Ah, show business. So glamorous. Here's what my MTV Rock and Jock Super Bowl experience was like.
The MOB arrived at the site at 9 AM. The flag football field, which was 50 yards in length though it was striped as though it was a regulation gridiron (every 10-yard line actually represented five yards), is on Kirby between the front entrance to Reliant Stadium and the Texans' practice dome. We were split into two groups, one each to serve as pep band for each respective team (the "Rock Stars" and the "Beat Downs"). After playing a few tunes as warmups, we were herded onto the field to rehearse the halftime and pregame activities.
Pregame stuff first. We were told by the MTV people that the watchwords of the day were "enthusiasm" and "charisma". Basically, they wanted us to cheer wildly, act like we were having fun, and generally not look like a deer in the headlights when the cameras panned us. We lined up on two corners of the field for the introductions of the teams' coaches (The Rock and Warren Sapp) and ran through that a couple of times, with stunt celebrities taking the place of the real deal. They then ran through the opening "run-off", a standin for an opening kickoff in which the two team captains (Nelly and Nick Lachey) would line up on the 20 and run the 50, where the first one to touch a football there would get the first possession for his team. They did several variations on this - both on the same side of the field, each on opposite sides, one or two footballs, first to "touch" versus first to "possess" - with the stunt celebs, then finally settled on one for the game.
The MOB is well-known as a halftime performer, but we were not there to play our instruments on the field. We were there, in full uniforms and carrying our instruments, to serve as backdrop dancers for Chingy and his rendition of his rap hit, Holidae In. They also had the Houston Texans cheerleaders for that purpose, which makes one wonder why they bothered with us, since we weren't really adding a whole lot from an aesthetic perspective. Whatever. For this rehearsal, we had the actual Chingy sing his song while we worked out a little basic choreography for ourselves so we wouldn't look completely random.
After that, at around 11:30, it was time to break for lunch. For the crew, anyway. The MOB's pizza lunch hadn't arrived yet. On Thursday, when the MOB (not including me) was there for more pre-celebrity rehearsals, the pizza arrived promptly and everyone ate at about the same time. After an hour had passed and several increasingly annoyed conversations with the MTV people had been made, we got an apology and a promise that the pizza was unavoidably delayed but would be there Real Soon Now. It finally arrived at about 12:50, by which time most of the people who had lined up to see the Chingy performance and flag football game had arrived and filled into the stands. Some of them weren't too happy about not getting any of that pizza, but we were too hungry to pay any attention to them.
The crowd that filed in to watch was interesting. Many of them chose style over warmth for their clothing. This was a bad choice in my unfashionable opinion, as Friday was cold, overcast, and windy. After four hours outside in that in our band uniforms, we MOB folks were amazed at how many spectators showed up barelegged and/or without outerwear, though not quite as amazed at the half dozen or so men who had been paid or volunteered to play the part of the shirtless fans with various things painted on their chests.
Filling the seats and passing out souvenir foam fingers in the respective teams' colors (silver and yellow) took over an hour. The "stadium" announcer kept reassuring people that we were almost ready. Crowd wranglers did their thing to get everyone pumped up (handing out freebies like T shirts and coozies almost always works) , while mascots from various NFL teams pitched in. I don't know how many Segways have been sold to the general public, but the sports team mascot market is fairly well saturated - there were three Segways among the ten or so mascots.
Since this was going to be a taped event, when we finally got started we did the halftime performance first. By this time, the Texans cheerleaders had changed into their costumes for the day, which included midriff shirts, Daisy Duke shorts, cowboy boots, and belt buckles that said either "Rock" or "Jock". We all felt a little guilty complaining about the cold when we saw what they were wearing, but hey, such is show biz. They lined us all up around the stage, then brought a big chunk of the crowd out as well. Why they spent so much time getting them into the stands only to move that many of them back out still mystifies me. We ran through Chingy's song twice to ensure we got good video. In case you happen to be watching, I'm stage right next to a guy holding a plastic Nimbus 2000 - I didn't ask, but if it was the naughty vibrating version, it didn't appear to have any batteries in it; the guy next to me used it like an air guitar.
They cleared out the spectators and removed the stage, then did the coaches' entrances. The Rock came in via a Hummer, while Warren Sapp rode a motorcycle. They did some faux posturing midfield, then did the "run-off" for first possession. All of the rehearsing done that morning didn't make it go smoothly. First, the "refs" awarded the runoff to Nick Lachey even though it looked clear to everyone else that Nelly had won. Then they changed their minds and gave it to Nelly, then they finally decided it was a tie and did it over. After the second try, they decided the rules were that the first person to "possess" the ball, not just touch it, was the winner, so they had to do it again. Lachey finally won fair and square.
Each team featured three NFL players and five celebrities. Dan Marino and Warren Moon were the quarterbacks. Marino had Tony Gonzalez and Deion Sanders on his team, while Moon had Dante Hall and Shannon Sharpe. Besides Lachey and Nelly, the only recognizable celebrities to me were Tara Reid, Nicole Ritchie, and Matthew Lillard, the guy who played Shaggy in the "Scooby Doo" movie. Chingy showed his versatility by also playing in the game.
The game itself was no great shakes. Each team got four possessions per half. They started on their own 20 and had four downs to score. The play itself was reasonably fun to watch - imagine if there'd been a flag football event in the Battle of the Network Stars and you've got the right idea. Unfortunately, they took forever between each pair of possessions, and midway through the first half, the audience started slowly trickling out. By the time they started the second half, after a break for a rib-eating contest and a mechanical bull-riding contest to add points to each teams' totals, they had to condense the crowd in the stands so it wouldn't look like a December matchup between the Arizona Cardinals and the pre-2003 Cincinnati Bengals. In the end, there was a one-on-one between the team captains for an additional 50 points, which essentially allowed the whole game to be mooted. I won't reveal who won in case you care to watch, not that you're likely to get caught up in the tension.
We finally got out of there at 5, and had to wait about 20 minutes for our buses to arrive. After eight hours of mostly standing in the cold - if your only sitting option was a metal bench, you'd have mostly stood, too - we were pretty bedraggled. I'm glad I didn't bother to take Thursday off to be there for the earlier rehearsal, but I'm glad I attended. If there is a shot of me shaking my booty (such as it is) that makes it in the final cut, I'll save it from TiVo to videotape so I'll have future blackmail material for when my daughter starts dating. There's always a silver lining, you know.
UPDATE: I still haven't watched the show on my TiVo yet, but will soon. At the Rice-San Jose State basketball game this afternoon, our director said that the MTV crew was very complimentary towards us, as we maintained that good level of "enthusiasm" and "charisma" throughout the day. This was especially appreciated because the crowd, whether because of the cold or the slow pace of the action, was rather lame.
During the game, our drum minor (who was conducting the half-band I was in) got excited over Chingy's uniform number, which was 314. "His uniform number is pi!", our DM exclaimed. I almost didn't have the heart to point out to him that 314 is the area code for Saint Louis, which I'm told is Chingy's hometown.
UPDATE: OK, I've watched my recording now. First, that wasn't Chingy wearing uniform #314, it was someone named Murphy Lee, also known as the "Skoolboy". He's also apparently from St. Louis - in any event, he was wearing a Cardinals hat.
There were two clear shots of MOBsters dancing during the Chingy performance, and amazingly enough, I'm visible in one of them. If I can figure out a way of downloading an image of that off the TiVo, I'll post it. I believe this counts against my Fifteen Minutes Of Fame Clock.Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 31, 2004 to See, I do have a life! | TrackBack