Sunday, December 28, 2014

Credentials Collection

Recently, I've been thinking about the collection of event credentials that I've been amassing over the last few years. I've got them arranged by year, attached to the same lanyard. I started going through them and thinking about some of the events that I've had the privilege to attend.

By year, here's that list:

2008: KC Wizards, NCAA Div. II national semifinal football
2009: KC Wizards
2011: Sporting KC, CONCACAF Gold Cup
2012: Sporting KC, CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying, USMNT World Cup Qualifying
2013: Sporting KC, MLS All-Star Game, MLS Cup, USMNT World Cup Qualifying
2014: Sporting KC, Big XII Tournament, NCAA Div. III national championships, Missouri Comets

Thanks to the access to those events, I've gotten to do some pretty cool things that I wouldn't have gotten to do otherwise, moments that have made it possible to get through some hard, dark times. What follows are just a few of those experiences.

During the 2011 season, I ended up being the guy that asked visiting coaches what they thought of the new stadium. Most of the time, I got the standard line about it being a great facility. There were two times I got something unexpected, both of them from Scottish coaches.

The first came from John Spencer, the then-coach of the Portland Timbers. I had a baseball cap on backwards and when I asked him the question, he looked at me and said, "Are you wearing a big hat or do you just have a really big head?" At the next home game, while I was getting ready to shoot that game from behind the end boards on the south end, one of the security supervisors came up to me and said, "Did he really say that to you?" The line has since taken on a life of its own.

The second came from Steve Nicol, the coach of the New England Revolution. I asked him the question and he looked at me and said, "I was fairly disappointed." He must have seen the incredulous look on my face when he said, "I was just kiddin'." After returning to the press box upstairs, I mentioned what Nicol had said to Kyle McCarthy, who covers the Revs on a regular basis, and he said that giving people crap was Steve Nicol's default position.

Lord only knows what Scottish-born Owen Coyle will say to me when Houston visits Sporting Park for the first time next season.

After the 2012 U.S. Open Cup final at Sporting Park, some of us were trying to get onto the field for the trophy presentation. Security was saying we couldn't, even though we had a memo from the team saying we could. While we were waiting, I felt someone put their hand on my back and say, "Excuse me." I turned around and it was actor Drew Carey, member of the Seattle Sounders ownership group.

I can't remember whether it was before, during or after, but on the day the USMNT practiced at Sporting Park before their qualifier with Guatemala in 2012, I was speaking with Grant Wahl, who happens to be from Overland Park. During our conversation, Taylor Twellman (who's from St. Louis) walked by and said, "Royals suck." I immediately turned and said, "Tell me something I don't know." The Royals have improved dramatically since then.

Just a few days before the 2013 MLS season started, I wrote an article on Bleacher Report under the headline Sporting KC Are Odds-on Favorites to Win 2013 MLS Cup. In the locker room after the cup final was over, I showed that article to goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen and he hugged me (made all the more amazing because of his two broken ribs). I showed it to Kerry Zavagnin and he hugged me. I showed it to manager Peter Vermes and Peter said, "Any questions?"

During the week of the MLS All-Star game in 2013, I also got to ride in a race car around the Kansas Speedway. To show you how seriously they were taking it, I had to put on one of those fire suits and a helmet with one of those sock-like hoods underneath it. The cars would start out on pit row, go out to the end and take a hard left into the road course portion of the track, taking another hard left onto the back straightaway before coming all the way around again. On the back straightaway, I glanced over at the speedometer and it said we were up over 160 mph. Even on the road course portion, it was still about 100 mph. It was a great adrenaline rush.

I'm not writing this to try to make other people think I'm cool. I'm trying to make myself think that way.

There are more stories about cool moments I've had thanks to this journey I'm on to try to make myself a sportswriter, but I'll save them for another time.

Happy New Year, everybody.