Monday, April 27, 2009

I Interview the Houston Rockets - or - Every Now and Again, My Job is Super-Cool

I got to interview Yao Ming, Ron Artest, and Shane Battier, and here's proof:

That's me in the bottom left. Yao is on the right hand side of your screen.

Let me start from the beginning. Last night, our weekend producer called in sick, and it just so happened to be my turn to fill in (again). I have the worst luck. Anyway, I ended my weekend early and went in. Because I had to be at work until 11:30, they changed my schedule today so I didn't have to come in at my usual 7am. That also meant I had a light workload. Our sports person had a baby, and we didn't have anybody else to do it, so I was told my primary duty today was to go to the Rose Garden and interview the Houston Rockets. I just about passed out.

We got to the Garden a little early, and ended up hanging out waiting. First out was Ron Artest. I was really nervous. He wasn't as tall or big as I anticipated. He seemed kind of anxious to get moving, but he still put in some thought to his answers. I asked him how important it was to get off to a good start in Game 5. He hesitated when I asked, which made me feel like I may have asked a stupid question, but was gracious about it, and said that only the end of the game really matters.

Second up was the big man, Yao Ming. I realize it's not the most original thing to say about a guy who's 7'6", but that is one TALL dude. I was really impressed with his grasp of the English language. He is Chinese, as you likely know, but he really seemed to understand the questions he was asked, and answered in genuine ways. I maybe came up to his sternum. It's funny how different people can look on television versus live. He has bad teeth and skin, and that kind of surprised me. He was also very patient. He seems like a good guy. I asked him if the coach changed the rebounding strategy at all in the 4th quarter in Game 4, or if was just effort. He said that Coach Adelman told them to be patient.

After Yao wrapped up, we saw Rick Adelman walking down the hall at us. He was on his cell phone. After he finished we approached him, and the Rockets' PR guy told us not to talk to him. We thought it was because he wasn't talking to the media today. More on that in a minute.

Next up, Shane Battier. He was really impressive. First off, he waited for us to get to him. Other reporters had just finished up when we got there, but he saw us coming and waited. Really cool. I first asked him about how the Rockets have stopped Travis Outlaw, one of the Blazers biggest scorers off the bench. He said that basically, they've just been paying attention to him and making him take tough shots. Next I asked kind of a stupid question because I was nervous. I asked about the two three-pointers he hit, and how he broke out of his shooting slump. Kind of an insulting question, when you think about it. Again, very patient and cool. You can tell he answers stupid questions all the time. He said that it all evens out in the end. Finally, I asked him what every Trail Blazers fan wants to know: What's up with the officiating? He said that the playoffs are physical, and that's that. Then he politely said goodbye. Shane Battier, despite being a Dukie, has won my eternal respect.

After the Battier interview, I turned around and saw that Adelman was being interviewed by all the other guys, so we started walking over there. He stopped what he was talking about and made a big show of saying "No, not those guys." Apparently he doesn't like my station for some reason. We believe that it's because of a story we ran on his son, who is a local high school coach who got arrested for a DUI. Very odd. The Rockets' PR guy kept apologizing profusely. It was strange to be met with disdain by a guy who I respect a great deal. Adelman was the Blazers coach back in their early 90's heyday, and I was disappointed not to speak with him. I forgot that I was interviewing the players and coach for my station, not just for my own enjoyment. It made sense that he wouldn't want to talk to US, but I really wanted him to talk to ME.

All in all, this was a really cool experience. It was fascinating to see these guys up close, not only to see how big they really are, but to see their personalities a little bit. I give this experience seven playoff wins!

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