Now that we're in the time of the sports calendar when football, basketball and hockey seasons all overlap, WRAL hasn't hesitated to call me to shoot a few events for them the past two weeks.
A busy few weekends shooting a wedding, visiting family and attending the NC State-Notre Dame game kept me out of the loop for a bit, but I was back on the high school football sidelines two Fridays ago for a Nash County doubleheader. Not only did I sneak in more than my usual amount of pro wrestling references, my second game at Southern Nash was such a blowout, I had enough highlights to leave at halftime.
Normally, leaving my second game before halftime means I would have all the time in the world to finish my story.
When I arrived back at the station, about a half dozen firetrucks and the entire WRAL staff were outside the building. If you haven't heard by now, a small fire sparked in one of the closets in the station.
Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt. I knew it was a scary situation considering how all the bosses had come back or were still there after 9:30pm, but we got the all clear to come back inside after only ten minutes or so after I got there. So no big deal for me.
You can watch a playlist of all my Football Friday stories from this season here.
This brings us to Coach K.
Two Saturdays ago, I shot the Duke exhibition basketball game versus Bowie State. It was my first time shooting in Cameron Indoor Stadium in more than five years.
So imagine my surprise (and probably everyone else's in the room) when in his postgame press conference, Mike Krzyzewski--the winningest coach in men's college hoops history--spots me in the back of the room by my camera, in the middle of taking questions, stops and says "hello" to me and ask how my family is doing.
Pretty cool, right?
It was definitely a career highlight for me.
But completely unexpected? Not really. Let me explain.
My dad has basically known Coach K since they day he arrived at Duke. Seriously. Ever seen the video of Coach K's introductory press conference in 1980? Dad shot that. In fact, it was only Dad's third week working at WRAL back when he was the sports photographer. So he and Coach K basically arrived in the Triangle at the same time. This was also the era where the only media at press conferences were a beat writer or two and the local television stations, and most people had only three or four stations to watch. Local media had viewing power yet sports coverage had intimacy. Media and coaches got to know each other better.
Over the years, I got to talk to Coach K in more informal settings than the average person, but I know he only knows me as "Jennings." But hey, that's better than nothing! It's his wife, Mickie, whom I've talked to more because of some freelance projects Dad worked on with her. However, Coach knew I had left WRAL because I interviewed him for awhile when he came through Tampa a few years ago.
Fast forward to last weekend, and I somewhat suspected coach would acknowledge me at some point. At the very end of the game, I got close to him with my camera as he walked off the floor thinking he might me a quick nod but he had tunnel vision. When the presser started, I thought--at most--he would give a quick "hey" after everything had wrapped up. I suppose since it was just an exhibition game and there were probably no more than two dozen people in the media room, it was a laid back enough setting for him to basically do a, "Hey, how's the family?" right in the middle of it.
So, not to completely downplay what was clearly a cool moment, but I was thrilled yet not surprised. I don't claim to know Coach K personally, but what I do know is that he would have done that to many people. He gets a bad rap nationally--mainly out of envy--but this is completely in character for what he's become in his later years at the local level.
As for the game, I thought I told a fun story for what was an expected blowout. Would you expect to hear references to Wale, Drago vs. Creed, or the late Challenger astronaut Christa McAullife?
I was also slightly surprised how easily I got back in the groove shooting basketball after not doing much over the last five years. Then again, I always say shooting is like playing an instrument. Once you develop the muscle memory in your hands to zoom and focus properly on the fly, it comes back to you. Also, in basketball--unlike football--there aren't any play-action passes or as man other ways to get faked out.
The next day brought another episode producing The Logan Zone after taking the previous week off to attend the NC State-Notre Dame game. This show is really finding its groove. Watch how we match the video with the talking points throughout the entire A Block. Sounds easy but it takes practice, flexibility and familiarity with the hosts when you're basically following a semi-structured yet mostly free-flowing conversation.
You can also watch a playlist of every Logan Zone I produced here.
The following Tuesday, I put on my news hat for Election Night coverage, which is something I haven't done since college. The Raleigh mayoral race had gone to a runoff, so I was assigned to go to the election version of "the losing locker room" and shoot Charles Francis' concession speech at Noir Lounge on Glenwood South. A bunch of the other news photog's were planning on shooting from their tripod, but I realized quickly this would be an off-the-shoulder shoot. No big deal because it really was like being in a locker room.
Here's Franics' speech.
I hooked up a LiveU so the web folks could stream it live. Francis showed up super late and talked super long, but I get paid by the hour.
It was back for high school football on Friday for the first round of the state playoffs. No fire this week. Quite the opposite. It was the coldest Friday of the year so far with temperatures in the 30s.
The good news? I got three quick touchdowns in my second game and was able to get back to my warm car midway through the third quarter.
The bad? I got back to the station and realized I had no audio! The joy of sharing cameras. I foolishly forgot to check the settings.
So I took the natural sound from previous high school stories I had done this season and laid it underneath in this one. Can you tell? Would you have known if I hadn't said anything?
Saturday, I was back at Duke to see my BFF Coach K.
The game against Utah Valley was a formality to get to Krzyzewski becoming the first coach ever to win 1,000 games at one school. The schedule makers just happened to place this game on Veterans Day, and of course, Coach K in a Army vet. Here's video I shot of the postgame celebration and Coach K address the crowd.
Sunday was a great day to make some of that straight cash, homey.
I was pulling double duty producing Logan Zone and shooting the NC State basketball game.
Once again, I thought we were clicking in the all-important first block of the Logan Zone this week. Two shows left in the season after this one.
Shooting the State game that afternoon versus Charleston Southern was fun because it's been so long since I've worked a game at PNC Arena, it had a different name the last time. After shooting hundreds of State/Hurricanes games in that building my previous years there, I had gotten to know some of the arena staff so it was nice to surprise them that I was back. State games are also the ones where I just happen to see the most amount of random friends. This one was no different.
As for the game? I think I told a story that captured it pretty well. Mary, the WRAL anchor, said I could go as long as I wanted. Give an inch and I'll take a mile so it went a whopping 1:52. Too long for a State-Charleston Southern game? Yeah, probably.
The schedule stays busy this week.
I'm shooting UNC basketball on Wednesday night, high school football on Friday, either Duke or UNC football on Saturday and the penultimate Logan Zone airs Sunday.
And unlike when I was here before, this time I get to spend my off days with this guy:
Jason Jennings is a freelance videographer based in Knoxville, TN. He previously spent more than a decade covering sports for television stations in Florida, North Carolina, Texas and Missouri.