After riding MARTA into town -- quite an experience when Atlanta hosts major events -- a couple friends and I walked around the Centennial Park where there was a stage featuring Zac Brown Band, Ludacris and others throughout the weekend. It did not take long to grow wary of the general public, who was there for the free concerts. I've seen concerts but never had I been to a Final Four. There was different end goal on my mind, and I was ready to get into the Georgia Dome as quickly as possible.
|The most reasonably priced souvenir,|
a mile away from the Georgia Dome
We hung around the CNN Center before I got a call and left my group to meet up with my ticket holders, family friend Chris Peacock and his son. I walked up and down one of the 17 different Peachtree Streets of Atlanta before finding my way onto the roof of Max's Lager House. There I met a couple of different people who made the confusion of navigating Atlanta well worth the adventure.
First was Kevin Blackistone, former sports columnist at the Dallas Morning Star, journalism professor at the University of Maryland and panelist on ESPN's Around the Horn and Pardon the Interruption. He's a star in the sports journalism world so I was immediately at a loss for words. Without hesitation and being that sports is his job, he asked me, "What are you doing down here? Who do you pull for?" (the sports' world pleasantry equivalent of "Hi. How are you?)
Answering with "I am a fan of basketball like everyone here, and my team is the Arkansas Razorbacks." He quickly responded with more knowledge of the 1994 National Championship run and 1995 National Championship game than I ever knew. Granted, it was his job to cover these teams back in the day, but how he could know so much about those squads to this day was astonishing. And to know that he could have that conversation with fans of other teams with ease is shocking. I know this because I saw him talk Elon basketball with guys one table over who recognized Blackistone from his ESPN appearances.
Also at the table was David Jackson, who writes for USA Today and has a blog, The Oval, where he follows President Barrack Obama and the happenings at the White House. He has covered the last five presidential elections and could out duel you in a game of "Name Dropping." I promise. Jackson, also a Northwestern graduate, went to the game with us .While there, I was able to have some lengthy discussions about writing and the journalism business with a veteran high up in the industry.
None of this even involved what I was anticipating most, the basketball games.
The benefit of going on Saturday of the Final Four is that you get to see both semifinal games. Of course I spent a fair amount of the games using binoculars looking for different sports writers, columnists, broadcasters and analysts. Nerd alert.
We got lucky. Both games came down to the final minutes, and on Monday as I watched the game I could claim to have seen both teams live (one of those things only I care about). This is where I could transition into how annoying Syracuse fans are, but I will stay away from that topic until the masses call for it. There's also a good story about my run-in with the Georgia Dome's Director of Concessions about a cup if you ever need a good laugh.
We could get into the details of the game but a quarter of the country watched them, and there were no broken legs. Instead, I will take a second to post some pictures and send out an enormous thank you to Chris and his son for letting me tag along. I got to see meet some people (coaches, writers, analysts) and see some things I had only dreamed about since I can remember watching basketball.
|Inside the CNN Center|
|CBS Sports setup outside at Centennial Park|
|Chris and his son|
|Postgame -- I had a hard time leaving.|
|I watched the championship game with my official cup, |
which might have come at the expense of someone's job.