A True Professional: Barry Anderson

When it comes to my job, the one duty that I hold that most people don’t know about is that I serve as the mascot coordinator. I am in charge of our two students who play Monte as well as our mini replica, Mo. Basically I schedule all appearances, oversee the financial piece of the program, serve as the liaison between the mascots themselves and the general public, and help with the development of the mascot entertainment during games (notice how I say “help”… our student performers have amazing minds and they come up with most of the good ideas).

When I got hired in the athletic department a little over three years ago, the mascot program was already nationally renowned for its excellence. In fact, Monte had held a top spot in the mascoting world for several years running. If you were to go anywhere in Missoula and ask a random person how Monte exploded onto the national scene and became the darling of college mascots, most would simply respond with a name: Barry Anderson.

During the early 2000’s, Barry Anderson donned the Monte suit. For the sake of length, I am going to omit his laundry list of accomplishments and accolades while wearing the bear suit at The University of Montana and just say that he took the Monte character/identity/brand to an extraordinary level, a level that many mascots at much bigger schools will never come close to reaching. Besides the adoring fans of Missoula, many others took notice of the special talent that Barry possessed. Around 2005, the Chicago Bulls hired him to become the next Benny the Bull.

For the past seven or so years, Barry has kicked butt in the Windy City serving as the mascot of the Bulls. He has reinvented the character of Benny much to the delight of everyone associated with the organization. Just like Monte, the Bulls mascot is not limited to athletic contests but rather a wide array of other events, functions, and commercials. But while Monte usually completes his numerous appearances around the state of Montana, Barry completes his around the world. Because he works for such a prominent sports organization, because his job is so important, and because his duties and travels seem to never end, Barry has his own assistant that is assigned to him…pretty cool, huh?

With all this going for him, most people would probably assume that after seven years of sharing the court with some of the best athletes in the world and receiving more time on national television than the Vice-President, Barry would probably have little need or desire to return west to the much slower and less-populated life of Montana. What is that saying people use to describe what happens when people assume?…

Each football season, Barry Anderson makes one return trip to Missoula to hang out with his old friends and to perform for one half during a Montana Grizzlies football game. It is always a highlight of the season for our fans as well as a big surprise as no one knows that Benny the Bull is at the game until the moment of the much anticipated mascot entrance (well it is a big surprise for everybody except the roughly 5,429 friends that Barry still has in the city). Once it is revealed that Benny the Bull is in the house the place goes nuts and an extra burst of energy is pumped throughout Washington-Grizzly Stadium.

I opened up this post by mentioning that I am the mascot coordinator. Because of this, I have the privilege of working with Barry when he comes back for his annual homecoming. This man is simply just different than your normal specimen. When you meet Barry, you will immediately notice three things: First, his sense of humor. Barry is as witty, sarcastic, and funny as they come. Even if he is making jokes at your expense you can’t help but laugh and marvel at his cleverness. Secondly, you will quickly become aware of his professionalism. He takes every aspect of his job with the utmost seriousness (I will soon elaborate more). Thirdly, you will realize the amazing talent that he possesses. I will never forget last year when he surprised the crowd by zooming out onto the field on a Harley. I watched in awe as he flung his arms up and down rallying everyone in the stands as he sped around on the field. He owned that crowd. I told myself up in the press box at that exact moment that this guy is much more than a talented mascot…he is a first-class, good-as-they-come performer.

Because I help deal with the planning of the mascot entrance, I get a high dose of the number two thing you will notice about Barry, his professionalism. I love it when Barry comes back but I also know that I better be ready. He runs a tight ship and expects perfection. Do the things he asks and you will be fine, miss out on a detail and be ready to hear it from him. But that is what makes Barry such a pro. He has everything so far planned out in his head with exact precision that even the slightest deviation from the plan can dramatically detract from the masterpiece he is about ready to lay out. People like to laugh at mascots for their unplanned rough luck, awkwardness, and mistakes. Barry eliminates all of these common mascot ailments because he is just so well prepared. On Friday night when we rehearsed the mascot entrance inside the stadium, I sat back and watched as Barry conducted the scene on the field. Directing the two Montes, Mo, the limo driver, and the dance team, we went through the whole skit over and over. Funny and specific in his demeanor, he got what he wanted out of everyone involved. Leadership and professionalism at its finest.

Despite the loss our football team suffered, this past Saturday went great. The entrance went very well and our fans were once again treated to a wonderful performance by Benny the Bull. During a timeout I played “I Gotta Feeling” and I watched Barry jump from the sidelines up onto the top of the railing of the student section and lead a couple hundred of those kids in a fist pumping frenzy. It was the exact same thing as my memory from him on the Harley last year…that inexplicable generation of energy that so few can bring out. As with the prior year, the same thought went through my head….”This guy is the real deal.”

While Barry is demanding, he is also very gracious. As we exchanged e-mails on Monday he expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to take part in Saturday’s game. He also thanked me for helping out with the rehearsal/gameday components. It always feels good to be appreciated by someone so established and highly regarded. Thank you Barry for sharing your talents with us once again. You are one of a kind. Go Griz and Go Bulls. Don’t Blink.

Quit Blaming the Replacement Officials

While watching Monday Night Football this evening, I started to write my blog post that had no relation to the NFL or football whatsoever. After watching the ending of the Seahawks controversial victory over the Packers and watching Twitter absolutely blow up, I knew I had to dramatically switch course. Let’s talk real quick about these replacement officials.

All of us need to recognize something right now: None of us have any right whatsoever to take our anger out on the replacement refs. They have ventured into a near impossible situation. Most of these fill-ins were Division III officials last year. There is absolutely no comparison at all between a Whitworth Pirates vs. Pacific Lutheren Lutes game and a San Francisco 49ers vs. Minnesota Vikings game. Rules and game administration between the two levels are nowhere close to being on the same wavelength. If there is something that is similar between the two, than it is magnified 1,000x more in the NFL (everything from speed to athleticism to crowd size to intensity). To think that these officials could have an acceptable grasp on the highest level of football in the world after cramming for a summer is a joke.

Besides the major differences between the levels of football and besides the laughable amount of time they received to get acquainted with the NFL version, these men never had a chance to succeed. They got no respect from the players, coaches, or media. This of course translated into the officials getting no respect from fans. Every game I have watched this season, the announcing crew has made the officiating the focal point of the broadcast. Instead of focusing on player-related storylines, the talent on these broadcasting teams have focused all of their energy on criticizing the officials. When you get these analysts made up of mostly former players and coaches in the booth who have massive followings and larger than life personalities, they are going to sway the audience…especially when they say the same thing over and over for three hours. Over the past few weeks, I have wondered what fans would really think if they sat down and watched a whole game with the mute feature on. No way would they be as irate over the officiating.

I am mad at both the team owners and the NFL referees union for not coming to terms on a deal. Yes, the owners seem to be taking the cheap road by not meeting the demands of the referees when they are supposedly making millions and millions of dollars per team. And yes, the officials are entitled and they do feel that they are worth more than they actually are. I honestly feel that with more training, experience, and seasoning, these replacement officials could do a job on par with the locked out refs. Whenever two sides strongly disagree on issues, the best route to take is one of compromise, right? Can’t the owners and referees somehow sit down and hash something out? But who am I kidding, isn’t this what they have tried to do for several months now?

My main mission is just to get people to lighten up on the criticism of the replacement refs. I know right away that a “fan” is not very educated when they are directing their anger and insults towards the guys who have taken on such a momentous task. I really do hate to see people vilified for doing their best under uncontrollable circumstances, especially when their best is way beyond anything that you or I could ever do. Let’s realize that it is not the replacement officials who are making the most costly bad calls. Rather, it is the team owners who are too greedy to shell out a few extra bucks and the NFL referees who feel they are indispensable and who feel they should make a comfortable six figure salary for officiating sixteen games a year. There are more serious problems in this world. GO SEAHAWKS! Don’t Blink.

Buffalo Wild Wings

When Buffalo Wild Wings opened up in Missoula one year ago, I am pretty embarrassed to admit that I had never dined, or even stepped foot into, one of their numerous locations nationwide. I know, right? How could an obsessed sports guy like me never have taken the time to walk into what is widely considered as the Mecca of sports themed casual dining?

Probably the main reason for my prior absence to BWW centers solely on the fact that I have just never really cared that much for wings. My basic attitude throughout my life was that wings were messy and they never really did the job at filling me up. If I went to Hooters or Pizza Hut, I would always pass on both places self-proclaimed “famous wings” and order a burger, or, big surprise, a pizza.

Buffalo Wild Wings opened up to large fanfare in Missoula. The grand opening was built up with lots of advertising and much anticipation. A promotion was staged that guaranteed a year’s supply of wings to the first 100 people that walked through the doors. The media covered the event aggressively. Customers crowded the restaurant non-stop. Everyone I knew could not stop talking about it. Despite all of this that was going on right underneath my nose, I never really felt a strong desire to go eat there. I stayed away.

A couple weeks passed and the buzz continued to swirl. In my opinion it felt like people were going a little overboard on how awesome this place was. As part of my internal backlash, I somehow managed to block out the endless praises of the place and latch onto the minor criticisms I heard whispered, namely that it was too crowded, the food came in box trays, and there were few healthy options on the menu (like I eat healthy anyway). However, after lasting a month with never entering Missoula’s newest dining gem, I entered BDubbs for the first time.

A couple of my friends had developed a little obsession with the place. They had developed a schedule where they were going there a few times each week to eat wings, watch their favorite teams, and banter with the wait staff, many of whom they were on a first name basis with. After some convincing, I decided to join them.

My reaction upon walking into Buffalo Wild Wings for the first time? THIS PLACE IS COOL! Televisions are plastered on every piece of real estate those walls hold. Better yet, each TV is set to a game (or other sports programming). The booths come with mini built-in televisions and the volume is set in a way that you can clearly hear the announcers of the featured game yet you can comfortably have a conversation with the people at your table. My first go-around at Buffalo Wild Wings I followed my preconceived idea of what my taste buds like and I ordered a burger. I got chastised by my friends for committing such a heinous act in a place where wings are king. But let me tell you what, I had no complaints about that burger. It was at least a ½ pound and came topped with bacon, pulled pork, and an onion ring!! I couldn’t believe I had neglected this place for a month.

After another visit of ordering something other than wings, I finally took the plunge and ordered twelve spicy garlic wings the third time I went. My whole life I have ate food that was supposedly supposed to be so good that it might make you live forever only to be let down at something that failed to meet expectations. Expecting to not fall in love with the famous delicacy in front of me, I chewed the first wing skeptically. About two seconds after I chomped down, I became a believer. Let me attest to you, the wings at BDubbs are the truth.

It just took that first wing to make me realize why people love this place so much. I don’t want to get too deep into the taste, texture, flavor, etc. about the wings themselves but please just believe me when I say they are the real deal. In fact, Buffalo Wild Wings made me become much more accepting to wings in general. I have now ordered wings at other restaurants and I use BWW to compare them (which is totally unfair because nothing comes close to Buffalo Wild Wings). At the restaurant you can choose from numerous different types of wing sauce, you name it and they probably got it. Spicy garlic is still my number one favorite but their mango habanero is a close second.

How good is this place? My parents even liked it! Whenever they come to Missoula I usually take them to a less casual place with more, how shall I put it, fine dining options. However, this past time they came up we went to Buffalo Wild Wings and had an enjoyable time as we munched on wings and watched Stanford upset USC. We left the place with my mom saying she wants to go back another time.

If you are a wing fan and you have not tried Buffalo Wild Wings, what are you waiting for?! If you are not a wing fan, still try the place….you will be a wing fan afterwards. When I travel to other cities and eat out, I tend to avoid the chain restaurants that I have in my own town. One of the few exceptions I make is for Buffalo Wild Wings. Man, I just got myself very hungry. Don’t Blink

Forfeiting: The Right Thing To Do

In life, one of the most valuable lessons to learn is how to lose. No matter how successful you are, no matter how much money you got, or no matter how gifted you might be, there will always be times when adversity comes around and knocks you down. Everyone loses. If you have never lost in your life, it means you probably haven’t won either. The best way to learn the lessons of losing is to play sports. Please don’t challenge me on that, there is simply no better way to learn the humility, agony, and heartache of losing than through athletics. However, sometimes an exception will pop up.

I came across a headline a couple days ago that read “Plains football to forfeit to Bigfork” (Plains and Bigfork are two small towns in western Montana). I instantly became intrigued. Teams never seem to forfeit, scenarios started swirling around in my head before I looked down to read the article. Did Plains have to suspend all of its players because of a behavioral issue? Did a tragedy hit the team/community that would make playing a football game seem too petty? Did a severe flu bug wipe the whole team out? Did team officials think the Montana smoke was too severe to play in? No, No, No, and NO.

On Friday night, the Plains Horsemen suffered a 79-0 defeat at the hands of Loyola High School, a small Catholic school in Missoula. The loss pushed Plains to 0-3 on the season. When the dust cleared after the blow out on Friday night, the Horsemen had lost one player to a broken collarbone and three others to concussions. The settling of the dust did not just reveal the injuries of the game however, it also offered a glimpse of what was to come next week for the Horsemen: An undefeated Bigfork team (3-0) that had just beaten its Friday night opponent by the score of 42-0. With the undermanned squad facing an impossible game, the activities coordinator of Plains sent an e-mail to the Bigfork activities coordinator stating that the Horsemen would forfeit.

As someone who started off this post by praising the lessons of losing and as someone who has played on his fair share of under 500 teams, you might think I would look down on the decision by the Plains activities coordinator. But my stance couldn’t be further from the truth.

People more hardcore than me might tell the coaches and administrators of Plains to suck it up and go out on Friday night and get slaughtered. They would probably look past the obvious safety threat and tell the players to grow a pair and shake it off. They might even throw out cliché words and phrases like “pride,” “courage,” “gut check,” and “man up” to convince the team that it was their responsibility to play in that football game. People like this who claim to be true competitors are really just folks who are so removed from their athletic playing days (if they even had them) and life in general that they are beyond delusional.

There is absolutely no redeeming life lesson in going out on a playing field where you not only have a chance at losing 100-0 but you also have a chance at losing your health. As I said above, the byproducts of a normal loss produce positive lifelong characteristics such as humility and accountability. The byproducts of a potential Plains vs. Bigfork loss would have produced humiliation and broken bones.

Put yourself in the shoes of a Plains football player: Could you imagine going to sleep at night this week leading up to the game thinking about how bad the final score was going to read come Saturday night? Could you imagine how hopeless and defeated the players would feel at practice as they went through the fruitless motions of whatever drills and irrelevant game plan the coaches had planned for them to “prepare” them for the contest? Could you imagine the sick to the stomach feeling the Plains players would have in their stomachs as the Bigfork bus pulled up to the school? Could you imagine the deep fear that would resonate within every single Horsemen athlete the moment the ball was kicked off to start the game? No reasoning could justify letting this game occur.

We are talking about high school kids here. Yes, they do need some tough love and some hard knocks (Lord knows I did) but not by the way of an embarrassing and dangerous few hours of football on their home field in front of their families and girlfriends. In high school athletics, especially at the smaller school levels, it sometimes occurs where the talent level between two teams is much too wide. While I don’t believe this alone constitutes reason to forfeit I do believe that if there is a safety component involved as well the game should be called off.

I applaud the decision by the Plains administration to forfeit the game. They are undoubtedly going to take some heat from people who don’t know any better who feel that not showing up to a game is blasphemous and a cardinal sin of athletics. But you know what? The leaders at that school will happily take the unfair criticism because they know it is a justifiable price for the well-being and health of their kids. Way to make the right decision. Don’t Blink.

Missoula Up In Smoke

When researching a place to live, a big part of gaging if that certain location is a good fit is to look at the air quality that impacts it. Some people can handle the smog filled atmosphere of a metropolis such as Los Angeles, others cannot. Usually, looking at the average air indexes of cities can give you a good idea on if the place fits your personal needs or not. However, such is life, certain uncontrollable events can occur that will alter the normal meteorological/climate patterns of an area and disrupt what people are normally used to. When Mt. Saint Helens erupted, ash descended on cities on the total opposite side of Washington State, thus polluting the air and sending the normal pleasant days of May for a complete twist. When 9/11 occurred, the New York City air became filled with nasty toxins that have had devastating effects on thousands of people. Closer to my home, we are currently undergoing a pretty significant challenge to our usually healthy air.

Over the past few weeks, Missoula has turned from a gorgeous, colorful slice of paradise to a dark, smoke filled bowl. With wildfires raging in the Bitterroot area of western Montana and in the Idaho Panhandle, The Garden City has been the unlucky recipient of more smoke than any compulsive liar could ever manage to blow.

In normal times, the air in Missoula could rightfully be caught in bottles and sold for an expensive price to anyone in need of a “breath of fresh air.” The Missoula air is usually golden, a sweet reminder of why Montana is The Last Best Place and a selling point for all the California people who decide to pack up their belongings and head north to take up residence in our beautiful state. Whenever I would return to Missoula from travel to a bigger city, the major factor that would help me get over my post-vacation depression would be to step outside of the town’s mini airport and breathe in the clean, therapeutic Montana air. On my many return trips from Las Vegas, filling my lungs with the Zoo Town vapor immediately refreshed my body from several days of sun, smoke, pollutants, and other unsavory things. It was an immediate cure. Good thing I don’t have any Vegas trips planned for the next couple of weeks, I would hate to have that experience totally flipped around.

On the flight back home from Tennessee last week, the descent into Missoula was something else. Instead of mountains, valleys, and the beautiful colors that define a western Montana autumn, all I could see out of my window seat was grayish-brown smoke. Nothing became visible until about a minute before we landed. As we descended I looked at Jimmy and told him that I couldn’t believe people were living in this. After five days spent in the sticky, humid air of the south, I was ready for some reprieve. However, what I got when I stepped outside was 5X worse than what I had been exposed to over the better half of the past week. I walked through what seemed like plumes of smoke to my car as my nose was greeted with the somewhat welcoming smell of a campfire…only no hot dogs or marshmallows were present. This was not right.

The smoke has only gotten worse in Missoula. This past Friday, the school district canceled all of its after school football games. Even night competitions were called off. To get an idea of how bad it is, the homecoming football game for one of the local high schools here had to be moved to Ronan, a very small town sixty miles north of Missoula. We went on with our football game here at The University of Montana but from my vantage point in the press box, it was a pretty weird site to see Washington-Grizzly Stadium filled with a brown, hazy smoke for the whole game. People were wearing masks in the stands.

I feel for the people who have a low bodily tolerance for the smoke. Surely for them it has to be hell living in Missoula right now. As someone who can handle even the dirtiest of air, it is even tough for me to stomach this environment. It is a challenge to find the silver lining in something like this but if you look closely enough, you can always find a couple things. First, the sunsets have been pretty cool. The smoke has made the sun look bright red as it sets over the mountains. Secondly, it just really makes me appreciate even more the rich, healthy air we get majority of the time.

With the fires still raging, Missoula is likely to be under smoke for quite a while. Our saving grace? WIND! Right now, we need strong winds from the west to blow this smoke out of our valleys. Until then, it might be better for the health conscious and nature loving people of Missoula to spend more time inside. Eventually this will pass and we will have our clean air back. I know I won’t take it for granted again. Don’t Blink.

5 Things I Learned About The South

By spending time in Tennessee and North Carolina this past week, I took advantage of a great opportunity to experience the south. With some time in Florida accounting for my only true taste of how things are in the southeastern United States, I got exposed to a relatively new culture. I thoroughly enjoyed observing both the differences and similarities between the life “there” and the life “here.” In this post I simply want to bring to light the five main themes I observed while in the “Tar Heel” and “Volunteer” states.

Accents – I always thought when I watched movies that took place in the south the actors would greatly exaggerate their accents just to give the film more flavor and extra credibility. Boy, was I wrong. The southern accents in Tennessee and North Carolina are thick. Words are said differently, sentence speed is in a whole other league, and unfamiliar expressions are used.  The way people talked made the accent of my travel partner, a Texas native, sound like he was from California. You know a way that a girl can get to my heart?…have a southern accent. I don’t know how else to describe it but many of the women just sounded so sweet when they talked. I sometimes wondered if it sounded like I had an accent when I interacted with the people down there but I never did ask. Any of my southern readers care to answer my question?

Eating Good in the Neighborhood – There is no other place that eats the way the south does. Having traveled through much of the country and indulged in shoving my face at each place, I can honestly say that the south takes the cake. Although too busy to sit down to eat most of the time, we did get to experience some southern dining. The night we got in to Johnson City, Tennessee, we ate at a little dive restaurant called Red Pig Bar-B-Q. The place just had that southern comfort feel the moment you walked in. Right when we came through the doors the owner of the restaurant came up and shook our hands. The special of the day was written out on a chalk board while the rest of the food selections could be found on paper menus.  For $9.99 I got a half rack of ribs, baked beans, cheese fries, and garlic bread. The combination and quantity was something I was definitely not used to.

Welcome to the Red Pig Bar B Q

Red Pig dinner: ribs, cheese fries, beans, and bread.

The next day we had to meet with the restaurant that was catering the post-game meal for the football team. During the meeting we were treated to lunch. The server came out and said “This is how it works here…I am going to bring you ten different items and let you eat until you get full.” He then returned with fried chicken, mashed potatoes, Salisbury steak, green beans,  cole slaw, biscuits, corn, apple sauce, and two other items I can’t remember. He kept coming back asking us what we wanted more of. We then ate banana pudding for dessert. BBQ places lined the streets, grits were served everywhere, and I am pretty sure no one ever left a place hungry.

This meal really hit the spot.

No Excuse Not to go to Church – The first thing I noticed once we got in the rental car and started driving from place to place were the vast array of churches. Just a couple of sentences ago I said BBQ places lined the streets but churches still had them covered. Predominately Baptist, these churches were at every corner of our journey. It was interesting to see the different architecture/building design of each one and it was fun to read the marquees as each church had its own thought provoking and clever saying to catch the eye of parishioners. We joked that there had to have been at least one church for every two people who lived in the region. Then again, I kind of think there had to be some truth to this thought because every church we drove past we never really saw anyone outside or vehicles around the structure. But I guess it was not Sunday.


The marquees of the churches always had someting thought-provoking for you to contemplate.

Color Me Green – The areas of the south I visited on this trip had great natural beauty as everywhere we went was covered with lush green trees, bushes, and plants. It seemed like we were on back roads for the majority of our transportation from place to place and it was as if we were driving through Sherwood Forest. It really did look like a fantasy land. The thick green trees extended across the roadways, making for a tunnel of green foliage that we drove through. On Saturday morning, a co-worker and I drove up to an area that overlooked acres upon acres of vibrant forest land. It was quite the sight. Even at Kidd Brewer Stadium you were surrounded by greenness and trees. The humid temperatures and good amount of rain the area receives contributes to its impressive blooming appearance.

Everything we saw was green.

Southern Hospitality – Finally, I will remember from my visit the kindness and genuineness that the locals treated us with. As I mentioned in my post from last night, we were treated with class and thankfulness from the Appalachian State fans. The same can be said about the athletic department staff from App State as well. They went out of their way to accommodate us and make sure we had every need tended to. But it goes even beyond the folks at Appalachian State. Everyone who Jimmy and I worked with were top-notch from the hotel staff to the airport personnel to the transportation specialists. But again, it goes beyond them too. Everyone who we just encountered as a byproduct of spending time in the area (from the supermarket clerks to the waitresses who served us breakfast to the people on the roadways) treated us with nothing but consideration and respect. Yes, southern hospitality.


We are constantly told stories, fed stereotypes, and left to wonder about ways of life many miles away. The thing is, we will always be left to wonder unless we actually get to visit the places in question. Luckily for me, I was fortunate to visit an area of the country I had never explored before and was able to bring back with me to the good ol’ west  a very favorable opinion.  Don’t Blink.

A Game I Will Remember

Back in Missoula after several days down south, I am trying to adjust my internal clock and get back in the mountain time zone mode. You see, right now my body is all sorts of messed up. I guess that is what happens when you pull an all-nighter Tuesday night, travel all day Wednesday, work non-stop from Thursday through Saturday in the  eastern time zone, finish work at 3am Sunday morning, and then travel all day once again. Because of this schedule, I admit that a lot of what happened over the past several days seems like a blur. Certain things seem to run together and I am hard pressed to say exactly what days we completed certain tasks on. However, despite all the cloudiness over the last week, there is something that is still crystal clean in my mind, totally unscathed from the hustle and bustle: last night’s football game.


On Saturday evening, the Appalachian State Mountaineers hosted the Montana Grizzlies in a regular season, non-conference dream matchup between FCS powerhouses.  In Boone, North Carolina, in front of 30,000 people under the lights, the two best programs at their level clashed in yet another down to the wire game. When all was said and done, Appalachian State came away with a 35-27 victory.


In my first game working on the advanced travel crew with Jimmy, I learned a lot. We ran around frantically as we were either meeting with people, traveling from one place to the other, transporting our own people, or preparing for a meal/walk-through/hotel check-in/etc. Because of the pace we were moving at combined with the jet lag and travel fatigue, it is easy to see why I can’t recall everything with pinpoint precision. Thus, it speaks volumes to how special last night’s game was as my memory from 6pm ET to around 10pm ET is spot on.

Kidd Brewer Stadium was filled with over 30,000 fans last night.

It is hard to describe the atmosphere of last night’s game. Well, wait a second, maybe it really isn’t. If you were in attendance for the 2009 Montana-App State semi-final game, then you have an idea of how Saturday night was. The Appalachian State students packed their designated section two hours prior to game time. During those two hours they had a great time dancing, engaging in cheers, and doing anything to get on the video screen. Speaking of the video screen, the App State game operations crew ran a special highlight video of the 2009 game that basically paid homage to Montana. It was cool and a very respectful thing for our hosts to do. The entirety of the pregame rivaled what we have in Washington-Grizzly Stadium. While I don’t think their tunnel walk outshined what we have, their fireworks display was right on the field and very impressive. As I have said before, I love getting the chance to enjoy a sporting event and observe what other teams are doing. It is so nice to be removed from the craziness and stress of actually running the show.

The fireworks go off while the cheerleaders get the crowd going.

Once the actual football game got started, it was an intense and fun experience. Even though the game was non-conference and even though it was early in the season, both teams knew the underlying importance of what was at stake. It was the battle of the two most successful programs at the FCS level, it was east versus west, it was one tradition against another tradition. Both teams played hard and I don’t mean that in the cliché type of way. I mean it more from the standpoint that the teams hit hard the whole game, played with passion, and did whatever they could to win. The stadium was packed. The students were wild, the general App State fans were into it, and a certain section of people dressed in maroon and silver made their presence known the whole game. The large ASU band, the very good crew of cheerleaders, and that Mountaineer mascot that kept running up and down the home sideline also added a special touch to the atmosphere. As the evening got darker the bright lights illuminated yet another nail-biting finish.

Many Griz fans traveled south for this special matchup.

In a wild fourth quarter, both teams came up with Sportscenter worthy plays and with less than nine minutes to play only one point separated the two teams. With under a minute left to play in the game, the Griz had the ball and threatened to tie the game up. However, as sports go, it was just not meant to be.


Before, during, and after the game, App State fans were admirable. Save for the handful of drunk students that every school has, everyone in that stadium seemed to be classy. After the game as I was running back and forth through the crowds I couldn’t count how many times Appalachian fans said to Montana fans as they crossed paths “Thank you very much for coming.” True to the great nature of many of our fans, they all responded with either a “Congratulations,” “Thank you for your hospitality,” or “Hope to see you down the road.” Rivalry at its best.

I had a great time watching the game.

Last night I was very fortunate to be on the sidelines and witness a great college football game between two teams, two schools, and two fan bases that have the ultimate respect for each other. What I watched play out on the field and in the stadium plaza after the game is something I will always remember. No case of jet lag could ever touch that. Don’t Blink.

Off to North Carolina

It is currently 3:30am and I am just a little more than a couple hours away from embarking on a day–long odyssey that will take me from Missoula to the east coast. In between Montana and my final destination, there will be several stops. Lots of take offs and landings. Surely some babies who won’t stop crying and some seat mates who won’t stop talking. Odds are there might be a couple hiccups. Am I dreading what lies ahead for the next several hours? Absolutely not.

By the end of today I will be in Boone, North Carolina, where my co-worker Jimmy and myself will start making preparations for The University of Montana football team to arrive on Friday and to ensure a smooth sailing ship logistics wise so they are ready to go come Saturday night when the Griz take on fellow FCS heavyweight Appalachian State in a much anticipated football game.

This year I am serving on the advance travel crew for the football team. It is an endeavor that I am extremely looking forward to and one that I hope to learn a lot from. How did I get so lucky that the first game I get to do this for is a regular season game for the ages? I have no idea.

Jimmy and myself will fly out of Missoula to Minneapolis. From there we will go to Atlanta. From Atlanta we will touchdown in Bristol Tri-City, Tennessee. From Bristol we will make the drive to Boone, NC. While helping with the travel/lodging/transportation logistics, I will also get to give our fans a first-hand account of the team’s activities through our social media channels…not a bad gig.

Have a great week everyone! Make sure to tune in (ESPN Gameplan) to the game at 4:30pm MT this Saturday as the Grizzlies take on App State, it should be a great one. Don’t Blink.

Instagram #HashTags

Hard to believe, but there is now something that I love even more than Twitter hash tags. After I sang my praises about them and even devoted a whole blog post to the usage of hash tags on Twitter, I have found something that I love even more: Instagram hash tags!

I admit it, I am head over heels for Instagram hash tags. I could (and actually have) spend hours jumping from one hash tag to the other on Instagram. But let’s back up for a second…

If you are not familiar with Instagram or have never used the service before, you need to get it. Since last December it has been my favorite iPhone app and I really don’t see it changing for me anytime soon. Over the past nine months I have posted 1,100 photos on the service, I seriously can’t get enough of it (search me @BrentReser). It is the Twitter of pictures, a way to express yourself in rich detail that 140 characters could never touch. Instagram is so amazing and revolutionary that Facebook bought it for $1 billion dollars. That is saying something. I could go on and on about how much I just love the whole concept and idea behind Instagram but I have actually already written a post on that subject too. Instead, I want to talk more about a specific feature of the app, hash tags.

Just like Twitter, you can use hash tags each time you post. They follow the same basic principle for both services…namely to put a subject or theme to the tweet or picture. So obviously if you took a picture of a cat, you would use the hash tag of #cat. This is at the very basic roots of hash tagging on Instagram. Just like Twitter, many people will abuse the hell out of hash tags and post twenty to thirty different ones per picture. Keep in mind, there is no character limit for Instagram captions so people can take the abuse up several notches. One girl I know can take a simple picture of herself and come up with twenty-five different hash tags to accompany it! Of course, using a great deal of hash tags is a great way to gain followers as the more HT’s you have, the greater the chance is that someone will find you.

But enough about the excessive use of hash tags, I want to talk more about the beauty of them, more about why I can spend so much time searching them. Instagram has over 50 million users. With this very large user base, millions and millions of pictures are posted to the service each day. When you have a picture pool this gigantic, you are going to have pretty much every single subject, activity, hobby, and concept covered. Softball fan? Search #softball and browse the ridiculous amounts of softball pictures that come up. Like koalas? Type in #koalas and prepare yourself to see pictures of koalas in all the zoos across the nation. Want to go to school at Notre Dame? Get an idea for campus life by searching #NotreDame.

The appeal of doing an Instagram hash tag search is that you will find real, personal, and creative pictures. You aren’t doing a Google images search where you will find a bunch of boring, commercialized photos of whatever subject you typed in. Instead, you will get pictures from around the world taken at the front lines by people just like yourself who used the exact same device as yourself to take the picture. Better yet? You can interact with the people who took the pictures. I say it freely, I have no problem asking a question or making a comment on someone’s picture that I find fascinating. I love the dialogue that ensues and the social networking that occurs. It is also a great way to gain followers and learn more about the world.

But what do I love to do the most when I search Instagram hash tags? Look up food! I like nothing more than to type in a certain food and see the different versions, creations, and presentations that are captured. Last week I searched #froyo and just went nuts looking at the crazy desserts that people have made across the nation. I thought I was a froyo pro but after searching on Instagram I learned that I am a mere amateur. With all the different filters that Instagram offers, capturing something like froyo is really art. Sorry if that sounds corny but it is true. I must have “liked” fifteen different pictures while going through the thousands that were pulled up as the result of my search. Here is another fun one…this past Sunday I ate at HuHot (a Mongolian grill). I searched #HuHot on Instagram and once again I was blown away by the plates that people had made for themselves at HuHots across the country. Even though by the time I looked at the pictures I had already finished my meal and was stuffed, I still appreciated the array of different plates that people were digging into at the time. Last night I bought popcorn at the movie theater and because I like popcorn you can probably guess….I looked up #popcorn. Again, the different variations of buttered popcorn, colored popcorn, candy popcorn, and even frosted popcorn just made me happy. Today I really went on a limb and searched #corndog….some real interesting pictures there!

We have dubbed #GoGriz as the official hash tag of Grizzly Athletics at work. I look the tag up daily to see the pictures our fans are submitting. They are so awesome and I have been able to connect with more people in the Missoula community because of it. If you are visiting a new city be sure to search the name of it. You will find great ideas on what to do and you will even get to know people who are currently tourists as well. This again provides a great opportunity to interact with people who are undergoing the same experience as you are and even offers chance to actually meet up with someone if you are daring enough. The possibilities are endless.

Instagram is building on what Twitter first created and, to use a cliché that I absolutely hate, is actually taking the concept of connecting strangers to a whole new level. Instagram is hip, it is trendy, and it is fun…but most importantly, it is useful. Start utilizing the hash tag feature and see how it really can add something to your life. Don’t Blink.

The Worst Sight in the World

I have seen some ugly sights in my life, but one scene I have seen way too many times seems to disturb me more than any other. Maybe I let this get to me a little more than I probably should but I just can’t help it. I always cringe and have to look away when I see a friend or colleague take out his or her sleek iPhone only to see that the front glass is significantly cracked or in some especially serious conditions, completely shattered.

I don’t know what it is, but there is just something about seeing a magnificent piece of technology hampered down into such a pathetic existence. The most disheartening thing about this is that so many people must deal with the shame and agony that comes from a broken iPhone screen simply because it is so easy to do. These phones are more fragile than the WWF wrestling figures that I collected as a kid that would break into four pieces If they graced the ground. I have unfortunately watched first hand the accidental breaking of numerous iPhones. All it takes is a small fumble just a couple feet off the ground to cruelly destroy the joy and connectedness that such a device brings. People who go through this just don’t see their front screens shatter, they see their ego shatter too. Whenever someone whips out a dismantled iPhone others around that person can’t help but feel pity, sympathy, and the “sure glad it wasn’t me” type attitude. Who wants others to feel that way about them?! Walking around with a broken iPhone screen is very much analogous to driving a car with a cracked windshield…only worse.

With the relative ease and the stroke of unluckiness that causes many people to see their cellular devices crumble, I must declare it a minor miracle that over one year after receiving my iPhone it is still intact to this day. As I have mentioned before, I used to go through phones at a very alarming and irresponsible rate. I would lose them, break them, and render them unusable by the abuse I inflicted on them. I shelled over way too much money to Verizon and probably restarted my contacts list about eleven different times. I was a running joke in my family as someone who could not take care of his possessions like a normal, functioning adult. My phone track record was beyond awful.

When I received my iPhone I told myself that things from now on would be different. Instead of treating my phone like some disposable piece of junk I was going to treat it for what it really was…a very valuable mini computer. I took far greater care of my iPhone as I handled it with care, cleaned it regularly, and outfitted it with the coolest case on the planet. I seriously went out of my way (and continue to do so) to make sure my phone would never find itself involved in some freak accident. But really, there is only so much you can do because accidents always happen, especially with phones.

I am so very thankful that I have not cracked my front screen yet. Just a couple hours ago as I exited the movie theater after watching “Lawless” my phone plunged out of my hand as I went to open my car door and fell smack on the concrete, front screen first. While my case covers the back and sides of my phone, the front is exposed. I thought I was screwed. My heart sunk and I quickly felt the sharp disappointment of a nice evening ruined. I rehearsed going into work tomorrow and explaining to our staff member who handles our phones the boneheaded mistake I had made. I fretted over whether my phone would be usable over the long night (yes, I am a little addicted). As I bent over, picked up my device, and then flipped it over to assess the for sure damage that had to have resulted from my clumsiness that amazing feeling of receiving a second chance engulfed my body. My phone’s front screen did not have one crack, one scratch, or one blemish. It made it through the fall completely unscathed.

Over the duration of my time as an iPhone owner, I have probably dropped it about ten times. However, this does not come from being negligent; it just comes from standard use. People drop phones, it just happens when we handle them so much. Back in the day, I probably would have dropped my phone a hundred times so the fact that I have overwhelmingly lowered my drop rate is pretty spectacular. But you want to know what is even more spectacular? Out of those ten times I have accidentally dropped my phone, the screen has not cracked once. I have seen people do far less than me when it comes to dropping their devices and yet they have had to face the grisly scene of a shattered iPhone. I am by no means a lucky guy (well in the grand scheme of things I am a very lucky guy but I am talking more about basic everyday things) so I have no idea why I have had the good fortune of not having to deal with this type of mess. I guess the phone gods look fondly on me.

I couldn’t help but write about this tonight. Driving home from the theater I felt like I had really dodged a bullet. It also served as another wake up call and helped me to refocus on my mission of care and protectiveness that I pledged to when I originally got my iPhone. Make sure to take good care of your phones everyone and buy a good case! We can’t depend on luck. Don’t Blink.