I swear, I was happy about this.
This morning, I got the opportunity to meet up with some other bloggers and media folks at a Subway Restaurant near Ford Field, and break bread with Ndamukong Suh. It was an awesome event for me as a fan—to meet, talk to, and shake hands with the big man at the heart of the Lions’ defensive line. It was also an unbelievable experience as a blogger; I got to attend a “media event,” as actual media, and both chronicle it as an observer, and participate in it in an amazingly meta, Web 2.0 kind of way.
Those of you who’ve been reading for a while know I’m based out of Lansing, so I had to hack and slash my way through I-96 traffic to get down there in time. I was a little late.
When I got there, Suh was getting a crash course in sandwich artistry, and made Al Allen from Fox 2 a sandwich from start to finish. This led to a completely awesome situation where I took this picture here:
. . . and across the room, Rob Widdis from the Free Press was taking Suh’s picture there, while I was Tweeting the picture I took. In the gallery at the link above, you can play Where’s Waldo with me, Big Al from the Wayne Fontes Experience, Zac from SideLion Report, etc. After the sandwich-making experience, Suh talked with Allen about the importance of breakfast, getting a quality meal to start your day, especially in regards to children’s nutrition. These are issues near and dear to my heart—with three little ones of my own, I see a lot of kids their age who aren’t eating well. Proper nutrition is essential for long-term health; I love when people with platforms, like Suh, take up the banner.
With that out of the way, the folks at Catalyst Public Relations set up a Skype link between us and a Subway in New York doing the same thing with Justin Tuck. Tuck was running late in traffic of his own, so the gathered New York bloggers and media took the opportunity to interview Suh.
Someone asked Ndamukong what he did with Jake Delhomme’s head; he said “I gave it back.” He was also asked about his run towards (if not actually to) paydirt on his interception of Sam Bradford, and if he was lobbying to play offense. I was stunned to hear Suh answer that they actually had an offensive package for him in the playbook, it just hadn’t been called yet. I got the sense that he’d relish a chance to touch the ball again.
While we waited for Justin Tuck to arrive, some of the assembled bloggers took the opportunity to meet and greet. This is one of the interesting layers of the event: as a fan blogger, I’m both there to meet a player I’m a fan of, and there to observe and report. This is blurring the lines in a way that many aren’t comfortable with; there have been several dust-ups this year where credentialled media members have asked for athletes’ autographs, with vociferous reaction from respected bloggers and media alike. I didn’t want to be “that guy,” you know? But then I remembered my mission statement and manifesto:
But me? I'm a fan. I was born a fan, and I will die a fan. The hooting and derision of the American sports culture has set my resolve. I'm sick of getting snickers on the football-y corners of the Internet. I'm sick of getting reaction takes when I wear Lions gear around town. I've thought about starting this blog for years, but this morning I knew that today was the day. I've pulled my hood tight, I've loaded up the sled with wood, and I've got fuel and spark to spare. I'm going to reclaim my Lions pride. I'm going to fan that little blue flame into the great big bonfire it ought to be, and nobody's going to be prouder than me when thousands are once again carrying torches to rally behind this team.
So yeah—no pretensions about who I am or what I do; hand shaken, picture taken, autograph gotten (H/T to Big Al). Besides, the whole event was so incredibly meta it beggared belief:
I Twitpic’d this picture of bloggers Twitpicing, and media filming, Ndamukong Suh simultaneously texting and Skyping with bloggers and media in New York, and all of us talking football together. How awesome is this? Again, major credit to Catalyst PR for putting together this event!
Ndamukong had to leave for a scheduled live appearance on ESPN First Take; shortly afterwards Justin Tuck arrived. We took the opportunity to ask a few questions of Justin, who was happily noshing on a freshly-made Subway breakfast sandwich throughout. I managed to get one question in . . . and I asked him if he could take down Suh in a sandwich-eating contest. He said “he’d be sick for two weeks afterwards,” but through pure effort he’d take down the big rookie.
Phil Zaroo of Mlive.com actually asked an actual football question, “Any predictions for Sunday?” Tuck predicted that the two teams would take the field, either the Giants or the Lions would kick off, either the Giants would try to score while the Lions tried to stop them, or the Lions would try to score while the Giants tried to stop them, and then they would switch, and then they would pretty much alternate like that until time ran out—and at the end, one team would have more than one point more than the other team. Phil wouldn’t let him off the hook: “So, no ties? You guarantee no ties?” Tuck considered this for a moment, and then capitulated: “Yes. I guarantee no ties.”
After a little more back-and-forth and joking around, time ran out—and all the pros in the room packed up with incredible speed. Honestly, as amazing as it was to get to see Ndamukong Suh, shake his hand, and talk to him outside of a football environment, it was just as awesome to meet some of my friends and colleagues I’ve known only through the Internet. Being a fan of, or covering, the Lions is a unique curse—but it’s also a blessing, because those of us who are so cursed support each other like no other. Thanks again to Subway, Catalyst PR, Ndamukong Suh, and everyone else involved in this awesome event.