Saturday, June 27, 2009
For the Love of the Game...
I spent last weekend on a bus. The Abilene Ruff Riders, our local arena football team were traveling to Corpus Christi for a game and myself and reporter Daniel Youngblood went along for the ride for a behind the scenes look at what a road trip is like for the team. It was an interesting trip, and opened my eyes a lot to what these guys go through.
These days you read and hear a lot about "pampered" athletes, I can tell you first hand, these guys are not pampered. We got on the bus at 9:30am Friday, and started on our way. We made it about three blocks before having to turn back, I can't say too much about that, I've forgotten my cell phone plenty and had go home to get it. However, about 20 minutes into the 7 hour trip, our bus driver made a wrong turn. And then he proceeded to flip a U-turn in the middle of the highway, it was an interesting experience. About an hour after wrong turn #1 came wrong turn part 2. For this turn around we did it in a small gas station parking lot, and little less harrowing. Other than a couple really close calls with a few light poles we made it to the hotel in Corpus all in one piece.
The entertainment on the way down looked to be first class watching the movie "Blood Diamonds" seemed like a good start, the movie was surprisingly good, but it was all down hill from there. Then we proceeded to watch such silver screen classics as "Night Train" and "Madea Goes to Jail. " Neither will be seeing time on my Netflix list. After we got to the hotel and rooms were divvied up the team got a little break before the team meetings started. After that, everyone pretty much was on their own for dinner. We ended up going to dinner with the coaching staff. This was a really good time, I've always felt eating a meal with someone allows you to really get to know them, plus we went for Cajun food! The attitudes were really light, these guys get along reallys well and don't take things real serious, and they joked around and made fun of each other a lot.
Game day was a long day, really long. It starts with a 10am meeting so the coaches can make sure the players are up. After that they are on their own till the bus leaves at 2pm for the arena. It was about a 30 minute bus ride to the arena, after that it's a 4+ hours wait for the game to begin. After walking into the "locker room" there was no doubt that this was the minor leagues. The team's locker room was in an ajacent building to the arena, and there was no air conditioning! After the pregame meal (in the arena, which at least did have air conditioning) most the players sat around listening to music, some even napped on the arena floor.
The team lost the game, which kind of sucked because they would have clinched a playoff spot with the win and probably would have made for some nice jube shots. But it didn't happen. As soon as the game is over the players shower at the arena. Again, in a show of the conditions they have to deal with there is one shower for 25 guys. Many of them chose to shower off under water spigots near the "locker room." Even worse, some of the guys even had to share towels since not enough were supplied! After that, it's on the bus for a lovely through the night trip home. We finally got home at about 6am. I was able to doze off for a while thanks to a couple more bad movies (Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins).
After looking back on the trip, being a professional athlete, especially in the minor leagues, is not that glamorous at all. Tour busses are not a great place to sleep. And, these guys make $200 a week, and an extra $50 is they win the game. Needless to say, not a lot of money. And, if you divide it by all the time they spend on the road, it equals a little more than minimum wage, and that doesn't include the time during the week that they spend practicing! One of the players told me they don't do it for the money, but rather the camradarie of the players and the friendships made, "I love these guys and that's why I keep playing."