Recently, I had the opportunity to serve as a runner for ESPN during the University of South Florida’s homecoming game against Louisville. I was ecstatic and jumped at the opportunity. I had done this once before a year earlier and loved it.
To be clear, I did not love it because being a runner is a glamorous job. In fact, it is anything but. I spent the initial 30 minutes of my first day making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the crew. Some people may have been turned off by this, but I saw it as a badge of honor. Now, I can one day say that when I started out I made sandwiches while sitting on a cooler at Raymond James stadium. What’s up?
It amazed me just a bit how many friends you can make by slapping some peanutty goodness on two slices of bread. Within the first hour I had met everyone on the crew and had been given the title of “Best Sandwich Maker Ever.” So when the cooler no longer needed refilling and everyone had enough bananas to satisfy their cravings, I was asked if i wanted to head off with the cameramen to set up equipment. I accepted.
Not many 22 year-old girls can say they have been in almost every nook an cranny in Raymond James. I can. Behind the scoreboard? Been there. Press box? Been there. Crow’s nest? Been there. Field? Been there. Locker room with the Buc’s starting lineup? Haven’t been there. Would have been cool, though.
I spent the day setting up cameras and running equipment back and forth to the press box. By the time we packed up for the day my calves were on fire from running to the tip-top of the stadium to retrieve cables and cameras and bring them back to the production bus. I didn’t mind this, however, since the most physical activity I’ve gotten in a while is from the Wii Fit, and it recently asked me if I trip when I walk.
Day two of my ESPN adventure started out as before: with PB&Js. I felt that my sandwich making skills were nothing short of masterful at this point and my chip and cookie display could have graced the cover of Southern Living. I began trekking coolers and cables to the press box when I met a very friendly police officer. I must have been sweating because the first thing he did was chuckle and ask, “Are you having fun yet?” I gave an enthusiastic “yes!” and heaved my cooler out of the elevator and down the long hallway.
My cop friend must have spoken to everyone at the stadium, because I could hardly walk, or run in my case, anywhere without someone shouting “Are you having fun yet?” Each time I gave my cheery “yes!” and continued on with my work.
Then I got some news. The producer had decided that I would take the place of one of the utilities on the field. I would be piling. Great. Piling sounded awesome! I had no idea what it meant, but I knew I could absolutely do it.
Then I learned what piling was. Basically, you run behind the cameraman with the massive cable attached to his back and make sure he does not get caught on anything. To make things a bit more interesting, I would be the number two piler and would be farther back than number one. Easy, right? Well, not if you have no idea what you are doing. As it turns out, people are all over the sidelines, and when you trip them with a cable they don’t like it. Even more awkward is the fact that if you attempt to apologize for clothes-lining them, there is a very good chance you can get yanked over by piler number one tugging on the cable. Alas, even more tragic is the fact that most utilities wear gloves because the cable can and will burn your hands when you let it out. As I said earlier, I was a runner. No gloves for me.
It seemed as if every five minutes some middle-aged man would ask me if I was having fun yet. To be honest, during the first half, I was having anything but fun. I was stressed out, had been heckled by some rowdy fans who thought the girl sprinting with 50 pounds of cable in boat shoes (yes, I was wearing boat shoes) was hysterical. To make matters worse, every female’s worst nightmare came true when a squad of rosy-cheeked and glittery-eyed cheerleaders began gaping at me and snickering behind their hands. I was sweaty, I was wheezing for breath, and I was being laughed at by not just one, but an entire force of cheerleaders. Fun gone.
At half-time one of my ESPN friends took pity and gave me a lesson on proper piling, after asking me if I was having fun, of course. It was like the clouds parted. Suddenly, I understood what my purpose was, what I was actually supposed to be doing. It made so much sense.
By the second half of the game I was a piling master. I had beautifully coiled cable and was sprinting along the sidelines like I had been piling for years. Cheerleaders stopped staring, drunken fans gave me an encouraging yell, and I began having a blast again.
I ended the day covered in sweat, my hair plastered to my face and my hands spotted with blisters, but I was happy. I may want to write and report, but that doesn’t mean I won’t make sandwiches and run with 50 pounds of cable. In fact, I think it might be the perfect way to get there.
When I left my cop came up and asked me one more time if I was having fun. You bet.