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Wrap-up of San Diego Chargers FanFest

In the spirit of the first wrap-up (which everyone seemed to enjoy), here's my story from my second day as a credentialed Chargers writer.

I'll start by telling you about the end of my first day.  As I walked out of the locker room, after talking with Merriman, I passed by Bill Johnston, the Chargers Director of PR.  He's the guy responsible for handing our press credentials and I knew I had only been credentialed for Friday.  I was going to go Saturday as a fan, but now I was thinking about all of the great interviews I could get with a media credential on this second day as well.  So I stopped Bill and asked if I could get a media credential for FanFest and he says "Yeah, sure.  Come by the west tunnel, where the buses come in, and we'll have a PR person there.  They'll give you your credentials."

So, I head over to the Q on Saturday morning.  I park and walk to the stadium, with no clue as to where the west tunnel is.  I asked one of the Elite Security people, a woman checking bags, and she pulled a map from her pocket.  "Go this way", she says while pointing in the direction I had already been going in.  "It's about 1/4 of the way around the stadium, near Gate E".  The easiest thing to do at that point would be to just find Gate E.  Instead, I just heard "this way" and "1/4 of the way around the stadium".  So off I go, heading in the direction she pointed.

I find a tunnel and what looks like a player parking lot.  There's a table next to this tunnel and about 5 guys are sitting at it.  I walk up and ask if this is the west tunnel.  After a couple seconds of confused looks, one guy says "This is the east tunnel."  I asked if he was kidding, nope.  I asked if any of them were from the Chargers PR department.  Nope.  "So the west tunnel would be on the opposite side of the stadium?"  Yup.  Off I went, going in the same direction I had been going the whole time.

This time I'm just looking for another tunnel and/or Gate E.  I'm close to giving up and just going into the seats, but I want to get interviews so I keep on going.  I get to Gate E, and at this point I've walked about 90% around the stadium.  I see no tunnel.  I walk to Gate F, no tunnel.  Gate G (now 100% around the stadium), no tunnel.  I turn around and start walking back to the Chargers "Ticket Office" for some answers.  I ask for somebody from the PR department and I'm told "They're at the west tunnel, right by Gate E."  Oh, okay.

So now I think I've lost it.  I walk back to Gate E (at this point I've probably walked around the stadium 1 1/2 times) and start looking everywhere.  Suddenly, I realize I'm standing in between the tunnel and Gate E.  Gate E is hard-to-find, even hard-to-see, from Gate E.  But it's right there.  So now I have to walk away from the stadium for a bit to get to the top of the ramp for the west tunnel.  Since I see some guys hanging at the top of the ramp, this is where I assume the PR people will be.

I find a shortcut, through a fenced-off parking lot, and the security guy lets me through when I tell him I'm trying to get the west tunnel.  That's all I had to say.  So I'm walking through fences and the next thing I know, I come out halfway down the west tunnel ramp and the team buses, filled with players, are barreling down the ramp.  A security guy, stationed at the top of the ramp, sees me and freaks out.  His eyes bug out, he starts yelling, and he does his best to run down and grab me.  I go graciously back to the top of the ramp and to the other side of the special security line painted on the ground before he calms down.

I tell him why I'm there and what I'm doing.  He claims if I was media I'd have a pass, one wtih my picture and name on it, hanging around my neck.  I let him know that I was at training camp the previous day and they actually give out wristbands.  He goes "What color wristband?" and I tell him, but he seems no more convinced.  I think at this point he realized I wasn't crazy, but he wasn't going to take chances.  He told me I had to wait at the top of the ramp until the buses were emptied and turned around before I was allowed to walk down.  The PR people at the bottom of the ramp gave me my new wristband and let me in without a problem.

So here I was.  I'm walking through the tunnels of the Q and getting strange looks from everyone.  I peek into the locker room as I walk by, to see if there's any players in there, and I get harassed.  "Who are you?  What are you doing?"  These Elite Security people are suspicious of everyone.  I see nobody is in the locker room so I let them know I'm just looking to get on the field.  A kind woman points me down a hallway and says "You have to walk down the field level seats to get on the field."  That seems odd.  There has to be an easier way, since I'm right next to the locker room and the players damn sure don't walk down the field level seats (wouldn't that be awesome?), but I wasn't going to argue.  I had plenty of time.

Since adults accompanied by kids 14 and under were being allowed on the field from certain sections, it wasn't hard to find an aisle that was going down to the field.  So I walk down, and when I get to the security guys on the field I'm harshly told "Only adults with kids 14 and under are allowed on the field."  I show my media wristband, thinking I'll be waved along.  Nope.  I'm pulled aside while an Elite Security guard reads through some papers to see where media people are and are not allowed.  Considering I had been inside the Chargers locker room on Friday, this seemed silly.  After a few minutes he patted me on the shoulder and said "You're good" and off I went to the field.

Going on the field was a mistake.  Not only was it really hot in the sun, but you couldn't do anything on the field but wrestle little kids for autographs (which I had no interest in doing).  After 5 minutes of walking around aimlessly I figured this would be a good time to use the restroom and take a seat, at least until practice starts and the autograph hounds are sent back to their seats.

With practice starting at 11, I went back down to the field at 10:55, but I made a crucial mistake.  I tried to go through a different security guard than the first time.  This one again pulled me to the side, then held me by the wrist (seriously) while escorting me to somebody who would know whether or not I was allowed on the field.  More reading of papers, more time spent feeling silly.

At 11, things heated up.  The fans did not want to leave the sidelines, lest they miss an opportunity to get an autograph.  Security decided the best way to handle this is to form "human walls" in front of them and just start walking them backwards.  Unfortunately, I got caught in this mess twice.  I also got harassed with "SIR!  Please move back to your seat!" three other times  More showing of the wristband, more discussions between Elite Security guards, more madness.  This was a mess.  No wonder all of the journalists I had talked to on Friday said they weren't coming to FanFest.

Finally, I learn the score.  I was screwed.  There's a "press section" right outside the tunnel, the ones the players come out of, and I should be over there.  The woman who made me walk through Field Level had caused this mess.

I get over to the press section and realize that I really am the only journalist there.  I try to interview a player while he stretches before practice and I get a "You're new, aren't you?" look.  I guess that's not okay.  I look around and realize it's all photographers and radio booths here today.  Screw it, I was going to watch and maybe I'd try to grab players when they were done with radio.

That was, until I started melting.  I had been on the field for over and hour and felt sunburnt everywhere.  My skin has apparently become weakened by the east coast.  At this point, Jonny Dub texted me and let me know that he was in the seats right above the tunnel.  So I walked down the player's tunnel, into an elevator (operated by an Elite guard who was spitting tabacco into an empty water bottle) and up to the seats.  God bless the shade.

While chatting wtih Jonny Dub and his significant other for a while, I realized something.  I had seen the players get off the buses.  They were in their uniforms and pads already.  What were the chances that they players were going to even sniff the locker room after practice?  None.  They hadn't brought a change of clothes.  More than likely, they'd spend post-practice signing more autographs before hopping on the bus and heading back to the hotel (5 minutes away).  Okay, now it's really obvious that I showed my level of expertise (quite low) as a journalist by asking for a media credential to this event.  Oh well.

So I stuck around for the remained of practice, enjoying the shade and the good performance being put on by most of the team.  I waited until the end and saw the autographs starting over again, confirming my suspicions.  I drove home somewhat disappointed, for having not had another opportunity to interview the players, but still happy to be surrounded by Chargers fans in such a positive atmosphere.

Thanks to the guys who came and hung out with me at the bar last night.  I'm sure I probably made an ass out of myself, but nobody said so to my that was nice of them.  Meeting jbox for the first time was cool, and he's convinced me to half-ass this blog instead of stressing about it.  So when the quantity and quality of content gets worse and worse, he's the man you can blame.

I know I promised pictures and interviews to be posted today, but my friends and family have already threatened me with torture if I spend all day transcribing interviews on the computer.  My apologies.  I'll do it during my flight home tomorrow and I'll get all (or most) or them up on Tuesday.  The pictures will go up around the same time.