Monday, December 12, 2005

Bengals 23, Browns 20: The Hornless Rhino's Excellent Adventure

Frustrating, wasn't it? All I can say is that the Browns are getting better, and for now, this is what getting better looks like. Back-to-back heartbreakers to two of the AFC's best teams don't leave fans feeling happy, but they ought to leave them feeling hopeful. Charlie Frye played tough in a hostile environment, and--along with a couple of tough red zone performances by the Browns' defense--helped give the Browns a chance to win a game that nobody thought they had a shot at.

In the "now it can be told" category, the Hornless Rhino is free to disclose from where he viewed yesterday's game: the Browns' sideline at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati. Yup, I was on the field as part of the game day staff for the Browns. How cool is that? A buddy of mine knows a guy who works for the Browns, and I guess they sometimes need sideline help at away games. My friend asked if I'd like to help him out at the Bengals game, and after thinking for about one nanosecond, I said "sure."

My job was helping one of the Browns' video guys. The Browns have cameras positioned above the playing field and they take sideline and end zone shots of each play. One photo from each vantage point is taken immediately before the snap, and one is taken immediately afterward. The photos are taken by a member of the Browns' video department, who operates the cameras remotely from a booth in a small vinyl tent behind the team's bench. The photos are then labeled with information about which possession it is, and the down and distance, and are handed to runners who deliver them to appropriate members of the coaching staff after each series. That's where I came in.

We had to get to the stadium two hours before kick-off. We gave our names to a security guy, who matched us up with a list of people who were to get credentials for the game. I saw this list, and it had to have a couple of hundred names on it. After we got our credentials, we pretty much had the run of the place--we even got to go into the Browns' locker room for a few minutes, until one of the Browns' security guys told us we were supposed to meet our contact someplace else. We then hooked up with our contact, who showed us the ropes out on the field. We hung out on the field for a while and watched some of the individual players warm up, and then we moved on up to the press box level of the stadium, where the Bengals put on this incredible spread of food for all of the people working the game, including us.

After pigging out, it was time to get back down on the field. The video guy from the Browns threw a bunch of white parkas with the team name on them at us and told us we had to wear them (there were three of us). He must have also reminded us about 30 times during the game that he needed to get them back at the end of the game. I don't know why he was so worried that we'd walk off with them, other than maybe the fact that this is exactly what we would have done if given half a chance.

For the first half of the game, I was designated to deliver photos to the defensive and offensive line coaches (they get the end zone shots). So, I was running around amongst the Browns, literally a few feet from Charlie Frye, Ruben Droughns, Ryan Tucker and the other players, trying to find an opportune time to shove the photos into the fist of the coach. Yes, it rocked, and yes, I tried very hard to look as cool as possible. That was helped by my parka, which made me look very official.

The second half was harder work. I had to help the video guy tear the photos off the printer and label and staple them. That's work, especially if you're trying to keep up with a team like the Bengals, who spent pretty much the whole afternoon running the no-huddle. Even though we had the game on a monitor in the video tent and the action was only a few feet away, I was so focused on getting the photos done and labelled properly that the first part of the second half was a blur. I finally got comfortable with it by about the end of the third quarter.

What can I tell you about the sidelines? Well, if you've ever played or coached football, the one thing I can tell you is that there are similarities to what you've experienced. Some of the guys who aren't in the game sit around talking about the last series. The offensive guys cheer on the defense. On third down, the coaches warn the special teams guys to get ready to go in. Somebody's always looking for one of the equipment guys to do something for him.

There are some other insights that may not be so commonplace. For example, I can tell you with authority that the official profanity of the NFL is a 12 letter (when used as a noun) compound word that begins with "M" and describes conduct that is illegal in all 50 states. The other thing I can tell you is that I now truly understand why, whenever somebody asks a rookie what the toughest part about of transitioning to the pro game is, the invariable answer is "getting used to the speed of the game." Standing on the sidelines gives you a chance to appreciate that speed much more than you do from the vantage point of even the best seat in the stadium. These guys are just unbelievable athletes, and the speed of the game almost takes your breath away.

When it was over, I turned in my parka, the Browns' guys thanked us for helping, and I began the long trek back to Cleveland. I kept my credential, and grabbed a handful of photos that were printed out but the coaches weren't interested in seeing as a souvenir. Like many of you guys, I spent a lot of time as a kid dreaming of playing on an NFL field. This is as close to that dream as I ever got, but it was still awesome.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm sad that the Bears lost, but Cami did some really nice things that made it all right this weekend. Shje always trashes me about being loud and way too obvious but she was WAAAAAAAAAAAAY louder than I was.

Cami will be pissed but that caused the end of a relationship with her last boyfriend. He always wanted to watch us together but couldn't handle it when it happened. He got totally pissed when he heard her making noises with me. I didn't think it was any big deal because she's really really really loud all the time. I guess she wasn't with him.

She told me that he asked her why she made some gurgling sound when I was doing some stuff to her ( I really shouldn't say here what I was doing cause Cami's mom might read this someday). Then he asked why she didn't make those same sounds when they were together. I guess her answer wasn't too good because they broke up right after that.

She was kind of bummed for a while but I always thought he was lame.

I'm sorry that I don't write more since you've been mentioning the Bears but I've been busy. I'll try to do better if you guys give me some more luvin.

Keep me in mind.