2pm: The Washington Wizards PR staff sends a email out saying that President Barack Obama will be in attendance at Verizon Center for the game against the Chicago Bulls. Media members were encouraged to arrive early, and bring as few personal belongings as possible, since the screening process would be heavy and intense.
2:01: I print out the email, and tell my boss that I need to leave earlier than usual because the President is going to be in attendance during the Wizards game. I initially did this out of common courtesy, but I think it came off like me bragging…oh well, I kind of was.
3pm: I initially bought two tickets for this game so that my lady could bring someone to sit at the game with her. But she was unable to find any takers, so I put the ticket up for sale via craigslist. Around 3pm is when someone showed interest, and we did the transaction via paypal, and it was all good. More on this later.
4:25pm: I leave work, put on my iPod, and walk towards the Verizon Center. It’s a one minute train ride from my job to the arena but I enjoy walking much better. It allows me to get my thoughts together, get a bit of exercise, and think about how I am going to approach this game. Plus, I can avoid the fanatical crazies who ride the train en route to the game. I don’t need that aggravation in my life.
4:40: I arrive at the media entrance of the Verizon Center only to be re-routed to some makeshift media entrance. As soon as I walked in that door, I was greeted by a policeman, two secret service agents, and some other mysterious looking gentlemen. They asked me to place my bags down, and then take the metal objects out of my pocket. First they frisked me, and put their hands on me like I was rock star who just jumped in a mosh pit. Then they took the metal detector and ran it over my body once again. Then the aforementioned mysterious gentlemen emptied my bag, opened my laptop, and just looked for anything shady. The guy in front of me complained and complained about this security checkpoint, and he kept telling anyone within earshot that he had stories to write and this was holding him up. A Secret Service guy stepped up and calmly said, “Sir you can talk and yell as much as you want, but this is how its going to happen or you can leave.” The guy kept running his mouth, but he did everything he was told like a good boy.
5:00 pm: I finally make it the media room, and I sit down and eat a nice dinner, while watching the local news, where they hype up Obama’s arrival. I think this is the point when I realized I was about to be a part of history. It’s not often that one can come in contact with the leader of the free world, and given his busy schedule, it’s pretty amazing that he would take time out to attend a basketball game. Hopefully he’ll attend more, but that’s definitely not a given.
5:45: I see Michael Wilbon outside the Wizards locker room talking to someone. Since he was busy, I was just going to walk by him without speaking, but he interrupted his conversation and said, “What’s going on, buddy?” He then gave me the handshake/half-hug combination. I’ve met this man many time, but it never gets old. He’s still one of my idols.
6:00pm: I get a view of the updated-Barack-is-coming seating arrangements. If you use this seating chart as a point of reference, it will help bring home the point I’m about to make. I normally sit in section 104 to cover the game which is about 10-15 rows away from the court. My new seating arrangement had me in the hockey press room, which is the section above numbers 415-419, which meant the court, the players, Barack and my lady (who had bought a ticket for section 104), would be tiny specks. I think I cursed under my breath about 56 times, but then I calmed down.
6:10pm: I went up to my new seat in the heavens, and cursed for the 57th time.
6:25pm: My lady arrived at the game, and I came down from the heavens to greet her in her seat. At this point, I regretted selling that ticket on craigslist earlier in the day. I could have kept that ticket, and did my game notes from a decent seat. When I realized this, guess what happened for the 58th time?
6:55pm: The Wizards were introduced to Jay-Z’s verse in the song, “Swagga Like Us.” It is the perfect song to get pumped up to.
7:05: President Barack Obama coolly strides on the main floor and takes a seat on the left side of the basket. He shakes a few hands, waves to the crowd a few times, and then starts talking to this kid who was sitting next to him. The game was delayed until Obama was seated and comfortable, which also was very cool. About 20 feet from where Obama was sitting, there were about 30 photographers and cameramen fighting with another to get that ultimate photo and/or video. But since they were blocking Obama’s view, he politely asked them to move, and that’s exactly what they did.
7:06-7:45: Everybody close to Obama all of a sudden decided they had to go to the bathroom, or get some food or drink, which of course involved them walking directly in front of Barack. The first father/son combo that tried to do this, got to shake Obama”s hand and say hello. The next 100 or so people who tried were politely asked to get the hell out of the way, which made me laugh. People walked toward Obama holding his book, basketballs, programs, t-shirts and all that hoping he’d autograph them, and then they got their feelings hurt.
7:45-9:30pm: You’ll have to read my article tomorrow to find out what happened here.
9:35 or so: Obama stands up, shakes hands and then leaves.
So, that’s how it went down from my perspective. I really wish I had a better seat and a better view so I could have shook his hand and chatted with him a bit, but it wasn’t meant to be.
Hopefully next time.