BIRD’S-EYE VIEW: What’s in a Sign?
Blog #02 – March 26, 2020
by John Peterson
Not as much as you’d think, really.
It started out as a random idea last summer. A mere add-on to an already existing game night promotion.
K-Wings Creative Producer Tim Hindbaugh sat down in my office on one my first days with the team. We didn’t go into much detail about ideas for the upcoming season. After all, it was the end of July and I had a checklist of 15-20 priorities to accomplish first. Standard onboarding procedure.
This was an opportunity to join an organization with a ton of history, composed of so many talented individuals. I just wanted to jump right in and get started.
Tim said, “We don’t have to talk about this right now, since you probably have a lot going on, but every game our camera comes over to your press box and we promote the broadcasts. Might be cool to have some fun with it.”A light bulb clicked on in my head.
Have you ever seen “Around the Horn” on ESPN? One of the show’s regulars is Woody Paige of the Denver Post. He always writes something clever on a chalkboard that appears in the background in the shot and it’s taken on a life of its own.
Bingo. Let’s use a whiteboard. Hold it up when the camera comes over to the press box, and hopefully it goes over well with our fans.
Now I just needed to come up with 36 different ideas. Not as easy as you’d think.
OFF TO A GOOD START
Our first game was October 4, a preseason exhibition against Toledo. I didn’t intend to broadcast the game, something pretty common around the league for many reasons.
While it offered a chance to get the cobwebs out, so to speak, the roster during training camp is constantly changing. Nobody wears their actual jersey number during preseason games and the games are difficult to prepare for.
But I still wanted to watch the game from my new perch, take notes, and see how the K-Wings do things from a new perspective. So I brought a whiteboard up to the press box to test it out. When the camera came over to the press box for the first time, it was time to introduce the gimmick:
“Be nice to the new guy.”
It received a few laughs. The feedback was positive. Now we had to wait two weeks for the real thing: the K-Wings 46th Home Opener on October 19.
Time for the show. Our team worked tirelessly to prepare for the big day. Fan Fest, featuring a Smash Car for the first time, contained an idea taken from the Nashville Predators’ run to the Stanley Cup Final a few years back. It was brought to the table by Director of Community Relations and Game Operations, Michael McFadden.
Our coaches and players were primed to showcase their preparations against the mighty Cincinnati Cyclones, the defending division champions, in front of the home crowd.
And here I was, ready to call the game and hold up my silly whiteboard sign. Here goes nothing.
“PLZ send nachos to the press box.”
Unexpectedly, a season ticket holder sitting in the row of seats directly in front of the press box reached up with our brand new Helmet Nachos. Perfect. This idea had some potential.
Oh, and the team tied the game late in the third period to force overtime and completed the thrilling win six seconds into the extra session.
(keep reading after the photo)
DUMB JOKES AND FRIENDLY POKES
One of our first home games was against the Tulsa Oilers on October 26. You better believe I had an idea for a whiteboard sign ready to go. That date was circled on my calendar.
I spent three seasons in the Sooner State and made plenty of friends there. Their fans were very good to me, so I had a hunch this one would get a few chuckles on both sides of the ECHL aisle.
“That feeling when you run into your ex for the first time...”
Someone watching on ECHL TV back in Tulsa saw the sign, screen-grabbed it, and shared it to Facebook with the caption: “I guess we’re the ex…”.
All in good fun.
Star Wars Night takes on a life of its own. It sells itself. More fans of the movie series show up than hockey fans. There is nothing else like it.
Aside from my Jedi training for the much-anticipated intermission light saber battle (the Guinness World Record attempt), I wanted to give the majority of our sellout crowd, many of them who were Star Wars diehards, something to ponder.
“R2-D2…So vulgar, they bleeped out all of his lines.”
Not my best. Not my worst. But timely considering the event.
Theme nights were usually easier to find material than weeknight games. Sometimes a random dad joke served just fine.
“If at first you don’t succeed, skydiving is not for you.”
Newsworthy topics also worked for those random nights where my creativity was lacking. A good example was our home game just days after the Houston Astros got busted for stealing signs, a story that rocked the sports world nationwide.
“I had a funny sign for tonight, but the Houston Astros stole it.”
That one was probably the most popular sign of the season. We didn’t even need to bang the drums.
(keep reading after the photo)
IMPOSSIBLE TO PLEASE EVERYONE
Like the jab at the 2017 World Series Champions, sometimes you have to ruffle some feathers. Stir the pot. Poke the bear.
Next target: K-Wings Equipment Manager Mitch MacLeod, arguably the star of our Top Ten video featuring some of the best movie quotes from comedies, as performed by the players and staff. Remember that?
Mitch is a huge movie buff. Between him and Assistant Coach Joel Martin, we’re always quoting some of our favorite comedies on the road. Anything featuring Will Ferrell or Jim Carrey was particularly popular. So randomly one night, I chose this quote from the Ferrell hit Anchorman:
“I’m Ron Burgundy?”
That was sometime in November. I had a full mustache then, in support of the Movember campaign, so it worked. Mitch was a fan.
But I took a lot of heat from a few of the guys at the end of the month (mostly Mitch and our Captain, Ben Wilson) because I shaved that nasty lip sweater a few hours before our November 30 game at Wheeling. According to them, I cheated. Mitch neglected to shave his mustache for our home game the next day, December 1 against Fort Wayne. I couldn’t resist.
“Still a better mustache than our equipment guy.”
Got him. Tim’s camera crew quickly panned to the bench for Mitch’s reaction. It was perfect. But he got me later in the season. Keep reading.
I had no idea what the response would be when I decided to make light of a certain world leader’s Tweet about the Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs giving the great state of “Kansas” something to cheer about. December 5, fittingly against Kansas City, this was the play.
“The Mavericks missed today’s Super Bowl parade in the great state of Kansas (Missouri).”
The whiteboard signs even took on a new role I didn’t expect. A friendly chirp towards a division foe ended up bringing new life to an old rivalry.
“Nice of the Komets to help us celebrate our Affiliate Night. (Now we just need to teach them to spell).”
A spelling error of our own that night on the video board was unfortunate timing and probably helped fuel the fire. Talk about your all-time backfire.
Later in the season, a friendly jab towards our friends in northeast Indiana following a 5-4 victory on 90’s Night prompted a Tweet (that has since been deleted) from an unimpressed individual ripping our “show the play-by-play announcer with a dumb*** sign” cam.
Needless to say, not everyone is a fan of our whiteboard shenanigans. Oh well.
(keep reading after the photo)
IF YOU CAN’T LAUGH AT YOURSELF
When all else fails, a little self-deprecation usually brings a good laugh. If you can dish it, you better be able to take it. Here are a few examples.
I broke out the red plaid suit for our annual New Year’s Eve game. It’s polarizing, to say the least.
The suit was a Christmas gift from my mom in 2018 and I wore it a few times late that season. During Tulsa’s run to the Western Conference Finals, it became my Game 6 suit. Wins over Kansas City, Idaho and Toledo in back-to-back-to-back Game 6’s led me to believe it was a lucky suit.
I’m not superstitious at all.
My wife is also not a fan. Can you blame her? So I debuted the loud attire under mixed reviews in hopes it would bring luck to the K-Wings that night against the Indy Fuel.
“We’re less than five hours from 2020, and somehow I was allowed to leave the house looking like this.”
Also, we lost 6-2. Looks like the luck ran out.
Finally, Luke Sandler joined me on the broadcast for some color commentary late in February. I had a great idea for a whiteboard sign written down and ready to go.
“Whose idea was it to give Luke Sandler a microphone?”
The only problem was that I’d set up the press box early and left the sign up there as I left for lunch. During the pregame, I decided to show Sandler the sign I made. I turned it around only to see this:
“Who walked face first into a low-hanging door in Brampton? This guy.”
Side Story: earlier that week, we had an afternoon game in Brampton. That was coincidentally the game Sandler suffered a first period injury, ending his season. It was also the game the K-Wings tied the score with six seconds left in regulation, only to have the goal waved off for goalie interference after a video review. After the game, my phone was blowing up and I was answering a text as I walked out of the CAA Centre to the bus. The garage door was half shut and I walked right into it, face first. Embarrassing.
I’d been had. Surely Sandler saw my original sign and swapped out the message while I was at lunch. He claimed his innocence. As it turned out, it wasn’t Sandler. It was Mitch.
The joke was on me.
Bird’s-Eye View is a Kalamazoo Wings blog, written by the team’s Director of Public Relations/Broadcaster John Peterson twice weekly. The thoughts, opinions and behind-the-scenes stories are that of the writer alone and not a reflection of the organization as a whole. Fans are welcome to submit questions and ideas for future blog posts to firstname.lastname@example.org. Enjoy!