The roar of the crowd was deafening as the Eastern Washington University Eagles prepared to take the field Saturday afternoon. From my vantage point at the entrance of the team tunnel, I scanned the sea of red-shirted fans hoping to spot my husband. After all, it was his fault I was on sidelines of the first college football game of the season.
I guess you could say I’m an Eagle by marriage. Derek is a proud EWU graduate (class of ’87). Whatever the case my blood bleeds red – Eagle red. As season ticket holders, you can find us in the stands at each home game, cheering our team on to victory.
During the season I’m guilty of flooding my Facebook and Twitter feeds with frequent EWU posts. To my delight, those updates took me out of the stands and onto the field on Saturday, when I was invited to be a social media ambassador for the big game.
The social media team at the school recruited 10 fan/student/alumni ambassadors to post tweets, photos and updates during the game. In return, we were given media credentials that provided access to anywhere we wanted to go – just like real sports reporters.
This was too good an offer to turn down. I’ve always wanted to be an ambassador! I’ve always wanted credentials!
However, I didn’t know the gig would prove so hazardous. The first danger I faced was death via suffocation, as the 10 of us, plus a few staff members, squeezed into the elevator to go upstairs to tour the press box.
The elevator shuddered, shook and lurched alarmingly. Though frightened, we took comfort in the fact that our deaths would go viral – Facebooked, Tweeted and Instagramed for posterity. Plus we answered the question, how many social media ambassadors can you fit in an elevator? So there’s that.
I found the press box tour fascinating. Ensconced in their air-conditioned perch, reporters from print, radio and television outlets chow down on an array of free food, plentiful enough to feed a football team. I felt sorry, for the gal who had to refill the chips and trail mix bowls. They kept her hopping.
While in the press box, I also learned another important rule – never, ever get between hungry journalists and free pizza. I felt lucky to escape with all of my fingers intact.
From there we journeyed down to the famed red turf. Let me just say, don’t mock the red turf until you’ve walked the red turf. It’s not nearly as glaring in person as it is on TV. And yes, I took a picture of my feet on the turf. After all, my toenails were painted to match it.
Walking the sidelines revealed another danger – oodles and oodles of television cables that offered plenty of opportunities for our social media team to trip and fall on national television. Speaking of TV, ESPN was out in force to broadcast the game, causing much excitement in Cheney. Adding to the hype, EWU’s own Colin Cowherd was in attendance.
Disclaimer: We’ve never had cable TV, so I don’t watch ESPN. I don’t listen to ESPN radio, and before Saturday I’d never heard of Colin Cowherd. In fact, I badly mangled his name when mentioning him to a friend, (let’s just say it rhymed with Cowherd), so I wisely decided to avoid any Colin tweets. He seemed like a really nice guy though, and amiably posed for pictures.
Our group was also warned about getting run over by the ESPN truck as it raced up and down the sideline. It wouldn’t look good for the school to have a member of the social media team flattened on the turf.
Speaking of trucks, EWU has its own little fleet of vehicles that zip around the stadium. By this point in the tour my flip flops were mainly flopped. Pointing to a vehicle, I said, “I need one of those.”
The driver glanced at the young man next to him. “What? A boy?” he asked.
I shook my head, “I have enough of those.”
In fact, my boys are the reason a locker room tour didn’t appeal. With four sons, my home has frequently smelled like a locker room. No need to revisit that.
Once the tour was completed, we were turned loose among the sell-out crowd. Breathlessly, I stood near the team entrance as the stirring strains of the national anthem floated over the stadium.
As the last notes echoed, I turned to face the tunnel, anxious to get a shot of the team’s entrance.
“Incoming!” a voice shouted.
Ducking my head I turned to see a skydiver coming in fast, headed directly toward me. They didn’t mention death by skydiver on our tour. Thankfully, he skimmed the tops of our heads and landed gracefully on the field.
Then the smoke machines started, the fireworks sparkled and the Eastern Eagles appeared. Though I was screaming my head off and jumping up and down as they ran past, I did get some cool photos. More importantly, I wasn’t run over on the run out.
From then on the day was a blur. I do know Vernon Adams threw for 302 yards and four touchdowns to lead Eastern Washington to a 56-35 victory over Sam Houston State, but I was so focused on not tripping or being run over by an ESPN truck, that I missed most of the big plays.
Derek collected me after the post-game interviews. “Did you have fun?” he asked.
And of course, I did. But I have to say being a fan is just as enjoyable and probably a lot less dangerous than being a social media ambassador. Go Eags!