Saturday, December 3, 2011

Travel Blog – Double Dip: Arkansas-LSU and Patriots-Eagles

Travel Blog – Double Dip: Arkansas-LSU and Patriots-Eagles
By Andy Lopusnak,
November 25-28, 2011
This week, I got another double dip covering two games. First, it was off to Baton Rouge for college football grudge match between #3 Arkansas and #1 LSU Friday afternoon. Next, I flew to the city of Brotherly Love for Patriots-Eagles in the late Sunday TV window.

To get to the Louisiana capital, I flew Continental from San Francisco to Houston then onto Baton Rouge. The flight from Houston to Baton Rouge was on a prop plane. It was bumpy, uncomfortable and quite scary at times. I made it to the TV trucks about three and half hours prior to kickoff.

This was my first time at Tigers Stadium though I did cover a college basketball game nearly a decade ago in Baton Rouge and shot the state capital in 2009 when I was in New Orleans for the NCAA Tournament.
After the game, I meant to drive the nearly six-hour round-trip to Jackson, Mississippi to get my 32nd state capital, but traffic was absolutely horrible getting out of the stadium so I decided to just go back to the hotel. It took nearly three hours to venture the three miles to the hotel. With all the millions and millions of dollars LSU and the SEC in general gets for football, you’d think they’d use some of it for improvements to the roads. There’s plenty of space to make the two-lane roads into four or six around the stadium.

For the first time, I “sent” one of the teams during pregame. Just minutes prior to kickoff, I was tasked to “hold” Arkansas from running out onto the field until cued from the CBS producer. When Bobby Petrino’s Razorbacks exited their locker room I held them up for a minute, then was told to “send Arkansas.” Sadly, this meant I had less than three minutes to get back to the trucks to run my stats machine. I made it there with mere seconds before toe hit leather.

The number-one ranked Tigers trailed 14-0 with less than six minutes left in the first half before rattling off 41 of the game’s final 44 points and need one more win in the SEC Championship to advance to the BCS Championship. Tigers sophomore Tyrann Mathieu had a 92-yard punt return for a touchdown late in the second quarter to tie the game at 14 and ended with eight tackles.
This marked the third time in four years that I’ve covered a college football game the day after Thanksgiving. Back in 2008, I covered the LSU-Arkansas Black Friday game played in Little Rock. Arkansas won that one 31-30 thanks to a 24-yard touchdown with 21 seconds left. I was moving from the West Coast to Tampa in 2009 the week of Thanksgiving, so I didn’t have a game that year. Last year, I got the Iron Bowl between Alabama and Auburn. The Tide led 24-0 before eventual Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton led the eventual National Champions to a 28-27 victory thanks to four touchdowns (three receiving and one rushing).

I set my camera in the south end zone. The day had beautiful cloud coverage and it looked outstanding on the time lapse, especially in the final seconds when the day turned into night with a purple sky. I had the time lapse set for every 30 seconds and took nearly 800 individual shots. For music, I found on YouTube a zydeco tune called “Hold onto that Tiger” that I thought worked well the Bayou Bengals.
In my now 181 NFL games I’ve covered for CBS, this marked just my third Eagles contest and my first since November 19, 2006 when Philly lost to the Vince Young-led Tennessee Titans 31-13. The other was in 2004 when the Eagles beat the Baltimore Ravens on Halloween 15-10.This was the first time that I actually saw the Liberty Bell. The other times I was here, it wasn't in its current location where you can see it from outside in its new showcase.
I’ve been to Philly two other times. Once when I was the PR director of the Arena Football League’s Grand Rapids Rampage in 2005 and I met rocker and Philadelphia Soul owner Bon Jovi. The other was for the 2009 first round of the NCAA tournament. For that tournament, I drove down to Dover to get the state capital of the first state. However, my shutter on my 40D blew out right when I was done with the capital building.

On the way back to Philly, I stopped in Wilmington and bought a point and shoot (which I returned when I got back home) so I could get some photos during the trip. Since this experience, I have traveled with at least two SLR bodies for every game. Luckily, the 40D was still under a protection plan from Mack Camera that replaced the shutter within two weeks just in time for my first European vacation.  

Like the LSU game, the Patriots spotted the Eagles a ten points before scoring 38 of the game’s final 41 points. New England QB Tom Brady had his 41st career 300-yard game and 46th career three-touchdown game. For the Eagles, Michael Vick missed his second straight game. In his place, Vince Young tossed a career-high 400 yards but completed barley half of his passes.
My 17th different NFL home venue time lapse was set up where the CBS beauty camera was located. The sky started blank, then shifted to a nice cloud cover with a blue sky and a great sunset. It consisted of nearly 700 individual shots in 30-second intervals. I used a new intervalometer and it worked to perfection though the initial operation was bit complicated.
Driving in Philly was a pain in my short time there. I drove all over for photos and it felt that every street corner had a light or a stop sign. It was so slow even when there was no traffic. Apparently the Philly folk are such terrible drivers that turning right on a red light must be illegal. I didn’t see a single stop that didn’t have a “No Turn on Red” sign. At one point when I was stopped at a light when no other cars were around, I counted all the aluminum signs at this light and to my surprise there was 27 and it wasn’t a four-way stop. If Philly is in a crunch for cash, it could just recycle all that aluminum. If every street corner is like this, then there’s easily a few million dollars worth of scrap metal littering the streets of Philadelphia.

Another thing that was irritating was all the photos of the city’s major. I couldn’t even tell you who the major of San Jose where I live but I could draw you a picture of Michael Nutter because his mug is now imprinted into my head with all the constant images of him.

Here’s a selection of my top shots from this double-dip weekend.

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