A Day in the Life

As I’ve mentioned before, I used to be part of the in-house video crews for the Astros and the Texans. I thought that, with the Texans opening the regular season on Sunday, I’d give you a little behind the scenes look into a game day with the video crew.

(A disclaimer: this is slightly exaggerated for comic effect. And I also want to say that the camera, tape, graphics, engineering, and sound personnel who make up the Texans in-house video crew are some of the best people with whom I’ve ever worked, and they’re true professionals.)

6:47 a.m.: Call time is at 7:00 a.m. So I drive up Kirby to the proper entrance into the Reliant Park fortress. I note that trucks toting grills and barbeque pits are already lined up at all of the entrances, waiting for the gates to parking lot to open to the general public at 8:00 a.m. (I should also note that the number of vehicles backed up for parking is proportional with the weather. The worse the weather, the more vehicles there are waiting to get in. Yeah, the whole tailgate thing doesn’t make sense to me either.)

6:49 a.m.: I explain to the parking cop that yes, this parking pass hanging from my rearview mirror which says access at any time really does, in fact, mean access at any time.

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6:50 a.m.: I explain to the attendant at the parking booth that, yes, this parking pass hanging from my rearview mirror which says access at any time really does, in fact, mean access at any time.

6:51 a.m.: I explain to the guy trying to direct me to the blue lot that my parking pass hanging from my rearview mirror which says that I’m to park in the red lot does, in fact, mean that I’m supposed to park in the red lot.

6:53 a.m.: I wait for the guy to come in his golf cart to open up the gate that will allow me into the proper parking lot. A line of cars builds up behind me, my fellow video crew members, as we await the right to drive into the lot where we’re supposed to park.

7:03 a.m.: the guy shows up and wants to know why we’re trying to get in. I explain that the parking pass hanging from my rearview which says access at any time does, in fact give me access to this parking lot at any time.

7:10 a.m.: I walk into the video control room, located in an undisclosed location in the Reliant Park fortress (I’m not in the stadium, and expect for going to the Texas Bowl last season, I’ve never been inside the stadium for a Texans game).

7:12 a.m.: hellos have been made. I grab a Coke for my caffeine fix, take my seat on the last row of the room, and make sure the proper cameras are punched into the monitors I will be watching for the game.

7:13 a.m.: the proper cameras are not punched into the monitors. I hunt down the guy responsible for this. He promises to have it done by game time.

7:14 a.m.: I return to the control room to discover that one of the camera guys has taken my seat and is bitching because I brought the Sunday New York Times and it doesn’t have a good sports page.

7:30 a.m.: the camera guys start loading up carts with the camera equipment and cables that they’re going to lug over to Reliant Stadium. I take my seat and hit the internet on the computer in front of me. It is. I read my standard communist pinko web sites like Daily Kos and Atrios, which I didn’t read on Saturday.

9:30 a.m.: I’ve finished surfing the web and I’ve made it through most of the Times, which I’ve traded to one of the guys in tape room (note, video tape’s not really used that much anymore, it’s all on computer). He gives me the Chron. I get sick reading Justice and Ortiz.

10:05 a.m.: it must be time for lunch because all of the camera guys have come back (hint: if you’re ever at a sporting event and want a free meal, just watch the camera guys because they know how to hunt down free food).

10:45 a.m.: the food arrives, but the camera guys have already headed back over to the stadium. That means more cold pizza for the rest of us.

11:58 a.m.: I check on my monitors. The right cameras are punched in.

Noon: kickoff. I actually begin work. I’ve got a pad of paper in front of me. I’m wearing head phones. I’ve got the three cameras which sit high up on the fifty and the twenties so that I can follow the ball. I’ve got the stadium graphic’s feed up on the other two monitors, and I’m on NFL.com, sitting on the Texans game so that I can keep up with the stats.

12:01 until the final gun: I watch the game. I keep track of yardage and first downs. If a stat that comes from the computer guys over in the stadium is wrong, or hasn’t updated, I let the woman in charge of putting the graphics up on the screen know. She makes the corrections. This doesn’t happen often. I struggle to stay awake.

Oh, people, if you go to the stadium to see the football game, then I hate to tell you this, but the people in charge of the stadium entertainment experience don’t care about you. Why would anyone care about football? They’re focusing on your girlfriend, or your kid, or someone else that you forced to come to the game with you. So, lots of loud music. And lots of special effects. As for the replays: well, maybe if there’s enough time left after a commercial, or a trivia game, or a weather quiz. Or, it might be because the camera that would’ve had the shot was busy trying to find some fan who was a contest winner (remember, the actual game is secondary).

Further notes, and this is based on a conversation I overheard last season. The sound guy has been ordered to play only Top Forty music. So he’s playing some song, and some woman who’s supposed to be running things starts shouting at him about playing rap. He says that’s it one of the Top Ten songs in the country. She says she doesn’t care, Top Forty music. When he tells her that Top Ten means that it’s in the Top Forty, she says that doesn’t matter, by Top Forty she means oldies, classic rock, country, or maybe some of that alt-rock stuff. You know, Top Forty.

Another note: if you wonder why there aren’t more close-up shots of the Texans cheerleaders, it’s because Mrs. McNair doesn’t like that. The women are too sexy and wearing too tight clothes, and that’s not moral, so keep to wide shots, and group shots.

Also, if you’re listening to the P.A. guy, and you notice that he tells you that it’s 2nd and 6, but the video screen and the scoreboard tells you that it’s 2nd and 7, believe the scoreboard and the video screen. I don’t know who’s helping the P.A. guy, but he’s a moron who hasn’t gotten the spot of the ball right since Reliant Stadium opened.

3:15 p.m.: I fight through the drunks coming out of the game to get to my car.

3:30 p.m.: I drive through the drunks leaving the game to get out of the parking lot.

3:31 to 4:08 p.m.: I sit, not moving, on Kirby, as the traffic cops make the traffic worse – you would think that they’d have this thing figured out by now, but you’d think wrong.

4:45 p.m.: I’m home in time to see the second half of a legitimate NFL football game.

I won’t be doing that this season. It’s just not worth the hassle. Besides, I really want to watch some good football games on Sunday, and the Texans don’t qualify. - John Royal

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