“Guys, we gotta go,” Dan urged, as he placed his golden hand on Kevin’s shoulder.”
Just a moment earlier, we were standing in the middle of an empty lot, about to throw in the towel on a fairly productive, but mostly uneventful day. Now, we were dashing through the streets of London, desperately trying to keep pace with the handful of security guards escorting The Right Arm of God, Dan Marino, to his private car. They eyed us intently as we followed close behind, unsure of whether we were actually part of the group or if they should probably just go ahead and tase us right away as a precautionary measure. It wasn’t until Dan opened the car door and told us to get in that they got their answer…and I’m still not sure they were convinced. Hell, there I was, squished into the back seat of a Mercedez Benz with Dan Marino’s leg pressed against my own, listening as he told the full story of the infamous “No Flub” video, and I still wasn’t certain that I belonged there.
When Kevin and I decided to enter Virgin Atlantic’s #RedHotReporter Contest, we did so out of sheer boredom. It had been months since I had my own radio show and a year since either of us had even recorded a podcast. We weren’t reporters in any sense of the word anymore; we were just guys with Twitter accounts. A trip to London sounded nice, though.
I didn’t think they would actually send two idiots to another country to cover the NFL International Series for them. Previous winners of the contest had all worked as journalists in some capacity before, some more polished than others. Kevin and I, on the other hand, hosted a podcast where we stuttered way too much and argued over inane things like superheroes and tipping etiquette. The idea that a company like Virgin Atlantic would pay for us to cover such an important event for their brand seemed legitimately insane. But, after more than a week of campaigning on social media, a video conference call and a few emails, it was confirmed—Virgin Atlantic was, indeed, sending two idiots to another country to cover the NFL International Series.
We arrived at Allianz Park in Hendon, London, the Miami Dolphins’ practice facility for the weekend, and immediately began setting up to film our first video. It’s important to note that neither of us had ever done something like this before, so it had never occurred to me that speaking into a piece of technology designed to capture moving images would be an entirely different experience than speaking into a microphone in an empty radio station. People can, like, actually see when you’re fidgeting with your pockets or looking off into space, daydreaming about lunch. And my phone. What on Earth was I supposed to do with my phone? That thing has spent the last four years practically glued to my right hand. It would just feel so unnatural being stuffed into a pocket. All of which makes it very difficult to focus on what you’re trying to say, because you’re directing a good amount of concentration toward not looking like a complete dufus on camera.
And it certainly showed.
When we weren’t awkwardly stumbling through sentences, we were forgetting our lines, accidentally looking off-camera and holding the microphones all wrong. We were both pretty sure that our PR person, Jaime, who had the incredibly unenviable task of following us around and making sure we didn’t screw everything up, was suddenly regretting every life decision that led her to this point.
We worked through it, though (with a lot of help from some incredibly talented video editors), and eventually found our sweet spot joking around with the players as they walked off the field. It turns out that if you ask athletes questions where the answers won’t be dissected and cause them great shame—or possibly their job—they’re actually pretty receptive and a ton of fun.
So, that became our plan, and over the next two days, we got some pretty great responses. For instance, we found out that Dolphins safety Michael Thomas thinks Bill Lazor is more handsome than Ryan Tannehill (he’s not wrong); defensive tackle A.J. Francis actually believes that people in England eat pies made of fish eyes (um, ew); and that Dan Marino can’t even name five of the incredibly inept quarterbacks that the Dolphins have had at the position since his retirement (can’t blame him). For some reason, we also interviewed Curtis Martin. I’m still not sure why we did that.
By the middle of the second day, we were definitely feeling ourselves a little bit. Which led to Kevin asking Dan Marino for a ride to a pub where the Dolphins were holding an event for fans. Which led to Dan Marino, somehow, rather inexplicably, saying yes. Which is how I ended up squished in the back seat of that car with my fat thighs almost certainly invading Dan Marino’s personal space.
We pulled up to the pub, where a mob of Dolphins fans lined the street corner waiting to get in through the front door. Kevin and I followed Dan inside through a door just next to it. We were probably supposed to wait in that line outside with everyone else, but we had just spent the last ten minutes in a car with Marino talking about everything from his house to his best friends. It would’ve been stupid of us not to walk in through that entrance with him. I mean, we probably didn’t belong there. But, we kinda belonged there, ya know?
Tom Garfinkel was inside, so we shook his hand and introduced ourselves. And then some former Dolphins players showed up, so we introduced ourselves to them, too. The more we acted like we belonged, the more people just naturally assumed we belonged.
In a way, that’s kind of how life goes. You see it all the time in those stories about people sneaking into major sporting events. If you give off an air of confidence and act like you’re supposed to be doing wherever it is that you’re doing, people will rarely ever second guess it.
Kevin and I probably shouldn’t have been in London for this trip. There were far more talented contestants in the running. People who wouldn’t have flubbed so many lines. People who didn’t go on camera with gum in their mouths. But, those people probably wouldn’t have found themselves in Dan Marino’s personal car, laughing with him over the phrase, “no #$@&%* flub.”
We may not have belonged in London covering this event for Virgin Atlantic, but we certainly pretended that we did. And we ended up with some insanely cool experiences because of it. I’d like to think it worked out pretty well for everyone.
Follow Brian on Twitter @AdamSmoot