Before making it up to Hoover, Alabama I had only heard stories about an event like SEC Media Days inside the Wynfrey Hotel, Four days of nonstop media coverage later, this is an experience that I will no doubt forget.
From hitting the road in the middle of a tropical storm to all of the time I spent with some of the premier athletes, coaches, and media members this is something I won’t soon forget.
Riding the Storm Out
All throughout my life, I’ve had an existential dread of hurricanes. It just causes a lot of anxiety and the nonstop reports as things become more defined don’t help matters (looking at you Shepard Smith). Raymond and I hit the road a little after 9 am and started on a lengthy trek down to Hoover, Alabama.
Originally with the storm approaching, we were going to take the high ground and roll through Northern Louisiana but we changed those plans late in the game and wound up likely being better for it. With the tail end of Barry still in South Louisiana, we dealt with some heavy rains as we got through the state. Things changed and we took a faster route after cutting through Hammond.
When we made a couple of pit stops in Poplar and Meridan, Mississippi I asked some of the locals about how things were in their neck of the woods despite the worst of the storm a good distance away from them. In fact, one of the employees equated it to a summer thunderstorm.
Things got worse not long after we cut through Knoxville, Alabama with a really bad downpour for around a half an hour. Then we got into Hoover a little after 5 pm. We set up shop and checked into our hotel rooms and prepared for the media onslaught that was soon to come.
Day One: It Just Means More Interviews
The first day of SEC Media Days is an absolute struggle, especially when your day usually begins at around 9 a.m. instead of 4:20 a.m. With five different sessions from at 11 am until around 5 pm when Ed Orgeron and the rest of the players in attendance and tons of sound and video to put up throughout the day led to a lot of exhaustion for not only Raymond and I but the rest of the media in attendance.
As we grabbed dinner at the food court, Brett Hudson joined us and said you just need to get through the first two days and mentioned that by day four, everyone is ready to head back home. 14 teams over the course of four days is a little bit more feasible than maybe 14 in two days.
That being said, the first day was a fun one, especially meeting so many of the media members that us here at 103.7 the Game have had on over the years, especially when it comes to legends like Scott Rabalais of The Advocate and “Mad Dog” Ron Higgins of Tiger Details.
Day Two: Back In the Groove
The first day of our first-ever SEC Media Days was definitely a learning experience, but once we got our bearings straight and kicked into high gear, especially when it comes to getting sound from Hoover all the way to the airwaves in Acadiana. There were some frustrations, but we got through it and absolutely crushed it with the video content as well as on the blog side of things.
After Raymond saw a special preview screening and roundtable of the SEC Network’s “Saturdays In the Sun”, we grabbed a bite to it at Paramount, a dive bar/arcade a few miles out in downtown Birmingham. That was a fantastic evening filled with a wave of nostalgia with a game of NBA Jam: Tournament Edition. With the biggest day of the event on the horizon, we needed a temporary distraction.
Day Three: Bama Day
When we walked into the Wynfrey Hotel on Wednesday, the number of people inside the roped-off area by the escalators nearly outnumbered the media members on Radio Row. Each and every passing minute saw that number increase and get louder and louder. More and more camera started to surround the entrance awaiting the arrival of the Nicktator, Tua Tagovailoa, Dylan Moses, and Jerry Jeudy. Just as the 8 o’clock hour began, the Wynfrey Hotel sounded like The Beatles had just walked into the building with screaming fans all wanting Saban to sign their football helmets as he made his way over to WJOX for an exclusive one-on-one. I think I even saw a kid cry after seeing Saban in person.
Then came the players down Radio Row and the paparazzi surrounding him may have been more entertaining than some of the interviews that were being had. Conveniently, Jeudy and Moses were being interviewed right next to us so we were front and center for a massive media event.
After Bama, things started to die down with Arkansas, Mississippi State, and South Carolina having their time at the podium. Then there was a massive media get-together at the Dave and Busters that’s part of the Galleria.
It was just a great opportunity to meet a lot of people in a very different environment and really cut loose after spending much of the last three days pushing themselves to the limit from covering the Southeastern Conference..
Day Four: It Just Means More Fatigue
With Vanderbilt, Kentucky, and Auburn remaining; there just isn’t as much juice as there is on Monday with teams like LSU and Florida being the headliners. Even the fans have dwindled down to a handful of fans which is still unusual with Auburn only being a two-hour drive for die-hard Tigers/War Eagle/Plainsmen fans. Speaking of which…
Yeah, that was a thing that happened, your mind isn’t playing a trick on you. I’ve always thought that the SEC has some very weird fans, but this took to a different level.
Now that the end of SEC Media Days is here, there’s bound to be one question I’m asked about the event and that is “Would you go to Media Days in Atlanta next year?” The answer to that is simple: yes. You never can get a pulse on these things unless you actually attend an event like this and after four days not really stopping, the rush is unlike any other and I kept getting calls from back home asking me if I was tired. In the early hours, there’s that sense of exhaustion, but once you get going and start making those treks back to Radio Row, you start to overcome that grogginess and finish strong.
I also feel like I missed out on some opportunities. Were there questions I wish I asked? Of course, but with about 50 reporters surrounding one player, you can about imagine they’ll ask the same exact question because the media does have a hivemind mentality in terms of these media scrums. I’d love to one day to be back at this kind of event if the opportunity to arise wherever it will be since it’s going to be in Memphis is 2021 and likely start employing a rotation of host sites (example: Hoover, Atlanta, Memphis, Orlando, New Orleans, and Houston).
We’ll see what happens with this media event in the future and hopefully, we will be bringing you the coverage wherever it is held.