Spokane put its best foot forward Saturday, showing itself off to ESPN crews in town to capture some community and Zag spirit ahead of Gonzaga University’s Final Four game.
“It’s an exciting time to be around here,” said ESPN cameraman Matt Michel, who said he has family in Coeur d’Alene but has never spent any time in Spokane.
He was given a whirlwind tour of Spokane landmarks Saturday morning by Visit Spokane, the city’s official visitor center, and spent time getting shots of businesses with “Go Zags” signs in the windows and recording cheers from fans in the streets wearing their Gonzaga gear.
“We’re looking for a way to translate the different ways the fans are celebrating,” he said. “My impression is that it’s a team and program that’s really rooted in the community.”
The game aired on CBS, so the footage shot Saturday – including at different watch parties around town – is likely destined for social media and the web, though some may make it onto television screens. There are two ESPN crews in each of the cities home to a Final Four team this weekend.
Michel’s guide for the morning was Kate Hudson, public relations manager with Visit Spokane. Her organization has been partnering with Gonzaga University on promoting the city in a positive light in the midst of all the basketball hype.
“We knew the spotlight was going to be on Spokane,” she said.
It was the university that asked Visit Spokane to show ESPN around town, a task they were happy to take on, Hudson said.
The Spokane River running through downtown is always a cool sight, and never more so than now, at a moment when the water is high. Michel caught his first glimpse of the river in the gorge below Kendall Yards, then got an up close and personal view from Huntington Park and the pedestrian suspension bridge that runs through Riverfront Park.
“This is awesome,” he said as he panned his camera across the rushing water.
He stopped for a few close-ups of Sophie, a suddenly shy English Springer Spaniel owned by Randy Gregory. Then it was off to film kids playing on the big Red Wagon and the Clocktower. His guides didn’t neglect to show him the park’s Garbage Goat, which unfortunately is shut off for the season.
Michel’s last stop was a watch party at No-Li Brewhouse near the Gonzaga campus. It was four hours before tipoff, but a crowd was there and all too willing to cheer and chant “Let’s go Zags” for Michel’s camera.
“That crowd got here before we opened,” owner John Bryant said. “There were 50 people by 9:30.”
Bryant and his staff have a secret weapon – a bartender who would be a dead ringer for Przemek Karnowski if he was only a foot and a half taller. He’s even got the beard.
The energy in the room promised a wild afternoon of cheering on the basketball team. “Zag fever is Spokane fever,” Bryant said. “It’s a community. We all come together.”