Rockin' in the Motor City

Posted by Alex W.C. on 9:18 PM
Whew, I feel like I’ve been on the road for a while, and it is only my first stop. Man, I wasn’t even in Detroit long enough to unpack. *laugh* Seriously though, Detroit was great time, and I have a lot to say about it. So, let’s get started!

I arrived at the backstage entrance of the Palace to get my media credentials. It was very “rock star”, of course, minus hordes of screaming fans. (darn it!) I was warmly greeted by Shock PR coordinator Megan Heinemann, who showed me around. We went out on the floor of the Palace where Sacramento Monarch Kara Lawson was warming up. I met up with Lauren Harper who works on the Detroit Shock home page & she said that she wanted to interview me at halftime. (Click here for interview) She also made sure I was featured on the Detroit Shock homepage; how cool is that? Just look for 13 Teams, 1 Journey!(Click here) The staff there was very friendly and was excited that Detroit was the first stop. Upon passing the coaches office, I got a chance to say hi to Rick Mahorn. He was very laid back and asked, “Do you need me for anything?” I politely said no, and that I was just hanging back and observing. He was cool with that, and went about his pre-game coaching duties. I am still kicking myself for not getting the chance to get some 1 on 1 time with him.

Hold up...Let me back up a little and just try to paint a picture of the state of mind I was in at this time. There I am, backstage at the Palace, home of the Pistons and the Shock. This is an area where not many get to go, let alone many fans. I felt very privileged to say the least. Players are walking by getting ready, staff members are on radios making sure everything is finalized. This is when it really HIT me. This is really happening, …no really, this IS REALLY HAPPENING. For the first time in my life, I was at a loss for words.(to any friends & family of mine reading this – don’t even go there! lol!) For the next 30 min or so, whenever Megan would ask me a question, the only 4 words I knew were “Yeah, uh-huh, ok, sure.” After a while, I started talking like a normal human being.

I did get a photo op with coach Mahorn post game, (it helped that the Shock won; probably put him in a better mood) He shook my hand, and wished me well on my trip. Even after a big game he was totally cool and laid back. I will say this…that even with me standing 6’3”, I felt very short standing next to him. Just take a look at the photo and you’ll see what I mean.

(Photos courtesy of www.detroitshock.com)

Back to me feeling like a kid seeing Santa for the first time…I bumped into Katie Smith who said she had a few minutes, but I told her I would talk to her post game. (She was on her way out to warm up – I think that was more important.) After that, I was shown into the locker room. Now, from personal experience (growing up with 2 sisters and NO brothers) I have learned to respect women and their privacy. When I walked in, Cheryl Ford was in there, and she had this look of “Umm, why is there a man in the locker room?” *laugh* In all fairness, she had no idea who I was or why I would be in the locker room. Plus, in my eyes, that is her space. So, I opted to just hang outside. (FYI – post game we had a chat and she was very friendly. We talked about the aforementioned locker room run in, and she was completely cool with it. I’ll mention that later...) I was able to get some video footage of the inside of the locker room, like name placards on lockers and such. Trying to be respectful, I just shot above the lockers and not the contents of them. There were some “personal” items in view, and well…(remember, grew up with sisters) I didn’t think any of the players would enjoy having those on camera. (Yeah, it was slightly awkward.) I decided not to post that video footage for obvious reasons.

Before the game, I had a chance to talk to Barb Farris and Plenette Pierson. Barb was cool. I mentioned that we had met when she was had played for Phoenix. We had a casual moment, and talked about her being back in Detroit; she was just as friendly as I remembered. Plenette had her arm in a sling, so I figured I would ask about it. I had no idea that she was out for the season. But she was straight forward, professional, and gracious at the same time. It was loud during the interview, but you can hear her better. (and that’s the important thing, right kids?)

Here's the video of my Interview w/ Barb Farris.

Then it was game time! I was shown to my courtside seat, (which was completely unexpected) This was the first time I had sat this close to the game, and let me tell you, any closer, and I would be in the game. (side note, I doubt either team would take me. *laugh*) When the players took the court, Katie Smith was very cordial with high-fives to all of the Monarchs. Always a good way to start the game.

A couple people on twitter asked me to compare opening video’s to those of the Phoenix Mercury. The opening video used the black eye’s peas “Boom, Boom, Pow.” (I have a feeling that song is going to echo at quite a few sports arenas for a while...) It was simple, yet cool, featuring each player in a kind of dance theme, mixed in with game footage. It got the crowd hyped. I will admit, I am still partial to the video intro for my Mercury. *smile*

During the game, I was featured on the Jumbotron. I was taken aback at first, because this camera man just kneeled in front of me and put me on camera. I kind of knew what was coming, but I wasn’t sure when I would get on camera. I got a good cheer from the crowd, which was neat. It is a good thing they didn’t introduce me as a Phoenix Mercury fan. *laugh* They did mention me as the “Superfan” – and it kind of stuck. Hmm, that sounds like a title that should come with a theme song, and a cape (as KinitaA on twitter suggested)

(I need to work on my "excited" look don't I? *laugh* Man, those legs need a tan, a.s.a.p.!!)

It was a good game, with the Shock holding a lead, but the Monarchs fought hard and often would reduce that lead to a single digit lead. The Shock came out on top though with a great showing from Cheryl Ford & Kara Braxton in the paint, Deanna Nolan (aka Tweety) and Shavonte Zellous knockin’ down shots, and Kristin Haynie (who has some speed!) with some quick steals.

Post game was almost as exciting as the game itself. I got to sit in the locker room and interview Katie Smith, who was cool with the “shoulder buddy” style to my interview. Yeah, I am my own crew!

I had so many questions, but my mind went blank at the last minute. I did get to ask her to talk about the camaraderie among the players in the league, and she had a great reply.

Here's the video of my interviews with Plenette Pierson and Katie Smith.

Afterward, she signed my Olympic gold medal shirt, and asked me a little about my trip. (What, she didn’t get the memo? *laugh*) Katie left for a meet-and-greet with fans, and I had a follow up chat with Barb Farris and Cheryl Ford. Both were very friendly, and tired, with good reason. I complimented Cheryl on a good game; she mentioned that she "got into a little trouble" in the last game, so she wanted to "step it up".

She did.

After a few goodbyes I headed back to my rental car for the long drive back to the hotel. The ride home was a perfect time to reflect on the evening. Overall, I was so impressed with the players and coaches on how welcoming they were, and that they were genuinely interested in my journey. The prevailing atmosphere at the Palace was one of love for basketball, and support for those who feel the same way. I can safely say after my experience in Detroit, I now love the game even more.

Next stop, HOTlanta!

Feature article in Detroit Free Press (Click here)

Feature on
Detroit Shock homepage (Click here)

Feature on local Detroit station WXYZ, channel 7.


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