I’ve experienced my fair share of Fightin’ Texas Aggie Football from both the sidelines as a player and the stands as a fan. However, one experience I hadn’t yet taken on was viewing the game as a member of the press.
That changed with Texas A&M’s appearance in the Texas Bowl against Oklahoma State. Though I’ve been credentialed for other sporting events, this marked the first time I watched Aggie football as media. With that in mind, I thought I’d peel back the curtain on the differences in viewing a contest from the press box as opposed to the bleachers or the playing surface. If you’ve ever been curious about what it’s like to watch football as a media member, here are my thoughts!
Generally speaking, I try to get to stadiums about two to three hours before kickoff when I’m planning to partake in tailgate festivities. The arrival time for the Texas Bowl was similar as we arrived at NRG at about 5:15 - two hours and fifteen minutes before kickoff. The Teal Lot for media provided easy access to the stadium, drastically limiting the amount of distance we needed to cover. However, instead of meandering in the lots, we headed straight to the media entrance to check in. After a quick identification process, it was up to the pressbox to find our assigned seats for the game.
Also in the press box was the delightful spread of food to eat ahead of the game. Now, catered barbecue for the press may not be exactly the same quality experience as some of the other barbecue joints I’ve been lucky enough to have, but compared to other hospitality spreads - this one was pretty darn good. I skipped the brisket but the sausage, green beans, and smoked gouda mac-n-cheese were about as good as I’ve had in terms of hospitality food. After eating dinner quickly, we headed down to the field at 6:30 with about an hour and a half to kickoff.
Getting to see the Aggies head out for warm-ups was an enlightening experience, especially with all of the notable absences for the bowl game. As a player, we had a pretty strict schedule with the pregame routine - specialists generally got their work in first due to the amount of field required, then returners, then the rest of the skill players as well as centers, and finally the remaining linemen. Watching from the media side of things, I found myself running through that same countdown as players headed out on the field to prepare ahead of kickoff.
After the team stretch, it was a quick break to individual groups, then skills and lines working against each other, before finally gathering for team reps and heading back to the locker room at 7:30, with 30 minutes to kickoff. This meant the media headed back up to the press box as well in a bit of an organized rush on the elevator.
By 7:45, I was back in my assigned seat, ready for the Aggies and Pokes to kick off. I won’t go too into detail on what actually happened in the game as we’ve already got String’s post game thoughts and Robert’s stats. Instead, we can take a look at the pros and cons of being in the press box for a game experience.
First, being able to see the whole field is a huge benefit for those who want to have a greater picture of what is happening. The little details such as hand placement on blocks are more difficult to notice but gaps in a run scheme and what coverage the defensive backs are in make up examples of things that are much easier to identify. At least when the pillar you see above wasn’t blocking my view. There is, after all, a definite reason why some coaches are up in the box during games.
The placement of televisions in the press box also made up for the little details we did miss thanks to our sky-high view. Along with statistical breakdowns handed out by NRG staff between quarters, it makes for an all-encompassing experience that allows you to track every facet of a game and make clearer notes on what worked for a team and what didn’t.
However, you do miss out a bit on the crowd experience. The press box is a much more muted environment (as it should be given the need for note-taking and analysis) and even at big moments, the reactions are dampened by the glass. I think the deafening roars of a crowd are a key piece of the game experience that we missed out on by being in the box.
After a disastrous first half for the Aggies, we were treated to a new hospitality spread for halftime that included nachos and the tasty boudin egg roll you see pictured above. Texas A&M did make things interesting in the second half but ultimately came up short. In the closing minutes of the fourth quarter, many members of the media headed downstairs in preparation for post-game ceremonies and interviews. With the elevators being held for coaches to return to the field after the game, it made sense to try and get down there even though there was still a bit of time left in the game.
We made the decision to wait and watch the end of the game just in case and honestly, our timing wasn’t impacted too much. We made it back down to field level around 11:20 and had plenty of time to get over to the Texas A&M presser even though we originally took the wrong route.
It was a bit of a surreal experience sitting in on the post-game press conference given the last time I sat in on one, I was behind the mic after our win against SMU in 2014. The emotions after a tough loss are always tangible, especially with Coach Elijah Robinson moving on to a new position at Syracuse. Max Wright and Sam Mathews also reached the end of their eligibility and are moving on.
The post-game pressers tend to be heavy on the coach speak and deliberate responses but there were a few fun moments. Max Wright emphasized how proud he was and Sam Mathews got a round of laughs walking off stage after referencing a hit on Oklahoma State’s Ollie Gordon earlier in the game.
The presser ended just after midnight, bringing an end to the Texas Bowl experience. We headed back to my car to get a good night’s sleep and thankfully our extended time at the stadium to attend the press conference allowed traffic to clear out.
It was a blast to get credentialed for my first Texas A&M football game.