Some notes from last night’s heartbreaker:
On game days, GM Ryan Eucker really puts the general in “General Manager.” As in, I’m pretty sure there have been entire wars with less planning than we had for last night’s game.
The game “script” is actually an Excel spreadsheet, with columns indicating who’s doing what at any given time — both “real time” and “game clock time.” There are lots of moving parts. The dance team, for instance. That t-shirt toss they did in the middle of the 4th quarter? It took at least an hour’s worth of setup, starting with several production interns – and Eucker – backstage folding t-shirts at 3:00 in the afternoon.
Once the game started, they had to be notified, “staged” (i.e. escorted to their entrance location by an ops intern), announced, and escorted off the field once they’d done their thing. Then the entrance had to be closed, secured, and re-padded before the next play (sometimes a real adventure in itself). Oh, and FYI – the producer (also Eucker) has only a general idea of when all this is going to go off. Events like the t-shirt toss, limbo contest, relay throw, etc. are scheduled to take place during media timeouts, which are supposed to happen around the 9 minute mark of a quarter… but, of course, it all depends on what’s going on with the game. If the game producer and the TV producer aren’t on the same page, it can get hairy. I guess what I’m saying is: Next time you see a production intern – a college-looking person with a team polo and a name badge – give him or her some kudos. They make the show happen.
There are some subtleties to the show, of course, and at the risk of revealing top-secret next-level stuff, let’s just say that DJ Commando, the house music expert, knows the nuances of psychological warfare. When the River Kings are out there warming up, he’s playing raucous pump-you-up tunes. When the Storm were out there… well, you tell me. And that wasn’t the worst of it. This was. You think that kind of thing doesn’t have an impact? It’s hard to get the testosterone pumping when tunes too cheesy for a junior high dance are blaring over the loudspeaker. A subtle guy, DJ Commando – if you’re in the market for a party-starter, get in touch.
Speaking of guys who get it: A special shout-out to the River Kings’ owners, Roy Choi and Matt Stone. Not only were they on hand for the festivities, but they spent a lot of time talking with fans and staff before, during, and after the game. (And a shout-out to all the River Kings’ fans who recognized them at the autograph session after the game. Now that’s a passionate fanbase!). Both of them made a point of coming down and shaking hands with the operations staff during run-throughs – which, again, took place at 3:00, i.e. four hours before kickoff. It’s safe to say we’re in good hands.
The show itself was pretty good. The Storm are a veteran team with a lot of championships under their collective belt; they’re tough to beat under any circumstances, let alone with an entirely new team. Our guys made a few newbie mistakes – one long TD pass on a blown coverage in the middle of the second quarter hurt – but the team’s talent level is obvious. Marquel Wade picked up where he left off last season, torching the Storm defense for 95 yards on seven catches, two of them for touchdowns. Fellow veteran Jordan Smith added a touchdown and 43 yards on three catches. Overall, rookie QB Kurt Palandech went 16-21 for 180 yards and 3 scores, with no interceptions.
The only unqualified bad spot was special teams. The Storm’s kick returners absolutely torched us. RB Darrian Miller had an average of almost 18 yards per return, and backup quarterback (!!) Tra’Von Chapman averaged a ridiculous 31.7, including a touchdown. Kicker Henry Nell also had a two-point dropkick attempt blocked. Whatever the issue was with kick coverage, I’m sure the coaching staff will have it straightened out by the time we hit Arizona next week.
In all, a pretty good start to the season. It was great to have electricity back in the Cell Center – official attendance is reported as just over 1100, but anyone who was there knows it sure felt a lot bigger… and a LOT louder. Word is starting to spread – look for a strong turnout on March 9, when we play host to the IFL’s newest team, the San Diego Strike Force.
 I was up way past my bedtime last night; you’ll have to supply your own “moving parts” joke. Keep it PG, people.
 I heard Eucker claim he has a special extra-efficient shirt folding technique, but I wasn’t able to stick around to witness it. I wouldn’t be surprised, though – in the minors, you don’t get to be Executive of the Year without knowing pretty much everything.
 Confidential to #17: Check the video. I bet I held “Smiiiiiiiiiith!” for a good ten seconds. I nearly passed out! Let no one say I don’t deliver the love. J