Mad Respect for Local Sports Reporters

A great thing about my job is that I get to interact with professionals in various occupations outside of just athletics. Business owners, marketing consultants, public service workers, campus-wide employees, and sales reps make up some of the people I help out and work with. However, in that group I left out the one profession that I enjoy interacting with the most, the one profession that I probably have the most respect for: the local television sports reporter.

First off, I have an all-encompassing respect for the local media in general. Doing all they can to write/shoot/broadcast/Tweet the latest news in a very competitive and low-paying environment, I marvel at the excellent job that many of them do. Whether it is through a newspaper, television screen, radio, or website, I am thankful for the coverage they provide us.

With that said, my level of admiration heightens a bit for the local journalists who appear on television, especially the reporters. While appearing on camera takes an enormous amount of guts in general, everything else that the job requires from going to location-to-location, getting stories, scoring interviews, writing the material, and then putting it all together as a final package is daunting to say the least. The pressure would weigh on anyone and to realize that these people do it on a day-to-day basis speaks volumes about their work ethic.

Handing out one more heightened notch of respect, I have to specifically signal out local television sports reporters. While having any type of profession associated with athletics is a dream for many, even the most avid and obsessed sports junkie could easily get burnt out reporting local sports.

Shaun Rainey is a sports reporter for the ABC/FOX station in Missoula. He is a great talent and a friend on mine.

Shaun Rainey is a sports reporter for the ABC/FOX station in Missoula. He is a great talent and a friend on mine.

First things first that you have to understand is that a sports reporter at your local station wears many hats. Most of the time he/she travels to multiple sites in a day, scouts out a spot to work, shoots the games, conducts interviews, hustles back to the station, writes the sportscast, edits it, changes clothes, and then slides into the anchor desk and in front of the camera to deliver the day’s sports. Talk about exerting a lot of energy!

But honestly, I just rapidly fired off the main duties that the sports journalist has to accomplish. I didn’t even scratch the surface of every little detail that goes into each one of those tasks.

I didn’t talk about the long hours involved for sports reporters. From starting at the station early in the day and then going to the competition sites and then back to the station up through the late night newscast makes for a brutally long day. The hours extend to the weekends and holidays too. Sports are always happening and while most of us are fortunate enough to enjoy them, sports journalists are working their butts off to cover them.

I didn’t mention the taxing travel obstacles that many sports journalists go through as they commute from site to site, many outside of city limits. Speaking of travel, I didn’t bring up the challenging road conditions that many must navigate during the winter months, especially here in Montana. Going from small town to small town on sketchy roads in a blizzard just for the sake of capturing a few highlights is risky business.

A Movie I Wish I Never Saw

Very rarely do I feel the need to devote a blog post to voicing how bad a certain movie was. However, the film I saw on Monday night at the Carmike 10 theater in Missoula reached such a level of horrificness that I felt compelled to let all my readers know about it. I care about all of you so much that if I can save you $9.25 and two hours of your time I am going to do it.

Many times I read books and watch movies without reading the inside cover or watching the previews. I like to go into something with no preconceived notions. I am just entertained more when I have to figure everything out myself without the aid of a primer before. As usual, I went pretty much blind into the recent movie I saw and I can say that was one of the few times where I genuinely wished I diverted course and did some research.

Monday evening I saw “Spring Breakers”. Going in, I knew the movie featured Selena Gomez and was based on the spring break odyssey of a group of girlfriends. I also knew that the movie featured some sexual and narcotic themes….but what movie these days doesn’t, right? I just thought it would fall in line with any typical PG-13 or R rated movie. So after all the commercial ads and the 30 minutes of previews, the movie finally started. It only took one minute of the opening scene to clue me in that this was not your typical PG-13 or R rated movie.

In “Spring Breakers”, sex and nudity predominate throughout the whole entire movie. Now trust me, I am no prude, but the blatant and constant usage of the above mentioned things really did distract from anything the movie might have had going for it while also leaving the viewer to think “Wow, this is just plain indecent.” Sometimes movie makers purposely go overboard with controversial themes and many times it just comes across as unnecessary. Think the F-Word with “Casino” or violence with the last “Rambo” movie. Directors sometimes just put strong language, violence, and/or sex in every part of a movie just so it will have strong language, violence, and/or sex in every part of a movie. But where “Casino” and “Rambo” both crossed the line a little bit with language and violence respectively, “Spring Breakers” in my opinion did an Olympic-caliber long jump over that same line when it came to sex/nudity elements. For me, it was just way too much.

The movie in general was just disturbing and weird to me. Filmed and cut in a choppy, drug high-induced way, most people 10 years younger than me would probably say it was cool….I just thought it was distracting. It is in this hazy way that the movie follows four girls (one of them Selena Gomez and one of them another Disney star, Vanessa Hudgens) as they go to Florida for spring break. Funding the trip by robbing a diner, the girls live it up in Florida, partying like there is no tomorrow. The party stops momentarily when the group gets arrested for trashing a house. Sitting in jail with no money, they get bailed out by a drug dealer rapper named Alien. The rest of the movie just chronicles the weird relationship between Alien and the girls.

And that my friends, is pretty much the gist of the movie. Don’t even bother about a plot, “Spring Breakers” is completely devoid of one. The makers of the movie must have thought that an excess in party, sex, and drug scenes excused them from throwing any sense of one into the film. The whole time in the theater I tried to figure out what the movie was trying to get at, what needed to get accomplished. Nothing ever emerged.

Of course, if something lacks a plot then there is no real set up for a decent ending. With no problem to solve or goal to achieve, what do you have to base a strong ending on? “Spring Breakers” makes no exception. The ending was one of the most epically bad ones I have witnessed in a long time. If you plan to make the mistake and watch this movie, turn your head now as I summarize how the movie concludes: Alien and the two remaining girls go to a rival drug dealer’s property and engage in a shootout with the rival’s entourage. Alien is shot dead right away but somehow the two college girls are able to blow away about 25 men of the entourage, enter the mansion, and kill the rival dealer in front of two of his women who are in the shower. The girls leave the property in the dealer’s car and the movie ends. A completely unbelievable, random, and unsatisfying ending…yet completely fitting for how terrible this movie was.

To put the cherry on top of the disgusting sundae, the characters in the movie will leave a terrible taste in your mouth. The group of girls the movie follows are 3x worse than The Plastics from “Mean Girls”. While Selena Gomez played the role of the good girl, the other three were simply way too out there to ever develop any liking, sympathy, or connection for. However, the character of Alien takes the cake for complete catastrophe. Alien is played by James Franco, the same guy who stars in “Oz the Great and Powerful.” I haven’t seen a character who made me feel more annoyed or disgusted in a long time. Just tough to even look at in the first place, he had no redeeming qualities and his constant rapping/singing/reciting throughout the movie drove me up a wall. If I heard him say his repetitious “Spring break…spring break” one more time in that movie I was going to storm out of the theater. It was that bad.

The funny thing about movies is that everyone has different tastes. Believe it or not, some critics have actually given “Spring Breakers” positive reviews. While I personally have no idea how that is possible, it reminds me that my standard of what makes a good movie differs from the standard of the entertainment writer from such-and-such a newspaper or from the standard of yourself. With that said, please don’t go see “Spring Breakers.” Don’t Blink.

P.F. Chang’s

PF Chang’s recently put on a cool little promotion. For a little over a month, if you dined in a PF Chang’s restaurant they gave you a card with your check. The card was a red, glossy type pull tab. If you pulled the tab off, it would reveal some type of discount or free item. The catch was that you could only use it at a future visit within the promotional timeline. Additionally, the card was only good if it remained unopened until the server did the honors himself.

This past Saturday I was in Spokane for the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament. Misti (co-worker), Shaun (friend who works for ABC/FOX), and myself decided to eat a late dinner at PF Chang’s after we watched the Gonzaga men get upset by Wichita State. When my mom got wind that we would be eating there, she insisted on driving all the way from the north side of the city to our downtown hotel where she gave us two of the PF Chang’s promotional cards. We got to our table and after we ordered our appetizer I finally remembered that I had the cards. I presented them to our server. He quickly and unceremoniously opened the first one revealing that we would get 10% off our meal. Big deal. Definitely a little disappointing. But then he opened up the second one, this time a little slower, and my eyes grew big for a split second as the winning message appeared……..20% off our meal. Okay, we were definitely hoping for that $75 gift card that was one of the available prizes but I guess 20% off is better than nothing, right? (And no, we could not add the two cards together to get 30% off).

Misti and I outside the Spokane P.F. Chang's in front of the famous horse.

Misti and I outside the Spokane P.F. Chang’s in front of the famous horse.

I bring this story up as a roundabout way of saying that I enjoy PF Chang’s. While I didn’t win big on their promotion, I still found it fun and thought it was a great idea. Besides good promotions, PF Chang’s just serves really good food. Their signature appetizer, the lettuce wraps, significantly blows any other competitor lettuce wraps out of the water. The freshness and crispiness of the lettuce combined with the warm, spicy chicken on top of the white rice noodles is a combination made in heaven.

The delicious lettuce wraps we had this past Saturday.

The delicious lettuce wraps we had this past Saturday.

I have sampled many of the chicken, pork, and beef entrees on the PF Changs menu and I have to say that they are all fabulous. Each dish has its own distinctive flavor, chockfull of taste. The noodle dishes they serve are amazing. A family favorite of mine, the double pan fried beef noodles, make me so happy. Even the rice they serve stands out from rice at other places. They bring you out both white and brown rice and it compliments everything else so well. The rice at PF Changs just has a texture that is different and not to get too specific but it always sticks together just perfectly as well. Then of course the server always mixes a sauce to the liking of your table (mild, medium, hot) and that is always delicious as well.

The entrees and rice we got during a visit in February.

The entrees and rice we got during a visit in February.

Whenever I go to a PF Changs, everyone in my party always orders a dish that they specifically like and then we eat family style. The times that I have gone with my family we always have a couple chicken dishes, a beef dish, a pork dish, and a noodle dish not to mention two big bowls of rice. I have fun making a bed of rice on my plate and then covering it with the noodles and meats and then topping it off with the special sauce. It makes for a yummy meal full of flavor and different textures. I have never once gone away from a PF Changs feeling like I did not eat fresh, quality food.

My family loving life at P.F. Chang's in November of 2011.

My family loving life at P.F. Chang’s in November of 2011.

Adding to my fondness of PF Changs are just the little things. Service is always great. The glassware and serving ware is eccentric and fun to drink/eat off of. The lighting and setup of the restaurant is relaxing. The distinct PF Changs smell is inviting. The whole China bistro concept the chain prides itself on makes for a fun dining experience.

PF Changs is a major chain restaurant that you should really try if you have never done so before. While you won’t get to do the pull tab promotion (it ended on March 24) you will get to eat some amazing Asian food in an efficient, classy restaurant. Check it out when you GOT the chance, you will enjoy the experience. Don’t Blink.

Lady Griz NCAA Tournament Experience

This past week I had to opportunity to attend the NCAA Women’s Basketball tournament while working on the Lady Griz travel party. Doing this allowed me to take in two new experiences. First off, I had never attended a women’s basketball NCAA tournament before this weekend. Secondly, I had never traveled with the Lady Griz. I can now check both those things off my bucket list.

One of my duties was to watch over the pep band and cheer squad. In fact, for this trip I was designated as the “coach” of the cheer squad…something that I can add to my resume. Anyway, all of us on the band and cheer squad departed campus via bus for Spokane on Thursday afternoon about an hour before the Lady Griz left. This gave us time to check-in to the hotel, the Red Lion at the Park, and then get set up to truly welcome the Lady Griz when its bus arrived. Positioning the cheer squad right outside the doors of the hotel and setting up the band right inside the hotel conference area lobby, the Lady Griz received a loud and spirited welcome that any team that made the NCAA tournament should receive.

The Lady Griz getting off the bus and getting welcomed by the Cheer Squad.

The Lady Griz getting off the bus and getting welcomed by the Cheer Squad.

After the team arrived and got settled in, many of us went up to the Skyline Ballroom of the hotel and watched the Griz basketball team square off against Syracuse. Unfortunately, the Griz basketball team did not have a very good night. Fortunately, the Griz basketball team had a spectacular season so even with the loss we all felt great for what the team had accomplished. As we walked out of the viewing room and went down the elevator, the Lady Griz knew that the eyes of Montana were now focused solely on them.

The Lady Griz watching their male counterparts play.

The Lady Griz watching their male counterparts play.

The next day we had band and cheer rehearsal for the game in the back parking lot of the Red Lion. Under the early spring Spokane sun, it was very pleasant getting ready for the timeouts that the band and cheer squad would get to perform for during Saturday. It was amusing watching hotel guests open up the back doors and snap pictures at the very collegiate scene taking place in the parking lot. For the hotel guests who did not hurry down to ground level to see the practice, many had to have watched from their room windows as the sweet sound of “Up With Montana” was audible enough even on the eleventh floor.

The Cheer Squad and Pep Band rehearsing in the Red Lion parking lot.

The Cheer Squad and Pep Band rehearsing in the Red Lion parking lot.

After the rehearsal and a nice walk through downtown Spokane and Riverfront Park capped off by a tasty lunch at the Olive Garden, I drove to the McCarthey Center to cover Media Day. One thing about NCAA tournaments: the media rooms are always full and busy with activity. Moderated by an NCAA official, the Lady Griz press conference featured Robin Selvig, Katie Baker, and Kenzie De Boer. I enjoyed listening to them field questions from the media. As I tweeted out after the press conference, I admire how articulate and professional our Lady Griz athletes are when dealing with the media. It goes without saying that Robin Selvig is a true pro at the same thing.

Robin Selvig, Katie Baker, and Kenzie De Boer

Robin Selvig, Katie Baker, and Kenzie De Boer

When the press conference concluded I spent some time chatting with my friend Shaun from ABC/FOX and then I went out on the arena floor for the Lady Griz practice. Before the session started the players posed for a group shot that was well-documented by all the media types there, including myself. While they ran through a 90 minute practice I got some great pictures from many different angles of the facility and then just relaxed and watched from press row as Robin conducted the remainder of the practice.

The Lady Griz posed for a picture before practice began.

The Lady Griz posed for a picture before practice began.

That Friday night I had the bus take the band and cheer squad out to the Spokane Valley Mall. While I had seen the place a thousand times, I got to enjoy a nice Mexican dinner at Azteca with Shaun and Misti, one of our main equipment room workers. After a couple hours and too much Mexican food, we returned to the hotel.

Saturday morning of game day came and I made sure to get our social channels primed and ready for the big match up with Georgia. The Lady Griz departed the hotel at 1:30 p.m. and once again we had the band and cheer squad sending them off the right way. This time both cheer and the band were staged outside, making it a very spirited walk for the Lady Griz from the exit of the hotel to the bus. Coach Selvig was the last one on the bus and he made sure to give us a salute, prompting cheers from everyone.

The Lady Griz walking to the bus while the band plays and the cheer squad cheers.

The Lady Griz walking to the bus while the band plays and the cheer squad cheers.

At 2 p.m., cheer and band made the bus ride to the McCarthey Center. After the Gonzaga crew checked all I.D.s, we went to the holding area where we joined Georgia’s spirit squad and band. In a nostalgic moment for me, the holding area was in the old Kennel of Martin Center where Gonzaga used to play its home games. For two years when I was in grade school, I served as a ball boy for Gonzaga in that very gym. After everyone got settled I went over to the “new Kennel” of McCarthey Center and watched the remainder of the first game, Gonzaga vs. Iowa State. Much to the disappointment of the home crowd, Iowa State defeated the Bulldogs, starting off a terrible day for the Gonzaga basketball programs. The game ended and teams, spirit squads, and bands were switched out and just like that we were thirty minutes away from Montana vs. Georgia.


In the staging area which was the Old Kennel.

In the staging area which was the Old Kennel.

I got a front row seat right in front of our cheer squad. Playing in front of a good crowd in a magnificent facility, I got that familiar NCAA tournament adrenaline rush circulating through my veins. The Lady Griz started off slow but then went back-and-forth with Georgia for the final fifteen minutes of the first half to only be down seven points at halftime. Then, in a display that had the whole gym believing and rallying around Montana, the Lady Griz started the second half hot and cut the Georgia lead to 38-36 early on. However, that was as close as they would get. A couple more rallies fell short and the energy exerted to make those comebacks proved costly as Montana ran out of gas towards the end. When the buzzer sounded, Georgia had defeated the Lady Griz, 70-50.

The Lady Griz played well and competed.

The Lady Griz played well and competed.

In no way was the final score indicative of how close the game actually was. The Lady Griz played great and honored the Montana tradition. Simply, Montana competed with Georgia. Playing as a #13 seed and playing against a power conference you can’t ask for much more.

The Cheer Squad relaxing at halftime of the game.

The Cheer Squad relaxing at halftime of the game.

The travel party stayed the night in Spokane. Man, was that one sad city. After the Lady Griz game, many of us watched as the Gonzaga men’s basketball team went down to Wichita State. There were some pretty shocked and upset locals that night. Sunday morning we drove back to Missoula. Shaun and Misti kept saying how long the trip seemed, but not in a bad way. It was just one of those things were you thought to yourself, “Wow, it seems like I have been here for longer than sixty hours.” We pulled up to the campus on a sunny afternoon and went on with our days.

I took away a great experience from Spokane. I enjoyed getting to hang out and socialize with staff members who I normally don’t have the opportunity to talk to. I enjoyed watching over the cheer squad and getting to know the band better. I also enjoyed the satisfaction of knowing that I am very lucky to work for the Montana Grizzlies and that the way we run things both at our own venue and when traveling is top notch. Mostly though, I enjoyed watching the Lady Griz basketball team cap off a remarkable 2012-13 season. To all the coaches and players on this year’s team…thank you. Don’t Blink.

Off to the NCAA Women’s Tournament

In just a few minutes I will hop on a bus with the UM Cheer Squad and UM Marching Band and we will head west down I-90 en route to Spokane for the 2013 NCAA Women’s Basketball tournament. Leaving an hour before the Lady Griz and support bus leaves town, we will be able to give the team a proper welcome when they pull up to the Red Lion Downtown Hotel at about 7 p.m. local time this evening.

The Lady Griz received a #13 seed from the Selection Committee and will tip off against #4 seed Georgia on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. inside the McCarthey Center on the campus of Goznaga University. As with any Robin Selvig coached team, Montana will play with a lot of heart and focus and will have a great shot to be in the game at the end.

For me this will be a new experience. I have never attended a women’s NCAA tournament before so I am excited to take in the madness and see what it is like in the other mega March bracket. I am also pumped to see in person our Lady Griz team that has battled so hard all season long get the chance to square off in the most storied tournament at its level against an SEC team.

My duties on this special trip entail supervising the cheer squad and band while of course covering the Lady Griz experience through our new media channels. It will be at least a wonderful few days in Spokane but hopefully with a victory over Georgia it will extend to about five wonderful days in Spokane.

It is time for the madness to start! Good luck to the Griz basketball team tonight against Syracuse in San Jose and good luck to the Lady Griz on Saturday. What a thrill this basketball season has been for Montana. I am so proud to be a Griz. Don’t Blink.

Missoula Dickey’s: Best BBQ Ever

Tomorrow, Missoula will officially have something that it has needed for a while. After way too long of not having the option to visit this place, which is the most prevalent of its kind, doors will open tomorrow at 11 a.m. You know what is funny though? Even though it is the most prevalent of its kind, many Missoulians give me a blank stare and ask “what is that?” when I tell them that a Dickey’s is moving into the old Central Bar location in downtown Missoula. Let me explain.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to town Dickey’s (oh yes, you are asking what exactly Dickey’s is). Okay, let me say this again…ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to town Dickey’s Barbecue Pit. As with most things, it took some time for Dickey’s to make it to Montana but come tomorrow, there will be two locations in the state (one just opened up in Billings). Everyone out there who is not on a diet will love Dickey’s. Served cafeteria style, the restaurant serves the most popular BBQ staples: pulled pork, ribs, brisket, smoked sausage, ham, and much more. The place also serves LOTS of sides, including: macaroni and cheese, potato casserole, jalapeno beans, BBQ beans, fried okra, waffle fries, and more. Obviously, you get the idea that at Dickey’s you can get yourself a tasty and traditional BBQ meal.

Besides the “meat and potatoes” part of the Dickey’s operation, the franchise also has several little trademarks that make dining at one of their restaurants fun. First off, you got the Big Yellow Cup. At Dickey’s, you can purchase a cup that is, well, big and yellow. The cup is plastic and is meant for you to take home and then bring back to the restaurant for refills each time you return. The Big Yellow Cup even has its own fan club. Dickey’s also offers a few different kinds of BBQ sauce. Mix and match your entrees with any assortment you choose. Also, kids eat free on Sundays at Dickey’s. I don’t have kids, but if I did I would be at Dickey’s every Sabbath! Finally, and my favorite, you get FREE ICE CREAM! I am not kidding. At each Dickey’s location there is a vanilla soft serve ice cream machine with cones for you to help yourself. Come on, what other place offers that?!

Dickey's has three different types of BBQ sauce. My favorite is the spicy one!

Dickey’s has three different types of BBQ sauce. My favorite is the spicy one!

To be completely honest though, the main reason why you should get down to Dickey’s in Missoula is not for all the awesome food, promotions, and free ice cream that the company offers nationwide. Rather, you need to check it out because of the uniqueness that separates the Missoula location from all the others.

One of my favorite parts about Dickey's is the free ice cream!

One of my favorite parts about Dickey’s is the free ice cream!

The owner of the Missoula Dickey’s is James Gibson. He is my co-worker and good friend. For his day job, he serves as the Assistant Athletic Director for Business and Finance here at Grizzly Athletics. It takes a pretty driven person who is already immersed in a busy and important job to decide that he wants to take on an additional challenge, maybe the toughest challenge there is: The Restaurant Business. In the works for a long time now, I have watched Jimmy take his new business endeavor from just an idea to a grand opening. Although not even close to everything he had to deal with and work through, I got to see him jump over many of the hurdles to get to the point he will be at tomorrow. It is astounding. So know this: When you go to Dickey’s you will be supporting a true Missoulian who loves the town and is already working a job that serves the community.

Jimmy and I at the dry run for this new restaurant. A place could not be owned by a better guy.

Jimmy and I at the dry run for this new restaurant. A place could not be owned by a better guy.

One very unique thing about the Missoula Dickey’s that you won’t find at roughly 99% of the locations nationwide is that it will also feature a bar! Yes, a fast food restaurant with a bar! Quite the concept, huh? On the other side of the food line, you will find the bar. Serving both beer and liquor, you can have an adult beverage with your BBQ. How many of you have ever walked into a McDonald’s or Taco Bell and found a bar? That’s what I thought.

The bar is beautiful!

The bar is beautiful!

But it keeps getting better. From Thursday through Saturday, Dickey’s will stay open until 3 a.m.! Serving a limited menu starting at around midnight, Dickey’s will cater to the large bar crowd that takes over the streets of Missoula when night falls. To understand how significant of a development this is, you would have to know the city and know the prime location that Dickey’s sits at in the downtown district. To have the option of great tasting BBQ late on a weekend night might very well turn Dickey’s into not just one of the most popular restaurants in town but also one of the popular bars in town.


Lots of options on the menu!

Lots of options on the menu!

Finally, the Missoula Dickey’s will just have a genuine, community-type feel that you rarely find at such places. I have already mentioned the owner and his ties to The Zoo but it does not stop there. The Missoula location has committed to serving Griz Nation. Supporting that claim, Dickey’s has already partnered with a couple of the biggest and most prominent Montana Grizzlies entities in town. The restaurant has also expressed desire to have a large impact in the Missoula business community and help out as much as possible. How can you not want to support Dickey’s?

Previously I had the pleasure of eating at Dickey’s locations in Colorado and North Dakota. Both were awesome experiences with great food. Tonight I had the opportunity to eat at the Missoula Dickey’s as the restaurant staged its final dry run before the big opening day tomorrow…BEST EXPERIENCE YET! The food is simply top-notch quality. Please support the Missoula community while eating some great food at the same time…you won’t regret it. Best of luck Jimmy! Don’t Blink.

The food is simply amazing. Please give Missoula Dickey's a try!

The food is simply amazing. Please give Missoula Dickey’s a try!

An Amazing Day in Grizzly Athletics

Last week, in my mind I envisioned writing a recap of the crazy four days of dual Big Sky Conference tournament madness that I got to have a front row seat for. But, things happen and you change your mind.

I mean heck, I very well could have stayed true to my initial plan. I could have wrote about the 14 teams, the 12 games, the long days, the team personnel, the conference personnel, the fans, the crazy plays, the storylines, the promotions, the long nights, the challenge to keep the music fresh, the battle to stay awake, the task to block my hunger out, the duty to answer every question I received accurately, the obligation to stay neutral, and so on and so on.

But again, things happen and you change your mind.

Instead of composing a long, drawn out blog post covering my four days working the Big Sky Conference tournaments, I knew driving out of the arena parking lot late Saturday evening that I needed to do something different. While all four days were cool, nothing came close to how special and sweet that last day was. Championship Saturday at the Big Sky Conference tournament in 2013 will go down as one of the best, and most magical, days in Griz history. It deserves recognition all by itself.

My brother traveled to Missoula for Championship Saturday.

My brother traveled to Missoula for Championship Saturday.


Going into Saturday we already had the best case scenario. Both the Lady Griz and Griz basketball teams took care of business in the semis and had dates in the conference championship games with bids to the NCAA tournament on the line. However, the best case scenario in the morning didn’t count for much except that we would have great ticket sales. In all reality, both Montana teams could have dropped the championship games to very good opposing squads. Both the Northern Colorado women and the Weber State men were #2 seeds and had both beaten their respective Montana opponents once already. So while a good feeling circulated at the start of the day, we all knew that it could be replaced with disappointment come the end of it. The only thing to do was play the games out one at a time.

The Lady Griz took the court 100% focused on Saturday afternoon. Giving me a new playlist to cycle through during warm ups, the team was on a mission. The women didn’t really need to get fired up much more but during the National Anthem they did….as a surprise to our fans, we lit off fireworks during and after the Star Spangled banner. I think I am just getting more sensitive in my older age because when the fireworks went off, my eyes got watery. Here we were at The University of Montana, pulling out all the stops to make this experience for all involved as memorable as possible. The fireworks were beautiful, impactful, and for many, unexpected. It raised the adrenaline of not just the players, but everyone in the building.

The fireworks were spectacular.

The fireworks were spectacular.

Montana came out and just kicked butt. The same focus and intensity in warm ups carried over to the game. I had never seen so much emotion out of the team before. While scoring efficiently and shutting down Northern Colorado’s best player, D’shara Strange, the Lady Griz never trailed in the game and won 70-56. In yet another example of striving to make the tournament as special as possible, confetti fell from up above on to the Dahlberg Arena floor. The Lady Griz went from losing in the opening round of the tourney last year to champions of it this year. The players celebrated, Robin Selvig smiled, and the Lady Griz punched a ticket to the NCAA tournament.



I think after the Lady Griz victory, some weight was lifted off the shoulders of a lot of us. We knew we would not get shut out on our home floor. We knew at least one team was going dancing.

During the short period after the Lady Griz game and the start of the men’s championship game, the reality of possibly having both teams going to the NCAA tournament seemed real for the first time. The whole last half of the season I thought about how cool it would be for it to happen, but I knew so many things had to fall in place for it to be a reality. With the women advancing to the Big Dance, only one win was needed to send both basketball programs to the most prestigious collegiate competition there is.

Of course, that “one win” was going to be maybe the toughest of the season.

We have an amazing group of seniors on the Lady Griz.

We have an amazing group of seniors on the Lady Griz.


One word to describe the atmosphere of Dahlberg Arena on Saturday night: Electric. Fans packed the place. Students crammed into the bottom section behind the north basket and overflowed the upper section. Two bands (ours and Weber State’s) went back and forth filling the place with sound. Natalie Jones belted out the National Anthem while fireworks once again blasted through the air. Everybody’s hands went UP when I played “All I Do Is Win.” Come tip off, you couldn’t hear yourself think. Finally, the ref threw the ball in the air and the game started.

The Griz got off to a great start, building a 9 point lead at one time in the first half. However, Weber State clawed back and once halftime hit, the score was tied at 34. After the Super Skippers and UM Dance Team performed during the break, Montana and Weber State came out to play the 24th and final half that had been played on the Dahlberg Arena floor over the last four days.

The first five minutes of the first half went back and forth before Weber State went on a run to lead by five with 12 minutes left. However, the Griz never panicked and with five minutes left, the game was once again changing leads.

Wayne Tinkle was named Big Sky Conference Coach of the Year today. It is no surprise. Coach guided the team through those final minutes and despite some big shots by Weber they could not top Montana. At about the 20 second mark when it became apparent that the Griz would hold on, I left my place at the music table to get ready to go out on the court to cover the celebration. After Weber’s last second half court desperation three-pointer fell short, I hugged our athletic director who was standing right next to me and then ran out on the floor, taking pictures and video of the mosh pit at center court created by the UM student body who had rushed the hardwood. Just like the women’s post-game celebration, confetti fell, awards were given out, nets were cut down, and a ticket to the NCAA tournament was punched.

Members of the Griz basketball team celebrating after the game.

Members of the Griz basketball team celebrating after the game.


Two championships and two tickets to the Big Dance on one floor during one day. For a department and a community that has sufferered their fair share of blows over the past 12 months, we needed this. On Saturday, March 16, Grizzly Athletics once again proved that it is the cream of the crop in the Big Sky Conference, perhaps in one of the most dominating fashions ever. The day that Montana punched two tickets to the NCAA tournament on its home court will be remembered and talked about for a long time. The ten games I worked to get to the point of the two championship games? Absolutely worth it…I would have worked 200 games to be a part of what transpired on Saturday. Don’t Blink.



The $50,000 Dollar Bar

There are those places where you just have to stop. No matter how trashy, gimmicky, or weird they are, you just have to make it a point to pull the car over and enter…and no, I am not talking about Wal-Mart. I am talking about certain landmarks that define geographical areas, places that you can only frequent when you are traveling and out of dodge.

For many, a restaurant serves as this. It seems as every area has a fabled hole in the wall diner that serves out greasy mouth-watering burgers and unbelievable shakes. For others, it is a bar. Lots of people remember certain dives far away from where they live for a one-of-a-kind atmosphere and from what their memory serves them, the coldest beer they have ever tasted. Still, others look fondly on certain gift shops that carry precious items, memorabilia, and knick-knacks that they can’t get anywhere else.

In all reality, people like these types of places more for their charm, nostalgia, and out of the way location rather than the actual products they serve, sell, or produce.

Would you believe me if I told you that I know a place that actually encompasses all three of the services above (restaurant, bar, gift shop) while fitting into the “landmark gimmick” category? Yes, most of you would because I would bet that 75% of you reading this right now have frequented this place once or twice. In fact, if you make the drive on I-90 to and from Montana and Washington, you have probably stepped inside its doors more than just a couple times. No surprise here, I am talking about the $50,000 Silver Dollar Bar.

I started going to the $50,000 Silver Dollar Bar when it was still the $10,000 Silver Dollar Bar. In fact, I remember the first time I ever stepped inside. We were traveling from Spokane to Missoula for a gymnastics meet for my sister and I was seven or eight. My parents decided to pull over and when we walked inside I thought I was in a different world. I thought the wide assortment of toys, trinkets, and novelty items presented in a distinct Montana type setting was the coolest thing ever. My mom allowed me to get one item and I can still visualize it now: In resting position it was a green metallic cutout of a dragon. However, when I snapped my wrist while holding it, a comb would pop out at the end. I thought it was so cool! That visit created a special place in my little heart for the $50,000 Silver Dollar Bar. I thought about it and told my friends about it until we traveled to Missoula 2 years later for the same reason. Once again we stopped at the place and once again I graded it out as pretty cool.

The storefront of the famous $50,000 Dollar Bar

The storefront of the famous $50,000 Dollar Bar

As I grew older, I probably only made a couple stops at the $50,000 Silver Dollar Bar simply because I had little reason to travel to Montana. During those stops I still thought the place was pretty cool but the magic started to mellow out a little bit. When I started looking at going to The University of Montana I stopped at the place a couple of times going to and from my campus visits. While still neat, I knew at that time that I no longer had to stop there each and every time I drove by. Finally, when I started going to school at UM and then subsequently after I graduated and got my job, I started to think of the place as an old flea market and began to avoid the stop completely. Now, as a seasoned 26 year old man, I see the place for what it is and what it stands for and I actually look at it with a little bit of admiration (just a little bit).

Located in the middle of nowhere in Haugan, Montana, the $50,000 Silver Dollar Bar is a haven for tourists. Even though everyone can immediately spot the large, old looking building with yellow signage coming out all across the slanted roof and a gigantic Vegas style stand alone yellow sign with about five different panels advertising the different services about 200 feet from the building, the marketing people wouldn’t know it. I say this because the amount of money they spend on billboard advertising has to be astronomical. I think it has calmed down a little bit over the past couple years but when you used to get within 80 miles of the place, you would see a billboard every five to ten miles. You have to be blind if you have ever traveled by Haugan and not realized that the place is there.

You walk in the front doors and there is a restaurant to your far right, a bar area straight ahead, and then an oasis of merchandise to your near right, in front of you, and then a vast ocean of stuff to your left. Different cash registers are in all areas of the place, mostly enclosed by see through cases that hold all different kinds of items in them. As I said earlier it is a Montana themed store so you got guns, knives, and fishing stuff in front of you and to the near right. In the left part of the store you got all the Montana souvenir stuff you could want. Shirts, hats, shot glasses, coasters, glasses, and playing cards are all sold for relatively cheap. They also have a wide selection of Montana made products such as beer, candy, baking mixes, and drink mixes. Then, they have a wide assortment of junk. Fans, pens, board games, greeting cards, small toys, books, art work, and much more is available. For the most part the merchandise they have is not too terribly bad, it is just that it is in a very old store in the middle of nowhere that turns people off like me, or, on the other hand, intrigues others like my seven year old self almost 20 years ago.

A selection of the hats they offer. I actually really dig some of these....I even bought one!

A selection of the hats they offer. I actually really dig some of these….I even bought one!

The bar is pretty cool. It is definitely old school with a long, straight bar with stools lining it. Chandeliers hang and behind the bar plastered on the wall is what the place is known for…silver dollars. It is definitely a cool sight but there is no way they actually have $50,000 hanging there. The bar area has a hardwood floor and is spacious enough that there are tables set up and gaming machines available to play. One of the trademark sights is that at one of the tables there is a fake cowboy and indian sitting next to each other. Although they are obviously fake, if you see them out of the corner of your eye they will startle you.

This is the hat that I bought at the $50,000 Silver Dollar Bar. It is actually one of my favorite hats I own.

This is the hat that I bought at the $50,000 Silver Dollar Bar. It is actually one of my favorite hats I own.

The restaurant is basic. It serves your typical diner food. I ate a couple times with my dad at the restaurant and enjoyed the food well enough but enjoyed spending time with my dad and looking out the window more.

If you have kids, go ahead and stop at the $50,000 Silver Dollar Bar. They will enjoy the experience. If you don’t, then I say only go in the place for the one reason that I do: To go to the bathroom. Don’t Blink.

Snail Mail: Receive a Card from Brent

Although I love receiving mail, I think I like sending it just as much. Growing up in a household where my parents made me create, write, and then send off letters/cards for birthdays, holidays, and thank yous, the once burdensome task transformed into something that I grew quite fond of. By the time I reached late elementary school, I was sending off mail for fun. I sent letters and cards to businesses, relatives, friends, and of course pen pals! My first pen pal was in the fourth grade where I got set up with an African-American boy from New York named Maurice (sorry, off topic). Anyway, my hobby of letter writing has continued with me throughout my life to this day.

I think part of the allure for me with sending something in the mail centers on the fact that it is just such a good deal. I mean come on, how remarkable is it that I can put something in an envelope, slap a 46 cent stamp on it, and then send it to anywhere in the nation that I please? Not only that, but the turnaround is amazing, usually taking only a couple days to reach its destination. Because of the weird person I am, when I send a letter off I think about the route it will take to get to the recipient’s mailbox. I envision the ride in the mail truck from my drop box to the post office, from the post office to whatever plane or truck it is going on, from the destination city to the post office of the destination city, and then from the post office to the residence I am sending the piece of mail to. Again, all those twists and turns for just 46 cents. The U.S. Postal Service has a remarkable system.

While some might say that the proliferation of e-mail, instant messaging, and cell phones has devalued the traditional letter, I strongly disagree. I think just the opposite. The significance of a letter received in the mail is great because it means that a person declined all the convenient and informal means of correspondence and instead took a longer, more personal method to communicate.

So instead of being so long winded tonight, I want to do something different. I want to do something interactive. I want to do something that makes me act on what I am professing right now.

I want to send all of my readers a personal card through the mail. I am just asking for one thing: Share my blog on your Facebook page.

Would you like to receive a special something from me?

Would you like to receive a special something from me?

This is very easy. Right now on my Facebook page I have my most recent status update promoting this blog post. Simply click the “share” button under it and you will receive a heartfelt card from me. Once I see that you have shared it, I will direct message you and ask for your address. In order to be eligible, you must be a Facebook friend of mine.

So as much as this is a despicable, shameless way to promote my blog, it is also a way for me to correspond with you my readers and to brighten your day. I hope you decide to participate…especially if you look at my status and see that no one has shared It yet. Don’t Blink.

Make sure to look for this in the mail!

Make sure to look for this in the mail!

Basketball Heaven

Recently I wrote about how much I adore March. While going over the many reasons why the month is so spectacular, I specifically mentioned Championship Week for college basketball. This great week where conference tournaments are played to decide which teams will receive automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament is one of my favorite times of the year. After expressing my fondness for Championship Week in my post, I mentioned something that could make it even better.

This basketball season, Griz Nation has been absolutely spoiled by the two Montana basketball programs. Both the Griz and Lady Griz played stellar throughout the whole regular season. Dominating conference play and competing with heart and class, both teams found themselves entering the last weekend of the Big Sky Conference regular season in first place and in control of their own destinies. Like they had done all year long, both teams delivered and captured Big Sky Conference titles in the past few days. With the Montana sweep of both Big Sky Conference basketball races, it gives us at Grizzly Athletics the pleasure to hold both conference tournaments in Dahlberg Arena.

Last night  our mens team won the Big Sky Conference regular season title.

Last night our mens team won the Big Sky Conference regular season title.

Of course, that “something that could make it even better” about Championship Week was getting the opportunity to directly contribute to it and host a tournament. Well, we are not just hosting “a” tournament, we are hosting TWO tournaments! The amount of excitement and enthusiasm around the athletic department right now is insane. To see our teams play so well throughout the whole season and see it rewarded with a couple of hosting bids makes us all very proud. To know that we get to host two first class competitions that will result in two teams receiving tickets to the greatest sport spectacle on the planet is really cool.

But the excitement and enthusiasm are not the only things that are insane around the department right now… the work load is too. Last year we hosted the men’s tournament when the field just included four teams. That alone was a lot of work. Now, in the newly expanded tournament format, both the men’s and women’s fields will have seven participating teams. Can you see how preparing for 14 teams each with their own fan bases, athletic staffs, media, spirit squads, and bands could prove a little stressful?

Christie and I last year after our mens team won the Big Sky Conference championship.

Christie and I last year after our mens team won the Big Sky Conference tournament championship.

There are practice times to set, hotel reservations to book, staffing issues to organize, ticketing plans to execute, transportation logistics to figure out, hospitality and media areas to set up, communication channels with participating schools to secure, accommodations for conference officials to organize, parking plans to put in place, locker room designations to plan out, marketing materials to create, and so much more.

Obviously, the work load falls on all of us working inside the Adams Center from ticketing to concessions to marketing to internal operations to sports information to the large number of people who hold game day jobs (P.A. announcer, ushers, spotters, child care providers, caterers, Griz Vision workers, etc. etc.). However, the burden doesn’t fall any heavier than on the shoulders of the two people who are really in charge of making sure this thing goes off without a hitch, Chuck Maes and Jean Gee. Chuck and Jean are our Associate Athletic Directors and are the tournament managers for the men’s and women’s competitions, respectively. Both Chuck and Jean must deal with the infinite number of details that play a part in these types of tournaments and effectively distribute responsibilities and roles to us staff members. Although these two have long in advance planned for these two tournaments, you can only do so much work ahead of time. When Saturday night ended and the tournament field was finally officially set, a whole new level of craziness set in.

Over four days, 12 games will be played in Dahlberg Arena. On Wednesday, we will host three women’s games in the opening round. Thursday we will host three men’s games. On Friday we will host four games as we will host the semis for both tourneys. On Saturday we will host the championship games. Guess what?! I get to work all 12 games! In fact, I will see every minute of action of both tournaments. I will have my usual courtside seat serving as the arena DJ and managing Griz Vision. I honestly can’t wait. Early on in the season I knew a dual hosting situation was very possible and I dreamed of how cool it would be…and now it is reality.

Making this whole tournament week even more special is that my dad and brother are coming over from Washington to watch the games on Friday and Saturday. My brother is on spring break and will make the long trip from Ellensburg and my dad will take a rare day off of work and make the trip from Spokane. To have my dad and brother in the stands for this very special time in Grizzly Athletics means a lot to me. I can’t wait for them to get swept up in the craziness and madness.

But enough about how special and fun this time is for our staff and for me personally, let’s talk about who really matters…the participating teams. I had such a satisfying feeling when it became official that we would host both tournaments. You see, when you get to the championship level of something, teams deserve to have the best possible. They deserve to compete in a fun and inviting environment. We offer that here in Missoula. We have a great arena, an involved and fun game day production, and a community that is extremely fired up about basketball right now. The teams coming here will get something special that they necessarily wouldn’t get if the tournament was hosted at a different place. I can’t thank our two basketball teams enough for playing like champions and giving us the opportunity to show off what we have going here in Missoula and treat the Big Sky Conference to a couple of great tournaments. Enjoy. Don’t Blink.