ride from the hotel to Houchens Industries/L. T. Smith Stadium/Jimmy Feix Field (honest..that's the name of the stadium). Media parking was about as close to our entrance as we'll see...maybe ever. We entered the stadium at the ground floor entrance and make our way to the elevator.
Now...half of HILTSSJFF is a new structure. At one time, there was absolutely nothing on one side of the stadium. But WKU has built a pretty nice structure. But their "old side" of the stadium is, well. old. And, does't have a ton of amenities.
And. the elevator doesn't go all the way to the top.
You can insert your own private joke right here. I'm not goin' there.
So after getting off the elevator we climbed the upper deck stairs to get to the press box...not an easy thing to do when you're carrying tons of broadcast equipment. No emergency trips were necessary, however. The actual broadcast booth is very open and that's okay with me (at least I thought it was...more on that later). Four years previous, we did a night game late in the season and it was really, really cold in the booth. In fact, Steve suggested the North Pole would be warmer. That wasn't going to be a problem on this evening, however.
WKU play by play man Randy Lee came by to say hello. I always enjoy visiting with Randy. He's a very nice guy who loves baseball (he's an Orioles fan.) We chatted about the season, upcoming basketball, and dealing with a new head football coach. (There is ALWAYS an adjustment period with a new head coach.) Bowling Green Daily News writer Chad Bishop also stopped by for a few minutes. (follow him on twitter @MrChadBishop.)
After setting up equipment it was time for the pregame show. Like other places, WKU serves a pre game meal to the media. But you have to go downstairs to get it. I had already gone up those steps one time and wasn't about to do it again. But Steve brought a plate up for me. I knew it wasn't his because it had green beans on it.
By the time our pre-game broadcast started, HILTSSJFF was about to wear Gerald out. The WKU band rehearsed their entire pregame and halftime show (which you rarely see in FBS football) and we got to hear the WKU fight song, oh, about a gazillion times. The song is called "Stand up and Cheer." I taught Gerald the alternate lyrics I wrote a long time ago, changing the name of the song to "Get me a Beer."
After they were finished, there was plenty of techno-pop (I think that's what it's called) on the public address system. And, that's when we realized Western Kentucky University has the loudest PA system in the Universe. And, it got worse before it got better. At one point our producer Scott Prather texted me to turn down the crowd mic. We weren't using one. Then the game started and the PA announcer seemed to be determined to be even louder than the music. I don't know what the decibel level is in Seattle for a Seahawks game, but this rivaled it. I suppose playing the music between plays and having WKU players urge the crowd to make noise on third down is supposed to be intimidating, but on this night, it was just annoying.
After the game, we witnessed one of the shortest handshakes in Sun Belt Conference history and then got packed up.
It was an uneventful trip through security and the ride home was smooth. Wheels down was at 1:58am. I got to bed about 2:45, with techno-pop ringing in my ears.
Oh, and I ate the other candy bar last night.