As you might have heard, Daily Norseman was fortunate enough to be able to send not one but two writers to Vikings headquarters at Winter Park to cover the draft last weekend. We cranked out post after post about anything and everything the Vikings did at the draft, but we thought we'd give you a little behind-the-scenes take of our experience. What was it like for us two bloggers to mingle with the who's who of Twin Cities media? Ted and I explain in our (rather lengthy) email exchange we did over the past few days since the draft. Enjoy!
Eric: Before we get into the nuts in bolts of what we actually did at Winter Park covering the 2012 NFL Draft, I think we should give everyone a quick overview of our settings. Ted was smart and got there pretty early on Thursday afternoon to beat rush hour--meanwhile, I left my day job in Mounds View at 4:15 to head to Eden Prairie. Residents of the Twin Cities will appreciate the fact that I could literally see the Viking ship outside of Winter Park at about 5:05, but I didn't actually get to the media center until 5:30 thanks to the construction work on the 494/169 interchange. (Oh, how the curse words flew in my car for that last half hour of my commute.)
When I finally did arrive, I saw no less than a dozen guys furiously hammering away at their laptops in the rather confined space that is the Sid Hartman Media Center. I quickly recognized the Pelisseros, Sieferts, and Wiederers of the Minnesota media landscape, but they barely acknowledged my presence since they had absolutely no clue who I was. I greeted Ted (our long overdue first in-person meeting, believe it or not) and set up shop on the two remaining square feet of counter space in the joint. It was inconveniently located adjacent to the mini fridge that was being open and shut very frequently.
But hey, I had finally arrived, both physically and metaphorically! I still had to ask Chip Scoggins what the wireless password was (he politely pointed to the laminated sign that was DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF MY FACE), but I was off and running as a quasi-member of the Twin Cities media for the weekend. I'd be lying if I said it wasn't a bit intimidating, but I was glad I had a Daily Norseman ally in the fold.
Ted: Yeah, it's funny, because when I thought of the media center last year, I imagined some kind of Ron Burgundy kind of fantasy--many leather bound books, and a smell of rich mahogany. But not really. It's a small, cramped room with grown men typing away furiously. There are two color TV's on and elevated in separate corners along with a third in the back of the room, and they were on mute for most of the time. One had ESPN, the others the NFL Network. The Strib, ESPN, and Pioneer Press guys all have reserved seating, so for everyone else it's kind of an Olly-Olly Oxenfree to get a seat. But knowing this, I had a strategery--get there early and save a chair for Eric. My plan was working to perfection...until the exit Eric needed to take off of I-494, which is Dutch for I-Devil's Highway, was closed, so he was delayed an extra fifteen minutes. But we were still good until he called me and asked me where to park. One of the unwritten rules of the media center is a) you will be quiet, for the most part, and b) if your phone rings go out into the hallway. When he called, I went out in to the hallway, and when I came back into the media center, BOOM--chair gone. Eric was doomed to the cooler chair, which is the seat I had last year. Tough--pay your dues, new guy!!
And I'll echo Eric in saying it was nice to have a friendly face in the crowd. It's not that the other beat writers aren't good dudes or were unfriendly; on the contrary they're very helpful and I have to say, it's like being in a room full of football comedians. Very funny group. It's just that they've worked with each other a long time, they already know each other, and draft night really isn't the time to meet and greet. It's busy and hectic, and everyone is working on stories or conducting live chats. So having a friendly face to kick ideas around with made it easier this time around. And the fact that we were the only pure fan based, non affiliated 'big media' blog was way cool. Unless you consider SB Nation proper 'big media'. For the purposes of this argument, I do not, or it ruins my statement that we were the only non-big media blog there, so yeah. We'll go with that.
Eric: Shortly after we got going in the media room, the trade with the Browns went down so there was instantly plenty of material to write about. Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III flew off the board right away, the Browns snatched up Trent Richardson, and in no time the Vikings were on the clock. They chose Matt Kalil and basically got three free picks for taking him one pick later--even the room full of cynical reporters was impressed.
But that wasn't the best thing about the 2012 draft getting underway.
First of all, there was free pizza delivered right as the draft started. FREE. PIZZA. While we got to pretend to be members of the media. Maybe it doesn't seem like that big of a deal, but free pizza is always cool.
But the real
best thing about our first night at Winter Park was the arrival of none other than Sid Hartman
. Shortly after the Vikings chose Kalil, Sid sauntered in, walked up to Judd Zulgad, and proclaimed loudly: "SO, THE BROWNS MUST LIKE THAT RUNNING BACK, HUH?" The room immediately erupted in laughter. In fact, every time Sid was present (or even discussed) throughout the weekend, the entire room morphed into a 4th grade classroom that just heard a fart joke. Ted, what did you think of the living legend arriving in the room that holds his namesake?
Ted: I loved it. Sid Hartman is must-see TV. Or must hear media room. Whatever. Sid is a combination honey badger don't give a shit and Clint-Eastwood-in-Gran-Torino-Get-Off-My-Lawn, and I wasn't sure what would've happened if he had actually asked me something. I imagine I would've pooped myself and run out of the room. I mean, it's Sid Hartman. He was writing columns in Minneapolis when my Dad was a teenager. Sure, when you're 90, maybe your best days of writing might--might--be behind you, but I tip my cap to the guy. Ninety years old and still doing the press conference slog. It got to be a grind for me by Saturday morning, and Sid's been doing this for over 60 years. Sixty. Freaking. Years. slowclap.gif, bitches, slowclap.gif.
But I want to get back to the FREE PIZZA, nom nom. Did we mention it was free, and we had the Golden Wonka Ticket to pizza awesomeness? Oh, we did? Well, let me just re-emphasize--we got free pizza. I had about eleventy pieces of thin crust sausage, and didn't even feel bad about it.
So about the time all of that was going down, the Vikings PR guy came over and said "it's time for the press conference", and so began the Winter Park windsprint across the street to get a seat. HOLY CRAP ERIC WE'RE SITTING IN ON THE PRESS CONFERENCE! Our plan was for Eric to audio record everything, I would video record everything, and about 10 minutes after everything was over, it would be up on DN before everybody else. IT WAS A PHENOMENAL PLAN THAT WE EXECUTED TO PERFECTION...sort of.
How did that work out, Eric? I can't remember.
The video was outstanding. It's just too bad that Ted's computer decided that its upload speed would make a glacier look like Usain Bolt. After patiently waiting for roughly 6 weeks--at least that's what it seemed like when everything else around us was moving so quickly--we sadly had to abandon the video and go with the audio I recorded. SID HARTMAN DOES NOT HAVE THESE KINDS OF PROBLEMS.
Fun side bar about the press conferences this weekend--each time there was a press conference scheduled, a Vikings staffer would rush us over to the field house post haste, only to stand around waiting for Spielman to show. But as soon as he did, it was a wild stampede to the podium to plop down your voice recorders.
All in all, it was a successful first day, wouldn't you say Ted? Care to start us on Friday's timeline?
Ted: Yeah, it really was. The Vikings had a really great first round, DN had some ridiculous numbers traffic wise, and as we were getting ready to head out and grab a beer, I had two goals for Friday--cover the press conference and day two of the draft, and get a North Stars hat.
So I hit the Mall of America Friday morning and find parking spot--check. Cinnabon--check. Marvel that maybe 1% of people in the MOA knew that they were walking on what used to be Metropolitan Stadium ground--check. North Stars hat--check. Norm Green still sucks monkey balls--check and double check. So with North Stars hat in my grubby paws, I headed over to Winter Park for the Kalil and Smith press conference. You know, I worked hard to bring you all the info from that presser by live tweeting it and writing it up later (well, Eric did) but I couldn't help but notice things you don't see on the other side of the cameras. All anyone ever sees are the pictures of the newest draft picks holding up their jersey with the coach and GM for the camera, and I marvelled at how special that was, and it was going on in every other NFL town that had a first round pick.
You never think about the parents of the kid being there, and both Kalil's and Smith's mom and dad were. While Smith and Kalil were talking, I looked back at them, and you could just tell how proud and nervous they were for their kid. It was a very touching, special moment...but then the moment was over and the Vikings loosed the media hounds to descend upon these newest Vikings--and their families. It wasn't chaotic or hostile or anything, but it struck me how all at once it went from fairly organized and quiet during the press conference, and the parent's proudest moment, to all of a sudden this cacophany of movement and questions from the local press, and having to answer questions about their son I'm not sure they thought they would have to do when they woke up that morning. Kalil and Smith both went from print media, to TV stations, to radio guys, signed a couple autographs for fans, and I wondered to myself if it had hit them that they were about to be millionaires playing in the NFL. So while all that was going on, I was able to just walk up to Rick Spielman and Leslie Frazier like I knew what the hell I was doing and start asking questions. Let's be clear--I had no freaking clue what I was doing, but I acted the part, and threw a post up on DN
later that afternoon. I asked Spielman about making draft day trades and whether or not he really relies on that draft pick trade value chart, and I was able to ask Frazier some questions while he was also talking to the other local writers.
With that over, I headed over to the media room. It was still early, but I needed to write up that one post, and there was a stadium hearing about to commence, and I wanted to watch the live stream of that while waiting for round two to kick off. Oh, and rumor had gotten out that there was going to be MORE FREE PIZZA IN THE PRESS ROOM!
Eric: Quick question before I continue: which night of pizza was better? Thursday or Friday? For the life of me I can't remember the place that delivered either night, but I'd have to lean towards Friday's pizza. Congratulations, Unnamed Pizza I Can't Remember, you were slightly more delicious.
Ted: Yep, Friday night wins. Thin crust sausage with extra cheese for the win!
Friday wasn't as wild as Thursday, but everyone kept busy with Day 1 recaps and keeping an eye on whether or not the Vikings would trade up with their arsenal of picks. Alas, they did not, and Josh Robinson
was the only pick for the Vikings on Friday. We did the Spielman press conference/draftee conference call car wash once again, and just like that Day 2 of the draft was over.
Ted and I stopped at the Don Pablo's right next to Winter Park for a beer, only to discover that they closed at 11:00. (We got there around 10:45. Who closes at 11 on Friday night?) Luckily all our official-sounding Vikings talk grabbed our bartender's attention and he allowed us to have another beer well after close. MEDIA PERKS!
We were raring to go on Saturday morning, but we didn't get as early of a start as we wanted. Care to explain Ted?
Ted: Yeah, there was a bit of a logistical snafu there. But let me guess, you people were assuming that we used our influence as powerful members of the Vikings media to get free drinks until the wee hours of the morning, got roaring drunk and overslept, didn't you? No, nothing like that at all. We (and of course when I say 'we', I mean 'I', because this was my brainiac idea that Eric just went along with--probably because I had done this once and he was under the mistaken impression I knew what the hell I was doing) figured 9:00 the next day was early enough to both get good seats, but not too early so that we had too much time between getting there and just waiting for the draft to begin again. The only problem with that plan was that we (and again, I mean 'I') didn't think to ask the Vikings what time they were going to unlock the media room...d'oh! So I rolled in at 9:00, the room was locked, and when I got hold of an official I was told they weren't going to be in until 10 or so.
I tried to wave off Eric, but he was almost there, so we decided to head to Caribou Coffee. There's no Caribou in St. Louis, at least that I know of, so I always try and get one when I'm home anyway, because it's a damn fine cup of gourmet coffee. We hung out there for about 45 minutes, and when the media center was opened up, we headed back to Winter Park. Just for the record, there were plenty of good seats still available.
I had a bunch of stuff going on back home, so my plan was to hang around through Minnesota's selections in round five, because at one point between round 4 and 5 the Vikes had 6 out of 21 picks, or something ridiculous like that. So when they started making their picks, I manned the DN open thread and made a couple posts while Eric headed across the street for the obligatory press conferences. And once the Vikes made their last round 5 selection, I had to pack up my stuff and hit the road, and left everything in Eric's very capable hands. Case of Grain Belt for Dad--check. Diet Coke--check. Pringle's salt and vinegar potato chips--check. Twizzlers pull and peel cherry licorice--check. Assurances from Eric and Chris that they would text me the remaining Vikes picks as they occurred--check. Cabela's stop in Owatonna on the way out--check. North Stars hat on--check. Glover, out. Eric, why don't you bring this back into the barn and tell us what happened after I left.
Well I I stuck around until the bitter end because I figured one of us wouldn't have to be a COMPLETE SLACKER AND LEAVE BEFORE THREE OF THE DRAFT PICKS WERE EVEN MADE! I kid, I kid. I had a 25 minute commute from Winter Park to St. Paul to get home, and Ted had a decidedly much longer drive ahead of him. The sixth and seventh rounds were same song different verse in what was a very long, very fast-paced Saturday: the Vikings made the pick, we all did our initial Tweeting and research on him, and about 30 minutes late we'd be on the conference call asking him questions.
Sidebar about actually asking the questions during the press conferences and calls: it's exactly like it sounds when ESPN runs those live post-game pressers. It starts out as a bunch of people yelling out questions and one finally taking over. For rookies like Ted and I, it was a little intimidating to try and bark out questions among the guys that, you know, do this for a living. I don't know how many times I had a question ready to fire only to have Zulgad or Pelissero or Fowler pipe up first and ask exactly what I was going to. I was able to get a handful of questions in, but I learned that it definitely takes practice to ask your question at precisely the right time and volume. Towards the end of the weekend, there was an ongoing joke in the media room: if it appeared everyone was out of questions for the draftee, the last question was either "Who's your agent?" or "Have you ever seen snow?" Trust me, it was hilarious by the 7th or 8th time it happened.
The draft itself wrapped up in the early evening, but I didn't leave the media room until about 10:00. A large portion of the post-draft time was spent putting the finishing touches on articles, but Rick Spielman also took his sweet time coming down for his final press conference. (Like he was busy frantically signing undrafted free agents or something. Oh wait, that's exactly what he was doing.) But c'mon, it's not like I'm complaining--I got to spend over 20 hours covering the draft in person! All in all it was a very fun, educational, and productive weekend. I can't wait to do it again next year (I hope). Any final thoughts Ted?
Ted: Just a couple more thoughts. Even though this was my fourth event as a bona fide member of the media, I still feel like a little kid who just woke up on Christmas morning every time I get to do one of these things. When I was a kid I never dreamed that I would have an opportunity to talk with Vikings players, coaches, and the general manager about the team itself. It's always going to be special, no matter how many times I get to do it.
But if I had to give a highlight of the weekend, it would've been the Rhett Ellison conference call. One of the reporters asked him something to the effect of what he was doing when he got the call from Rick Spielman, and he said he was out on the river with his family. He really didn't expect to be drafted, and when he got the call he just broke down and cried he was so happy.
Now, a cynic could ask what the hell the Vikings were doing drafting a guy in the fourth round who didn't even expect to get a call, but a guy like me thought it was pretty cool--some kid has been given a chance to fulfill a lifelong dream, and I'd like to think I could relate to him, just a little bit.
Anyway, I hoped you guys enjoyed it as much as Eric and I did. You DID enjoy it, didn't you Eric?
Eric: Abso-friggin'-lutely. Same time next year, with a brand new shiny stadium in the works? Sounds great.