As the final part of the Poinsettia Bowl press experience, I headed down to Qualcomm Stadium to watch the game. While the game itself was disappointing, experiencing it as a member of the press was a fantastic experience. So let's take a look at what a game is like from the press box.
As part of the press, I watched the game from the press box/working area. This was my view from my seat, with my emergency TwistNHook phone in the foreground. We were assigned seats according to the media source which sent us there. All the Cal writers were on one side while the Utah writers were on another. Mixed in among us were neutral sources like LA Times or the Daily News. To my left were three Daily Cal writers and to my right were a few Bear Insider writers. In the row in front of me (which you can't see) was JO.
Having arrived at about 2:15, I soon realized I had way too much free time on my hands. That explains why I was one of maybe fifteen or twenty press members who had already arrived (out of over 100). I spent my time wandering the stadium or up in the press box browsing the internets. About an hour and fifteen minutes before kickoff, I started taking pictures throughout the stadium.
Shortly after, the team went back into the locker room and I went back up to the press area, where I stayed the whole game. They provided dinner and beverages for us as well as popcorn and cookies at halftime.
Throughout the game Kyle McRae, one of Cal's media relations directors, would tell us if any stats were noteworthy (like Eddie Young's pick-six being his first career TD). In between quarters stat sheets were printed out and handed to us. During the game, most of us were working on posts/articles or taking notes on plays, formations, and so forth. Since it was a working area, no one was permitted to cheer for any team. It was nice because it limits emotional involvement in the game, which made the loss pretty easy to take.
With five minutes left in the game we filed up to take the elevator down to the field area so we could talk to players/coaches as they came off the field. By the time we headed to the elevator, Riley had just thrown the pick-six, so we all knew the game was decided. It was freezing on the field, but it was nice to watch the final Cal TD from the sidelines. I wish I had brought my camera with me, because I could have taken some great shots from the field. Since Cal lost, none of us really seemed interested in asking the players and coaches how they felt, at least not until the press conference and later. I always feel bad for coaches/players when reporters follow them as they head to the locker room and ask them "so how does it feel to lose?" or "what went wrong?" I'm sure players would rather have some space and time to think for a little bit before they get bombarded with questions.
When the team walked through the tunnel and into the locker room area, we followed and headed to the press conference room. Oddly enough, it was really hot in the press conference room. We waited around for a few minutes and generally talked about what went right, wrong, etc and some reporters talked about what they were going to ask Tedford. We all wondered if this would be Alamar's last game.
Tedford, Riley, Mohamed, and Young came into the room and immediately started fielding questions. Riley looked really disappointed (not surprisingly, since he turned the ball over three times). It was a disappointing press conference, as we didn't learn a whole lot we didn't already know (players had problems executing, Cal will get back to work in the offseason, and so on). After Cal's press conference members of the Cal media were escorted to a room near the locker room where Cal players would answer questions for us. I wasn't interested in Utah's press conference so I left for the interview room. When we arrived in the interview room, Kendricks was there. After we asked Kendricks questions for a few minutes, Gregory came in. He seemed disappointed, but was nonetheless very proud of his team, especially his seniors. He said they may not have achieved ideal results on the field, but they had heart and determination. He praised Tyse and Syd as ideal players for a coach to have. We were supposed to have Vereen visit us, but he was getting treatment on his ankle, so he was unable to answer questions. Tepper heard we were in there so he voluntarily came over to talk to the press one last time. He came in carrying a present, which unfortunately wasn't for us. It was for him and it was a tie, which he was delighted to have. Tepper was his usual, jovial self and was joking and having fun in between answering questions. He had some serious moments, demonstrated by his newsworthy comments about demanding perfection from the team. Still, he was a joy to have in the room after the disappointing loss. He even offered us his gloves! Our final visitor was Holley, who seemed to be the most disappointed of all the guys we talked to. He didn't want to end his Cal career like this.
After the one-on-one interviews, we all went back up to the work area and many of the writers finished up articles before their deadlines. It was late (almost 10 already) and I didn't have any deadlines to meet (the iron grip at CGB is slipping!) so I packed up my stuff and headed for my car so I could get started on the long drive home.
Despite the loss, this was one of the best experiences I have had attending a football game. It was great to be up there watching from the press box while constantly being fed stats and facts from Cal officials. If Cal ends up at the Q again next season, I'd gladly come back as a member of the press.