Sunday, January 24, 2010


These two words will be repeated a lot during the next couple of weeks, for good reason.

Tonight the New Orleans Saints won the NFC Championship, which means they've won 50% of the games they've played at this level. Not a bad record. To be cliche about it, with this win they've punched their ticket to Super Bowl XLIV in Miami.

It was an ugly game on Sunday night in the Superdome, and I'm sure more than a few follicles of hair across the Who Dat Nation were either torn out or faded to grey as the seconds counted down in the fourth quarter. Had the offense played to the level fans had come to expect, it would have been a blow out, like last week's game, but that wasn't quite the story. Thankfully the defense came through, proving the axiom oft repeated by coaches, "Offense wins games, Defense wins championships."

Then Overtime began and an entire city and state held its collective breath, only releasing it, during the booth reviews, in prayers that the drive would continue. When the final review put them within field goal range, one kick brought to life the dreams of over 40 years of black and gold fans, and their cries of joy lifted the roof off the 'Dome.


I didn't see it. For the whole season I've either been working or otherwise occupied when the Saints were playing. The one game I got to see kickoff became their first loss of the season, and Drew Brees' worst performance. I decided to ensure that I wouldn't see today's kickoff by attending the Life Teen mass at St. Anne's. We weren't the only Who Dat's in the congregation, which actually surprised me a little; I would have thought all the others would be watching the game.

After dinner I was torn about watching. I couldn't resist, and thought I'd have to leave the house when Reggie Bush muffed a punt, and the Vikings recovered it near the end zone. I kept watching, to see them score to punish myself, and thought my fortunes had reversed when they forced a turnover. From there I couldn't look away until the final seconds of regulation, changing the channel to ice skating and hoping for a miracle I'd only see in replays. It came in the form of a Brett Favre interception, relegating me to pacing from the front door to the kitchen and back again, wondering what was happening, and hoping it was all working out.

When it was all over I got to share in the joy with friends and family, including phone calls to my dad in Cameron and my 92-year-old grandfather in Abbeville. It's such a great feeling to know that he's finally going to see them play in the big game.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Cold as Ice

We were setting records for cold temps in Houston last week, so it was perfect weather for an ice sculpting competition.

Yeah, I know you folks from the Dakotas and the other frost-belt states deal with substantially lower temperatures, but for the people of the Gulf Coast, 48 hours below freezing is a big deal. Not many people are prepared for that kind of hard freeze, since the mercury only drops that low a few nights a year. I covered people covering plants, pipes, and themselves to wait out Old Man Winter's kick to the 'nards, but found a group of people kicking back on Saturday.

I got to the station Saturday morning before my reporter, which isn't unusual, but when 9:30 rolled around the desk decided to make a call. Long story short the reporter called in sick, leaving me the sole person responsible for gathering the dayside stories. The three items deemed worthy of our time were all in the same area of downtown, but we now had to decide how much time I should spend at each. The desk and I decided the ice sculpting competition would make the most sense as a nat-sound package, and I could still get the other two as VO-SOTs.

The news director thought otherwise. In addition to the ice story, I would have to shoot the Bridal Extravaganza as an anchor package. The third story got dropped. To say I was thrilled would be inaccurate. I was looking forward to doing the nat-pack, but now I was going to have to shoehorn the time to do it around the other package. Any photog who cares knows that a good nat-pack takes the same time and work as a regular package to put together. Time was ticking away, and it looked like lunch would be the next casualty.

I arrived at Discovery Green around 10:10, and I finally found a parking spot around 10:20. Now it was time to load up and go hunting. Camera, tripod, mics, tapes, and an extra battery added up to an extra 50 pounds I would be lugging around for what turned out to be four hours. At least I have a Beta SX camera, and not the 3/4" camera and record deck the old timers used.

After walking a couple of blocks, I found the artists were just getting started. Rectangular blocks of transluscent frozen water were getting unpacked, and the buzz of electric chainsaws mixed with the thump of the bass line pounding from the DJ's speakers. Seven of "the world's best ice sculptors" were making snow to decide who could make the best use of a ton of ice.

While a respectable number of people were there to see these masters at work, the crowd only got bigger as the five hour competition unfolded, and they tried to guess at what the finished sculpture would be. The crowd, and I, were awestruck as a snarling panther's head was attached to the shoulders of the big cat, which was poised in a downward-facing position, ready to pounce on unseen prey.

Unfortunately I wouldn't get to see the finished works, because I had to trudge over to the George R. Brown Convention Center for the other story. The extra layers that kept me comfortable in the cold were now a burden that I had no way of shedding. Cars, cakes, and a kissing contest were all committed to tape, along with the brides and other vendors at the show. From there I schlepped my gear the three blocks back to the car and headed for the station, where I had to wait for an edit bay to get put back together before I could edit.

Overall I'm pleased with the story. It's only the fourth nat-pack I've done, and I managed to really tie everything together. As for the anchor-pack, it never made air. The producer busted it to a VO-SOT, which means I wasted time on that story I could have used for the nat-pack.