Wednesday, January 22, 2020
6:45 p.m. – iLoveKickboxing studio
The most monotone homer broadcaster in the world, according to one Florida Everblades fan, arrives at iLoveKickboxing on Haywood Road, tired from the day, his eyes burning from staring at his screen all day…or probably the wear and tear for years on end.
I put drops in beforehand, but they sting like hell. It appears I’ve inherited the whole “dry eyes” thing my dad has, just 30 years earlier. Oh well.
This time I want to try the heart rate monitor. Scott, the trainer for the class, lets me, as long as I surrender my license for the hour. I want to see just how many calories I burn. First, on go the orange wraps, methodically, then we go through the grueling 15-minute cardio session. Down 200 calories already. Geez. There goes the soda from this afternoon.
Problem is, I tire out so fast. I’m hopeful my cardio endurance will catch up at some point. I want to feel “fit,” ya know? My body certainly doesn’t feel like one that a 29-year-old should have. My goal is to get down from 226 over the summer to 200 at some point. We’ll see from there.
On go the white gloves. I get through the class and burn 849 calories. I wanted that 850th, but fell short. Damn. Next time, I guess. Some folks at class look at me strange when I say I’m going on a bus to Orlando tonight. I hope they enjoy their beds just the slightest bit more. This job doesn’t make a whole lot of sense sometimes, but ya know what, that’s okay.
After a large classic bowl and a ton of water from Tropical Grill on Woodruff, I go home.
8:55 p.m. - home
Our departure time moved up from midnight to 11. That means I gotta get this load of dark clothes in, and hope it’s done by 10:30, or I’m screwed. They’re in, quick. I put my electric toothbrush on the charger, pack the rest of my clothes, and now I wait. I exchange some quick messages with my best friend back home—his name coincidentally also Jordan. We met, legitimately, because a plug outlet was showing through a green screen during our school’s morning show.
Must have been fate.
I check on the update of the jersey t-shirt poll—Mason Baptista has the lead, but not by much—and I listen to the sound of my washer churning in the background. I look around, and my apartment is as cluttered as my mind. Haven’t been home much because the month of January has just been absolutely stacked with games, and not a lot of time here, except in my own bed.
Dryer’s on at 9:45. The race is on.
10:45 p.m. – the bus
On board. It’s always tough with my OCD to leave the apartment—and I mean legitimate, diagnosed OCD. I always fear my place is going to go up in flames. I don’t ever hope anyone in my life has to deal with this. Just something I have to.
I’m settled in on the bus. The guys are wondering if there are enough bunks. We finally figured it out and we’re off and running. Even when it’s 30 degrees outside, the guys want it cold in here. Guess I shouldn’t be too surprised.
I whip open my laptop and get right to work…put some vaporwave on and start prepping for our game against the Florida Everblades. It’s always nice to look at the schedule and know friendly faces are ahead. Dan Corcoran, the voice of the ‘Blades, he and I go back to our days in the USHL when I was in Dubuque, and he was in Bloomington, who then rebranded as the Central Illinois Flying Aces. I don’t think I’m alone in saying that rebrand was hot garbage.
I’ll see Jesse Liebman briefly in Orlando as well, a consummate pro’s pro. He knows his way around this league and has an infectious pragmatism I can get behind. We all know we’re each other’s competition, but you know what, we’re all the same overall kind of person. If we aren’t cynical, then something is wrong with us.
I’m going to bed.
Thursday, January 23, 2020
7:45 a.m. – somewhere in Orlando
I’m up. Well, the more accurate description is “I have been up, because sleeping on a bus is impossible and very uncomfortable.” My hip is killing me from kickboxing yesterday. We’re definitely in the sunshine state, and the sun is not out. It’s raining.
Our team slowly filters out of its collective slumber and heads over to McDonald’s across the street. Bacon, egg and cheese bagel is the way I go. Everything else is like 1,000 calories. What the crap. The thing I’ve always found on the road is that it is nearly impossible to eat healthy. You just have to go with “the best option” and hope you don’t screw up.
How do people eat three meals and keep it under 2,000 calories? Blah.
9:30 a.m. – Downtown Orlando
We have arrived at Amway Center. This place is massive. I took a trip into the storage unit and there’s piles of boxes, NBA playoff baskets, just about anything you can think of. I thought about the absolutely massive operational cost it must be to keep this building going and staffed. Then I stopped thinking about it.
The Solar Bears are practicing now, as I make my way up to the press box where I’ll be sitting on Saturday afternoon. Down goes 40 mg of escitalopram, 10 mg of buspar, keeping me as stable as I can on the daily. I feel okay today. Better than usual I guess.
Our team hits the ice surface for practice as I type, type, type away on prep notes for our next game.
2:00 p.m. – hotel
I get to my room. It has an incredible view of downtown Orlando. I settle in, remember that I completely whiffed on recording part of the Plays of the Week, whip out the audio board and do that. It bothers me that the audio sounds different because I’m stuffier today than yesterday, but it’ll have to do. Hopefully nobody notices. Well, you might now because I told you, but whatever.
It’s nice to be done prep for a game days in advance. I’m going to take this day to enjoy as much as I can. I go downstairs to the receptionist to ask where there’s good Italian food. I get sent to Fratelli’s, which was okay. There was more sauce on my plate than chicken parm, so it was a little disappointing. As much as Gordon Ramsay is my internal spirit animal, I won’t be the guy to send it back.
It’s still raining. Still. So much for the Sunshine State. It’s temperate in terms of temperature, but it’s that annoying drizzle where you can’t look ahead without squinting and it’s just a mess.
I go back to my hotel room and settle in to just take a nap. It feels like it’s been a long day because…well, it has been. I get a text from Corey, our trainer. “Come to the game.” Oh, that’s right. Orlando plays Jacksonville tonight. What else am I gonna do?
A colleague who took up the reins of Millersville hockey after I started it called, as we agreed to chat earlier that day, and so I walked in the rain and talked to him about life, shop, and all of that. It was great to hear from him. Andrew Mossbrooks is in Peoria now, in the Southern Professional Hockey League. They’re so good it hurts. I’ve called a game in that building in Peoria, but that’s a long story for another day. Just a small world.
It’s also really cool that Millersville hockey didn’t help just me, you know? Their media coverage has only expanded and given opportunity to new Marauders…and that makes me proud…and feel very old in the process.
8:00 p.m. – Amway Center
The conversation ran long. That’s okay. I walk into the Amway Center during the second period, catching a game for the first time as an observer in a while. Only prior times lately is when I went to a few Wisconsin college hockey games during my time in Dubuque. It’s so strange not having to worry about my preparation, or my job, the thrill of the call, orchestrating the broadcast itself and making sure everything works.
Shawn, Kahlil and Corey are all there waiting for me, and with popcorn. Unlimited popcorn. That’s the best kind. It bothers me how fast I can eat popcorn mindlessly. It also bothers me how much it costs to buy popcorn at sporting events knowing what I know. Oh well, I don’t want to go too deep into that.
Johno May scores upon my arrival. I always want him to do well. It’s still weird to see him in an Orlando sweater after everything we went through over the past year and a half.
Orlando makes it look a little too easy on the ice against Jacksonville. Never seemed in doubt, especially when the Solar Bears score a late one, and then add the empty netter to put it all away. 5-2, the final.
We all walk home in the misty air, knowing that a long work day is ahead of us tomorrow. I settle into bed, put on a podcast, and drift away…
Friday, January 24, 2020
9:00 a.m. – hotel
I’m awake again. It’s game day, and it looks like Florida made a few roster moves. No problem, I’ll update that and send them off to Dan. I get to see my mom and my grandmother today. It’s the hardest part about being away from home—being away from my family. I’ve gotten used to it since moving away to South Carolina the first time, to Iowa, and now back here again, but I’ll always say I never see them enough.
I’ll take the half hour I get with my mommy today. We’ve been through so much as a family in the past year. I just wanna tell her how much I love her. My grandmother keeps her company in these “snowbird” months as my dad continues to work for the Comcast/NBC/Universal umbrella. I’ll always be grateful for all of them in supporting my dream.
They have my sunglasses that I left down here in Florida from my trip over Christmas and…I forgot the Christmas gift I intended to give my mom. I feel awful. I keep apologizing over and over, but it was a scramble to get ready, and my mom understands. She wouldn’t hold that against me…she knows I’m her little mess.
Pregame meal at noon. I’m packed and ready. Pasta and chicken. Wouldn’t have it any other way. I can’t tell you the hundreds of times I’ve had that in my career. We head to Estero.
4:00 p.m. – Hertz Arena
We’re early. I’d rather be early than not. I’m set up with plenty of time. I know I’m going to see my family, but I found out a week ago I was having other visitors. One thing I had during my time with Millersville was a strong connection to the players, and their families. Pete Scottoline was one of the players that made me feel the most welcome. His parents are coming to the game, and they want to see me!
The Scottolines find me first after I’ve had dinner. But my mom and my grandmother aren’t far behind. My mom’s already crying, or as she tells me, “has sunscreen in her eyes.” We all catch up for about 45 minutes. I find out in the conversation that Pete has taken up kickboxing (I’ll have to ask him what studio he’s using), and that I’ve made an impact on peoples’ lives. Sometimes I forget that, as when I’m calling a game, it’s like my voice disappears into the ether.
I remember one time when doing Millersville games, one of the players, after he was done, told me that my broadcasts helped him find light in life. I’ll never forget that moment. We may be spread all throughout the country, and I may have missed all of their weddings, but we’re all still a family, and we don’t forget the impact we had on each other.
It’s gotten so late! It’s 7:10 and I need to be on air at 7:15! The fans are wondering where the audio is. Dang it. I rush upstairs after hugging my mom and my mom mom and the Scottolines and go back up and call a game.
I hugged my mom extra tight. I know she needs it.
7:15 p.m. – the broadcast booth
Calling a game is a weird feeling. It doesn’t make a lot of sense. It’s like…a concentrated fog. I’m not thinking, I’m just reacting. I fall back on instinct, hundreds of games of experience, and my style is my style. I don’t think it’s going anywhere. I’m a fair broadcaster that gives credit where credit is due, and if that means the opponent deserves credit, I’m going to give them credit.
I may be different in that regard, but that’s just who I am.
And so I slip into that performance. The focus hones in. “From Hertz Arena in Estero, Florida, Greenville Swamp Rabbits hockey is on the air…” and so it begins.
I know from the opening drop I’m having a good game. The name-number recognition is going well. The sightline at Hertz Arena is great. I have an extra emotional boost because my family is here. I can only hope they’re watching with pride.
After the game I find my family. We lost, but tomorrow is a new day. My family scolds me for leaving my sunglasses down here—playfully. I know I’ll be back in about two weeks and I’ll get to stay with them this time. That makes me feel good.
We pack up the bus, hugs exchanged once more, and sunscreen in my mom’s eyes once again, and we head back to Orlando. It’s gonna be a late night of prep work, and a late arrival, for an early morning wake-up call. The laptop opens right off the bat, the hotspot goes on, and I work into the midnight hour and beyond.
Saturday, January 25, 2020
8:05 a.m. – hotel
My alarm sounds. I’m not ready to get up yet. Depression sucks. I know I’ve always been an advocate for getting help, and trust me, I’m getting help, but I really do wish this “getting out of bed” thing gets easier as I keep working on myself.
I get ready. Use the time-tested trick of putting my wrinkled dress shirt in the shower to get it ready. Works every time.
I get packed up and walk to Amway Center. It’s a gorgeous day outside. My sunglasses are being put to good use, and trust me, it’s great to have them back. I sit down and have breakfast in the midst of the game ops meeting…and they have a lot of elements for a Saturday afternoon. I just sit off to the side hacking away on last-minute preparation and eat my eggs, potatoes and a biscuit. There’s nothing better than breakfast potatoes, I contend. Especially if they’re seasoned well, and are paired with some ketchup.
The normal elevator to the club level where I call the game is out of order. Gotta go through a kitchen to get to where I need to go. You never know which way you have to go, but in this business, you need to be resourceful and improvisational.
The game comes and goes. We get shut out again. Losing sucks. I loved winning that crazy game in Atlanta on Monday, but man, I hated losing Friday and Saturday, especially without scoring. I feel for the guys. It’s always tough to be on a bus ride after a few losses in a row, but I know we have a chance to turn it around with four games this week at home.
We stop at a truck stop an hour north into our journey, get some Arby’s and a Barq’s Root Beer in my system, and off we go. I drift off to sleep with the John Wick movies in the background, somehow not keeping me awake. I wrap my covers around my body like a mummy and I drift off to sleep, hopeful that Greenville greets us soon.
11:45 p.m. – car
I get home, and I call my mom. I promise to get her the sweatshirt when we’re back there in two weeks. I can’t wait to see her again.
I wouldn’t be anywhere in this business without the support of my mom and dad…and I’m forever thankful, even in the ups and downs, that their support for me is forever unwavering. I love them.
“I’m always proud of you,” my mom says, “because I know who you are.”