After a brief siesta, football season, the construction crews and engineers are back at it again. The next Carter Finley relic on the chopping block this time around is the press box, more affectionately, or dubiously, known as "The Trailer in the Sky." Its removal signifies the construction of a new luxury facility, complete with club level seating, luxury suites and (I can only assume) fantastic press facilities.
Sure, it was ugly, you don't get nicknamed a huge mobile home for your good looks, but make no mistake, there are plenty of writers, photographers and Sports Information employees out there that have some fond memories from many a Saturday afternoon or night spent in its confines.
My first trip into the belly of the beast was a memorable one, to be sure. I was 18, a freshman beat writer with the Technician and so excited to just be going to the game itself I had to block out the fact that I was at the Florida State game rubbing shoulders with local and national media. I was stuck to the hip of our sports editor that night as he gave me the tour, so to speak.
Security back then (all the way back in the 1990s) simply consisted of an elderly man sitting on a stool with a key that operated the elevator up to the box. He never said much, except to the coaches from time-to-time. He just sat on the stool and turned the key, a hell of a job description.
We got up to the press level and my sports editor headed to our normal seats. Low and behold, there are a couple of people sitting in them. It didn't take long for me, based on the profanity, to figure out that my "tour guide" was severely PO'ed.
As I'm standing here, wandering aimlessly through the cramped press area like a lost ewe, I spy my sports editor in a shouting match with the head of the Sports Information department at the time, Mark Bockelman. I'm thinking, at this point, "Does this happen every game?"
To make a long story short (and clean), words were said, gestures were thrown, and we ended up reporting the game from the field instead of the press box. I assumed my sports editor would be mad for the rest of the evening and that I would have to tread lightly the rest of the way, but surprisingly enough, he was ecstatic! The whole thing led to a public apology from the SID to the paper, which was exactly what he wanted from the Sports Information Department, a little respect for the beat writers from the little ol' Technician. It was a jarring and entertaining firsthand lesson in the political world of collegiate athletics.
Thankfully the trips up into the Trailer from that point on were much less stressful. The guy on the stool started recognizing my face a bit more, the small southern smile and nod my only clue. I started leading newbie tours myself through the drafty, noisy passages. Thankfully I never had to go toe-to-toe with an SID; I think the confrontation the years prior earned us a big RESERVED sign on our two seats along the press rows.
I would be remiss if I failed to mention the Trailer's diamond in the rough, so to speak. The food—oh, the food! My friends, imagine the free barbeque from the Chuck/Herb shows at Bobby Murray being twice as tender and three times as flavorful, then you'll get close to how good that barbeque was.
It was pulled pork barbeque in the truest sense: A large pork shank, cooked to perfection, with my man working the butcher knife like a surgeon to pull off the exact amount of barbeque desired. I honestly don't know why he needed a butcher knife, though. He could've done just as well with a Bojangle's spork, it was so tender.
I almost wonder if it was Mr. Murphy himself working the pig, one he had chosen as the pick of the litter from his own personal stock. As big a State fan as he is, it wouldn't surprise me one bit. If he ever tried it, I'm sure he would be proud.
Without a doubt, the Trailer was a total sensory experience. The first floor, with its barbeque and grilled hamburgers and hot dogs, its air thick and heavy, smokey and rich in smell, overwhelming visitors as soon as they step out of the elevator. On the press floor, it's the sounds of organized chaos: phones ringing, writers clacking away on laptops, the endless debates that sports writers love to engage themselves in, a cell phone conversation here and there, C.A. Dillion relaying down, distance and yardage gained after every play over the PA system. Though I never made it to the coach's level for obvious reasons, I can only imagine that the wind bites harder, the band sounds louder and the game takes on a much, much more serious tone.
So the eyesore of Carter Finley has fallen, or at least been stripped of its walls and interior. Some might say it's an improvement aesthetically. To hear Lee Fowler talk, we're essentially erecting a four-star hotel 70 feet off the ground in its place. But for all these years, the charm of the press box, its food, its people, its atmosphere, made indelible marks on many a man and woman.