1:45 am, October 22, 2014
"Why the hell am I awake right now?"
That's what I thought as I typed my brittle fingers away on a black, murky keyboard in a four bedroom apartment in downtown Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania. We had done a crap ton of research for the last week for our huge Big East conference preview, and the finishing touches still weren't done.
You think we write these articles when the sun is out? Okay, well, usually we do, but I can count on one hand how many times I missed sleep because of reporting that kept me or Ryan, or a combination of us, up at crazy times of night. Like when we whipped together a 2,500+ word article on Villanova having posters for two games? Or that time we polled like a thousand students on why they came to Villanova?
So yeah, this isn't an unusual thing for me. School work plus college athletics plus a regular job plus this can leave you in the hole sometimes. And either you get the work done or you lose. And losing isn't an option.
I typed away until about 2:30 am and headed to bed.
*Bzzzzt* *Bzzzzt* *Bobby Schmurda blares through the apartment.*
"You've got to be kidding me that it's already time."
That's right. At 4:30 am, I put on a suit. Took a shower. Brushed my choppas and walked five blocks to the local bus station for the 5:15 am to New York City. Why? Because I don't have a car. I board the bus and head off to NYC. 40 minutes later, a horde of Northeasterners board the bus at a separate stop, one man sat directly in front of me, portly dude, with that "he definitely has the same mustard on his shirt from 19 ot-ot" smell to him.
Lovely creature he was. So lovely, that he snored loud enough that the entire bus could hear him for the next three hours. I was running on less than three hours of sleep and had to be at the Garden by 9:30 am. Peachy.
"How the hell are we still in New Jersey?!"
If you've ever been through the Lincoln Tunnel you already know where I'm going with this.
En route to Big East Media Day @ Madison Square Garden, but currently being stiff armed by the Lincoln Tunnel. Thanks New York, never change— Tyler R. Tynes (@TylerRickyTynes) October 22, 2014
We were just outside of New York, in like Nutley, New Jersey or some other poop town like that. Like always, literally every single time I go on a trip, I was nervous. I hate being late, to anything. So, I calmed down. Sipped my...oh yeah, I didn't have any friggin coffee because I friggin woke up at 4 am and Dunkin Donuts was like "Nah."
So I drank my own spit while we creeped and crawled to the tunnel. Suddenly, it was nine o'clock. Suddenly, I was freaking out.
"If this stupid bus, that was scheduled to be in NYC at 8:30 am, doesn't get to stupid NYC in five minutes I'm gonna flip out," I thought to myself, alone and behind the same snoring fat bro that wouldn't shut up.
There was no way I was going to get out of this. I was going to be late. I was going to miss key opportunities to get the jump on everyone else. Chris Lane was going to come from Atlanta and kick my ass. But then, the bus started moving. Dude was on some Usain Bolt types of fast. I had been saved, momentarily.
The bus pulls in to Port Authority at 9:10 am. Crap. I'm still going to be late. The fat guy with 20-year old mustard on his shirt obviously had snails for feet. Cool bro, you wouldn't let me sleep and now you won't let me leave. Entrapment. Calling the police.
I get outside and of course, it's raining. Awesome.
I buy a cheap umbrella from some weird store next to the New York Times building and scamper over to Madison Square Garden. And, of course, I went through the wrong door.
I know guys, half of this is just me being stupid. I know. Some random bro directs me to the right entrance after I get my stuff checked by like seventeen people. I swore they had a bomb sniffing dog. And then, I was there. More than a hundred reporters were listening to Commissioner Val Ackerman, and I was one of them. And in my mind, I was better than a lot of them.
It was the same place where Ali threw blows at Frazier. Where UConn went six overtimes with Syracuse. Where Kevin Hart did stand up in front of 30,000. Okay, maybe one of those shouldn't be there, but whatever.
I've come to learn in journalism, specifically sports, that if you don't have that drive, that hunger, or any overly-confident personality traits, then you WILL be eaten alive at events like these. So I started with the most intimidating, dry-humored, coy person in the Big East: John Thompson III. That went about as hilarious as you think it would.
A year's time covering the Villanova and the Big East got me some followers. One kid from Seton Hall asked me during my interview with Isaiah Whitehead: "dude, I thought your hair was much taller than that." Sorry to disappoint bro. And then it got interesting. Villanova walked in and Darrun Hilliard looked pissed. I was giddy.
I made a challenge to myself that when I got to MSG I would be dressed better than Jay Wright. I lost that battle. And then the fun kept coming. Ryan Arcidiacono gave me his most composed interview in a year. Daniel Ochefu told me he learned Japanese this summer, and it took all of me not to laugh in his face. Jay told stories for more than a half hour of the old Big East from the eighties. It was like some weird basketball heaven.
Then Hilliard came back, and he still looked slightly pissed. And he let it all out and it was impressive. Then something really cool happened. I met Kevin McNamara from the Providence Journal. This was a guy whose work I had always respected. One of the older guys covering the conference that still hustled like a younger guy. That's what impressed me and I'm not impressed by other writers, rarely ever.
Everything in sports journalism after the invention of social media has become a disastrous implosion of true journalism. It's more about "who can get the story first" rather than "who writes it better" or who "covers what team better." It's allowed the craft to have kids, younger than me, to "report" on different teams and subjects. It's weird. But McNamara knew me. That was the coolest part.
"Yeah man, it's great to meet you," he said. "I know we follow each other on Twitter and you cover Villanova. I just want to say you do a helluva job on that man."
In every trip, there's always one moment that makes it all worth it. That was it. The honestly weird part about sports journalism or working at bigger newsrooms or bigger entities, is you never know who is watching. You never, ever really know. Until someone tells you. And when they do, it's either because you are good at your craft or because you messed up bad.
That was the icing on the cake. After dining at the Media Day buffet. I left Madison Square Garden laughing at Steve Lavin in a jump suit, jubilant. I went to my bus. I sat in my seat. I wrote my story. And I was more than content.
You don't always make friends when you cover a top-25 team with a solid fan base. That's not the reason you write. You do it because you feel as though you have a public duty. You want to keep others informed. You want to be a modern day Picasso.
The long, rectangular luxury bus pulled past a glistening, emerald sign. It read in bold letters: "Wilkes Barre." I was home. But while I traipsed the carpeted floors of the theaters of Madison Square Garden, I was already home. I had always been home.
I don't know why the Big East keeps giving me press passes. But at this point, I'm not complaining.