If you weren’t lucky enough to go to this year’s Cotton Bowl, you really missed out. The atmosphere was electric, the venue was first-class and the game was amazing. And that was just Friday night.
Five of us from Bryan Broadcasting hit the road New Year’s Day to go up to Dallas for Cotton Bowl Week. I was still a little groggy from the night before, and to be honest, my heart wasn’t in it to work on a holiday (whose is?). But all of that changed when I walked through the hotel doors.
If you want to talk about swanky, the Omni Mandalay was it. After staying at Motel 6’s for most of my life, I was pretty suprised when someone in a suit offered to open the door for me. Fancy. The inside of the place was humongous, with a lobby big enough to hold a Kenny Chesney concert.
I went up to my room and found the thing I had been most anticipating, the robes. I consider myself to be a connoisseur of soft fabrics, and this stuff was about as soft as you can get without feeling dirty.
I made my way down to the media hospitality room where I was greeted by a number of warm faces (some of them quite attractive) and a free watch. Wait, what? Yes, a free watch. As if the food and open bar weren’t enough, they hit me up with a free watch. And it wasn’t a little cheap time peace either. This thing was nice. I’m wearing it right now as I type this. Pretty. Daggum. Awesome.
We set everything up Tuesday night and were ready to hit the ground running Wednesday morning. Tucker (a.k.a. “Frito on Candy 95”) asked me to return to the ol’ Intern Chair for a couple of days and help him and Leni out with the morning show. I’ve never been an early riser, not even a somewhat early riser, but when duty calls, you gotta put on your big boy britches and get up at 5:15. And that’s just what I did, Wednesday thru Friday, and I didn’t hit the snooze button once.
After broadcasting the morning show live on location (getting to wear the headsets was pretty cool), I ate a quick breakfast and then it was back to work, taking pictures and recording audio of the coach’s press conference at the hotel. To be able to sleep, eat and work in the same building was quite convenient. Perhaps I’ll spend the night up here and see how that works. Granted, we don’t have beds, showers or robes, so the co-workers might not be as enthusiastic as I am, but it’s worth a shot.
After covering the coach’s presser, I got to take a quick cat nap and then came back downstairs for my afternoon segment. It was pretty strange not broadcasting from my usual spot, but kudos to engineer Dusty Dusterhoff for hauling all the equipment around and making the magic happen.
Wednesday night, members of the press were invited to attend a free event at the Hilton Anatole as part of the festivities surrounding Cotton Bowl week. After taking a cab, I felt my pockets and discovered that I had forgotten my ticket. The bouncers, a.k.a. the Kilgore College Rangerettes, headed me off at the entrance and refused to let me pass. Luckily, I know people in high places (or low places, depending on the venue) and I was able to get in.
The inside was nothing likeI had expected. I figured the event would be a stuffy “get-together” of up-tight people, drinking and mingling. Instead, what I found was a huge room filled with arcade games, casino tables and a band with a huge dance floor. Not to mention some of the best ribs I’ve ever had.
As ‘Little Big Town’ performed in the background, the members of Bryan Broadcasting were busy racking up the chips at the Hold’em table. Granted, we weren’t playing with real money, but I still got a cool necklace for having the only ace in the hand.
Thursday was another day full of events, as Kevin O’Connor (K.O., as we call him) and I attended the Players Luncheon at the Hilton Anatole. Again, lots of food and lots of free stuff. We found these little cards on the table for a raffle and we filled them out, just in case (I never win those things, but it was worth a shot).
Brad Sham, the ‘Voice of the Cowboys’ was our MC that afternoon, and he introduced several big wigs from AT&T and the bowl committee to came up and give speeches. He also presented several videos on the history of the Cotton Bowl, as well as a video commemorating each team and their accomplishments for the season.
At the end, Mr. Sham called up both Landry Jones and Johnny Manziel and asked them both to draw a name card out of a box (the same cards we had filled out earlier). He called out two names and had those individuals stand up at their table. Mr. Sham then handed each quarterback a football and told them to throw it to the folks standing. Whoever caught it would win a free phone and the ball.
Now, this was a huge ballroom, with people and breakable stuff everywhere, and folks sitting around the chosen receivers started to scatter. Jones went first, overthrowing his man by at least 10 feet. Then, as Sham was talking to Manziel, Johnny threw a frozen rope right into one of the tables. It was, without a doubt, one of the most interesting luncheons I’ve ever been to.
That night, I was able to attend the Denim and Diamonds event at the Glass Cactus at the Gaylord Texan. Dusty, K.O. and I went, while Tucker and Louie headed out to the Across the Street Bar for a station event. Needless to say, I think I got the better of the two deals.
Not only did I get to go to this cool place and see the Gaylord for the first time, but the talent that night was none other than Miss Kelly Clarkson (She of American Idol and top hits fame). I got one of the best seats in the house, and it was almost like Kelly was singing right to me. My only regret was that I had filled up on chili dogs back at the hotel and I had to miss out on the delicious cuisine at the Cactus (I heard the shrimp and grits were excellent).
We continually sent picks to Tucker and Louie throughout the night, and they in turn sent us pictures of the bar, most notably the bar cat. This was big deal for Tucker, because he is OBSESSED with felines.
We had an early start in the morning, so we had to board the first bus leaving the Gaylord, but a great time was had nonetheless.
Finally, it was Friday, the big day. I started the morning out as usual, helping Tucker with the morning show and putting together my afternoon segment for WTAW. I was right in the middle of giving my sports when I look up and who is at the TexAgs table but Barry Switzer and Jackie Sherrill. I didn’t know what to do, so I just kind of sat there, blubbering, until I realized I wasn’t making any sense. Cool. Real cool.
After I had finished, I headed up to the room to catch a quick nap before going to Jerry World. On the elevator I was met by a plethora of Sooner fans, all jacked up and ready for the game. The hotel was undoubtedly their Cotton Bowl headquarters. I somehow managed to make it to my floor unscathed, and I quickly went to my room and locked the door. You can never be too careful with Okies around.
At around 3 O’clock it was time to head to the stadium. The bus dropped us off near the local Wal-Mart and I couldn’t believe the number of Aggies partying and tailgating in the parking lot. I’ve seen tailgates at Kyle Field before, but with such an enormous venue like Jerry World, there’s a lot more room for pre-game activities.
My first job was to go out and interview fans at the teams’ ‘Huddle Ups’. K.O. and I both covered the events, and somehow I managed to get stuck on the Sooner’s side (he says it was a coincidence, but I beg to differ).
So there I was, in my maroon WTAW shirt, asking OU fans if they were enjoying the Cotton Bowl. All of the people I talked to seemed to be very nice and courteous, and each one of them politely told me that OU was going to kick the ever-loving crap out of A&M.
As I went from person to person, I realized the more interviews, I gave the worst my accent got. I guess it’s that Okie effect.
After asking all my questions and taking all the pictures I could, I headed up to the press box to get ready for the game. Now, when the Cowboys and Jerry Jones do it big, they REALLY do it big. There was a spread large enough to make Golden Corral jealous, and all the Dr. Pepper you could ever want (yes, that is a Forrest Gump reference. No, I’m not joking. There was a continuous fountain of DP).
After I had gorged myself on my favorite meal of hot dogs and chili (notice the pattern), I made myself comfortable and proceeded to watch Johnny and the Boys put the big hurtin on OU. In some ways, I wish the game had been closer, but in most ways, I don’t. The kind of win the Ags put together that night is something to build on for next year, a time when I’m sure the expectations will be higher than ever.
Getting to watch the game from the press box was definitely a cool experience. It had a great view, free food and drinks, and I actually got to sit down. However, the only downside was that I couldn’t cheer, and that almost got me into trouble a few times, especially since the Aggies were kicking butt the whole second half.
As the game was coming to an end, several media members and I made our way down to the field to watch the final few minutes. I played sports growing up, but this was nothing like I had ever experienced. The deafening noise as we walked out of the tunnel was awe-inspiring, and I was about ready to suit up myself (if I was just a little bigger, stronger and more athletic, I’d be out there too). We watched as the final seconds ticked off and the Aggies became Cotton Bowl Champions. It was definitely one of the coolest experiences of my life.
Afterward, K.O. and I made our way down to the press room, where players and coaches were giving interviews. I didn’t ask any questions, I just kind of soaked up my surroundings. Outside, a group of high-strung (possibly intoxicated??) Aggie fans were banging on the glass wall, going crazy as the players entered the room. I thought one girl was going to come through the glass and grab Johnny. Luckily, her boyfriend was there to hold her back.
After all the post-game interviews and after half-an-hour of walking around Cowboys Stadium trying to figure out where the hell we were, K.O. and I finally made our way back to the bus.
As soon as we pulled into the hotel I was ready to hit the sack. But, there were still people in the hospitality room, taking advantage of the ‘Media Night Brunch’ the hotel was putting on. It was chalked full of wholesome foods and drinks (bacon, hash browns, eggs and chocolate milk). I decided not to be a party-pooper and joined the others. After I had my fill, I went up to the room and had one of the best night sleeps I’ve ever had.
Thankfully, Tucker let me sleep in Saturday morning and around 11 we were ready to roll out. But of course, we couldn’t leave without first stopping by the Mecca of burger joints, In-N-Out Burger.
I had never been there before, so I was a little nervous. Tucker assured me that everything would be okay if I just followed his lead. So, I ordered what he ordered.
"A double cheeseburger, animal-style."
"And a drink."
Five pounds and 15 minute later, I could say with all sincerity that I was full.
As a member of the media, I know that I’m allotted a few perks now and then, but the ones I had for the Cotton Bowl were above and beyond my expectations. The staff did a great job of keeping all the media folks fat and happy, and for that, both me and everyone at Bryan Broadcasting thank them. Our waistlines, however, not so much.
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