Friday, Sept. 23, 2011
Posted: 9:24 a.m.
By Frankie O
Every journey starts with a first step. My latest was getting approval to do the Moneyball sports press junket. Hollywood is a non-stop machine that churns out product week after week. Being able to create a buzz that will entice you to part with your hard earned cash is a finely choreographed dance, well sometimes, but more on that later. Filling your TV, newspaper, computer, and radio airwaves with this weeks must-see is critical to creating a ground-swell of anticipation for this weeks model. Think about it. Its all around you every week. Why is the big star on Letterman this week? Selling! Did you see the cover of your latest periodical? Selling! Front page feature in USA Today? Sell, sell, sell! For yours truly, Ive been able to witness the game first-hand almost twenty times now, courtesy of Comcast SportsNet Chicago.
Sports movies have always held a special place for me. Its part of being a guy. Most of the classic guy films have included sports in some way. The driving force behind these films is either humor or the fight against adversity. Clich, but time tested. As long as the viewer can relate and be entertained, the potential for a hit is always there. Lately, the Hollywood version of a true story has been the way to go. Think of The Fighter or The Blind Side. I think the success of The Blind Side and the non-sports movie, The Social Network made it inevitable that the book Moneyball would be turned into the latest sports would-be blockbuster. Oh, and the fact that a certain A-list star has been obsessed with seeing the book reach the big-screen with himself in the starring role.
Saturday was a late night. I knew it was coming. I never get to sleep the night before I fly. If you know Im flying somewhere come on in the bar at Harrys the night before because I guarantee you the joint will be rocking. One of the joys of flying to Oakland, I found out, is that there are very few non-stop flights from Chicago and the ones there are, were of no use to me. Layovers mean you have to start earlier. How cool is that?
The travel is always the wild-card in my junket adventures. Most, or should I say all, of the people that I work with or meet on these travel all of the time. I dont know how they do it. The morning of flying is rough. At my age, not getting any sleep is not good for anyone. Luckily I find that consuming gallons of caffeine can get me through just about anything. As with any flight, the concern is with the amount of time that it will take to get through security. Leaving on a Sunday morning, I mistakenly thought, would be a piece of cake. Arriving at the airport, bleary-eyed, with my blood pressure sky rocketing from the mass quantities of diet Dew coursing through my veins, I arrived at a security line that was 500 deep. This isnt good. My mind was racing faster and faster as the line seeming moved slower and slower. I cant miss this flight! My head was about to explode. As Im contemplating things I dont feel comfortable contemplating -- faking injuries is all the rage now isnt it? -- out of nowhere, a TSA guard walks up and points to a group of us, and says to follow him through the employee entrance that was around the corner. He didnt have to tell me twice! Im behind you big man! The voice behind me said as I sprinted to the unexpected opening before any of the other unsuspecting cattle noticed.
I dont always believe in omens, well except that any miss-step means certain doom for any team that I root for, but this has to be a good sign right? Then I catch another bit of good fortune when Im in the closest terminal and my flight is leaving out of the first gate. Nice. With my new found extra five minutes, I wandered over to the Nuts on Clark kiosk and was astonished to find an abundance of my beloved diet Mountain Dew. Those who know me realize what a eureka moment this was. Fully amped for the first leg of my eight hour flying adventure, I start to pore over all of my reference material about my unsuspecting victims. You know youve made it when you get to answer inane questions from a red-bow-tie wearing TV bartender!
I was going to do four interviews: By themselves Jonah Hill and author of the book Moneyball, Michael Lewis. Chris Pratt, who would be together with the player he portrays in the movie, Scott Hatteberg. Then the moment of truth: Billy Beane along with Brad Pitt. Even after the fact, I still laugh typing that. Im always amused by the thought of what these people are thinking when they see me coming, but more on that later.
Due to my schedule, I never seem to have the time to do anything until its time to do it. That or I have a procrastination problem. Just like the diet Im going to go on, Ill get around to it! Anyway, I spend all of my time on the flight reading about the people I need to know about. I love Wikipedia! Who cares if its accurate? That only helps with my special line of questioning. By the time the flight is done, I usually have enough. I like to read as much as I can so that I can come up with something different. Most of the time, the questions take care of themselves. You want to ask them about their film, but if time permits, why not have fun? The other thing is, that until you watch the movie, you might not have the question that you want to lead with anyway. Thats almost always the most important one and usually sets the tone for the four-minute session. So I read and read and read and scribble down my questions. Sometimes, I can even read them.
Before I know it, the plane is landing in Vegas. There are certain prime spots for people watching and they dont get much better than McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, Nevada. Its the 15th busiest airport in the world (thank you wiki!) for passenger traffic. They say its not polite to stare, but it seems like half the people here are begging you to. The other half is trying to figure out how much they lost or what they actually did the night before. Part of me is disappointed Im only going to be here for an hour. The first priority is to feed my vice. No, it isnt playing one of the 1,234 (wiki!) slot machines in the airport. Those arent for people who have just landed anyway, are they? If you were staying wouldnt you be in a hurry to get to your hotel? Theyre for the poor suckers chasing their tails and trying to get a hit before they leave. More than likely theyre just rubbing salt their wounds.
What had my interest though, of course, is my fantasy score and the status of the Bears game. As I stood outside the packed airport bar with my luggage along with about 20 others, looking in on the games, I wondered how it could get to this. If we can put a man on the moon, and tens of thousands of steel contraptions in orbit around earth, why cant I use my phone on the plane? Honestly! Fortunately I was able to catch up on my score and was pleased to find out where I stood. Unfortunately for the Bears, catching up was not to be in the cards for them in their game against the Saints.
As I went back to get in line for my next flight, I stopped in a news store and check and see which magazine had my boy Pitt on the cover, I knew he would be there somewhere. Just like clockwork, there he was. Entertainment Weekly was on board the Moneyball express and Im sure there will be more to follow. The EW and a bag of M&Ms would get me through the next flight. It was time to get to Oakland.
Check back to CSNChicago.com for part two of this story.