|Sep 8, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Fans wait to enter the NBC sunday night football bus outside AT&T Stadium prior to the Dallas Cowboys playing against the New York Giants. Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports|
Part Two: The Bus. The Girls. The Game.
Day Six: This is the day I meet the road crew of the SNF on NBC bus and the other Fans of the Week. The bus is near the DC waterfront in tony Georgetown. An elegant dinner is part of the deal. So is the Fan of the Week video for the NBC SNF web page.
Lindsay [No last names used here] is NBC's on scene manager for social engagement for the Sunday Night Football web page. Lindsay's twitter profile lists experience at ESPN, Esquire and Comcast SportsNet, clearly a budding sports broadcast personality.
The crew includes Donte and Trey. Donte never gives a title, but over dinner he spoke with authority. He is more than the guy who drives the bus. It was mostly Donte who explained the logistics of how game day would work. He presents us with our swag and media credential. "You are part of the media broadcast team," he said. A voice in my head tells me to get this guy's mobile number. I'm going to need it.
Giants fans Kiersten and Adam are from New York, but now live in the DC metro area. They find a natural affinity with each other and a wariness of fans of an old line Beast rival. The evening was all about developing comfort with each other. The night was 100 percent cordial and we did warm up to each other over dinner.
Redskins fan @RG3Woman is super fan who developed a celebrity persona status like Chief Zee and Skins Super Fan. She works the crowd, but she gets asked for pictures, too.
Lindsay is an Auburn alum. Alabama-Auburn is on the restaurant big screen. Lindsay's exuberance in the game's last second converts us all to Tigers, War Eagle, whatever, fans for the night.
I swear that was the longest one second of football in football history.
We are all curious about our selection to this too-good-to-be-true windfall. Lindsay admits that they have been tracking our social media activity, "stalking" as she humorously put it, for months. Like Google, however, they are vague on precisely what triggered the invite.
I detect no common pattern when I check profiles of other NBC Fans of other Weeks. Some have twitter followers of under 300. Others are well over 1,000. They might be more active on Facebook or Google+. I may go look up their Klout someday. All Lindsay and Donte would share was that activity was a key factor.
Activity and a propensity to use hash tags perhaps. All NBC wants is that we tweet to our normal level while using the magic hash "#SNF" or "#SNFonNBC." NBC.com's SNF web page senses the hash and uses it to populate content under its FOW tab.
Day Seven. It's game day. I arrive at FedEx Field around 5:00 PM, about 90 minutes earlier than when I regularly attended live Redskins games. Beltway traffic is a breeze, a far cry from this time last season when the 'skins were in their seven-game playoff run. But it's a good day to get a few stadium snapshots to use later on my Hog Heaven blog.
I'm suited up in my "Alfred Morris," courtesy of NBC, my leather special occasion Redskins jacket and my Gibbs-era script "R" baseball cap. Most important of all, I'm sporting my media credential.
Stadium security was decidedly unimpressed. There was no "I'm with the band" wash off with the thing. Adam and Kiersten said they had similar issues, but RG3Woman said she waved the credential at security and they waved her through. Celebrity advantage. Security directs me to the stadium's bus entrance then to the ticket office where they have no idea what I'm referring to.
That's disappointing, but not surprising. Security in DC and in New York I imagine is tighter than any other civilian area. We just live with it. The Week 12 Broncos and Patriots FOWs made no mention of it.
Donte's mobile number came in handy now. Our game tickets were on the bus which was inside the stadium grounds at one of the sponsored party zones. They are giving more tours. We triangulate our positions. Donte shows my ticket to security who gladly waves me through. The media credential is just a souvenir.
The four Fans gather and then it happens.
CHEERLEADERS. COMING. STRAIGHT. AT. ME.
You'd think the NBC people would tell us that the deal came with a photo op of the First Ladies of Football.
We have a spread of deli sandwiches on the bus and head to our seats about 30 minutes before game time.
Live tweeting my fan experience is problematic. I have T-Mobile service which is 4G everywhere in the area except inside the stadium where I get a 2/3G connection. A photo I attempt to upload does nothing but drain my battery. Nearby fans mutter complaints about Verizon and AT&T.
Sitting in FedEx Field, I miss #SNF play by play by Al n Chris, access to stats, replays and good wi-first. Affects tweet quality.— Anthony Brown (@SkinsHogHeaven) December 2, 2013
FedEx Field has a Wi-Fi connection. My handheld says I'm connected, but Twitter is lifeless. [Head slap] FINALLY, I think to reboot my handheld and I get a new invitation to connect to the FedEx Wi-Fi. It works, but now my battery is down to 40 percent. Power conservation is a big part of my tweet strategy for rest of the night. That's a bad deal for SNF on NBC.
The NFL awarded the Redskins $27 million to upgrade broadband connections at FedEx Field. It needs it. The Redskins need to throw some cash at the Wi-Fi app for the Wi-Fi too. Connection should be immediately intuitive.
In the four years since I attended games as a season ticket holder and today, tweeting has become a major part of my game experience. Games are less enjoyable when I cannot engage this way.
What is it about hash tags?
The game goes poorly for the Redskins, again. The big screen flashes messages from fans using the Redskins hash "HTTR" (Hail to the Redskins). It's the ah-ha moment. I always use #HTTR in my game tweets knowing the Redskins used them somewhere. I wonder if #SNF picked up on the habit and how that played a role in me sitting in choice seats ‒ 10th row, lower bowl, Redskins side.
Hash tags seem to be "a thing" to engage a self-identified niche market and then engage with the audience. There is more of that to come.
And I'm still a FOW for NBC. The #SNF tag will appear when engaging the Twitterverse about a Sunday Night game. That's a small price to pay for an Alfred Morris.