"Are you with the press?” the NBA employee said.
“Yes,” I replied with the biggest smile on my face since the last time I watched Steve Martin in My Blue Heaven.
After finding my name on the list, he placed around my neck an official NBA press pass.
This was the coolest @#%&*! thing ever. I had just entered the TD Waterhouse Center in Orlando as a member of the media. Not only would I watch the Magic take on the Houston Rockets, I could enter the locker rooms and talk to anyone. I pinched my thigh to see if I was dreaming.
Awake and hungry, off I went to the press room buffet.
I scouted the place out while indulging in some healthy carrots, pretzels and drinking enough free Pepsi to serve half the arena. Quickly walking to the court, I did exactly what any diehard basketball fan would do – grab a ball and shoot around. They actually let me. I showed “The Pass.”
And then, it was business time.
My mission for the night was to track down former Gator Mike Miller for an interview to go in this magazine. Miller, who hails from South Dakota where he played his high school games in the Corn Palace, was listed as day-to-day (but then again, aren’t we all) due to some nagging injuries.
Since he wasn’t playing, I thought tracking him down would be as easy as beating your mom in tic-tac-toe. Like many things I assume, I was wrong.
I entered the locker room pre-game asking around if anyone had seen Miller. No one, as if he wasn’t 6’6’’, had seen him.
Next, the press room. Second verse, same as the first.
After heading down the corridor, I took a time-out from my search for #50 to scarf down some more free food in “media feeding” – a free dinner provided by the Magic to its own staff and media.
As the last bite of mashed potatoes went down, I noticed tip-off was lurking. In route to my press seat, I concluded that I would do my interview after the game.
Like a tower guard watching prisoners in jail, one eye was kept on Miller, sitting next to Grant Hill, at all times. During the third quarter, Miller mysteriously went undetected on my radar. I figured he went to the trainer’s room to get some treatment. The plan was still on to get him after Doc Rivers addressed the team post game.
When Tracy McGrady hit the winning jumper, it was go-time.
I made my way down the steps fast, trying to stay focused and calm. After a quick glance at the team dancers, I took a right turn past the bench, looked at the dancers again, and proceeded to the press room.
It was all happening fast. I didn’t want to mess up.
My head down, waiting…waiting…I look up, Jackpot.
Miller is halfway down the hall with his car keys in hand ready to ride out. I take off, trying to get my tape recorder out of my pocket as I do my best Carl Lewis impression.
Hoping not to stutter, I catch up and start firing:
DS: How was your
time in Gainesville?
Two hot dogs, one
large pretzel, two giant Cokes, a dozen small Pepsis, pretzels, carrots,
brisket, some mashed potatoes, two hours of watching NBA basketball and
a two-minute interview. Does it all add up? It doesn’t have to.