Column: TV cameras bring drama to Rams' blowout
To know how ridiculous it got at New Canaan High Friday night is to know a News12 helicopter hovered above Dunning Field for the first hour and a half.
Its blades creating a constant, low-decibel fluttering sound, the chopper's presence was only part of the show that was New Canaan vs. Greenwich, but it signified just how "important" the game was. Not in the FCIAC standings, mind you, but in the greater Fairfield County area.
From now on, if you prove you can win, the television trucks will arrive.
"I thought that was a little weird. I was like, Is that a blimp?" Rams wide receiver Kevin Macari said of the aircraft peering from above. "But it really wasn't a distraction."
The Rams proved their weren't distracted by the MSG Varsity television network, which brought in a legion of reporters, commentators, production trucks, extracurricular interactive-for-the-family activities and merchandise tents. There was even a pre-game show that was set up in the way the NFL Network, FOX or CBS erects a stage on the side of the field for the biggest games of the NFL season.
The 7-1 Rams handled 5-3 Greenwich, 42-20, but that's not the story. The story is men holding boom mics on the sideline, sucking up the noise from the field for the viewers at home. The story is more media showing up to cover the game than the average UConn football tilt endures. The story is television timeouts between quarters, football players and coaches shivering in the below-40-degree temperatures as they adjusted to game life under the camera lens.
This amplified attention has become life in the football world of the FCIAC, an era where gridiron glory has slowly but surely begun to be as aggressively covered as it is in diehard pigskin states like California, Texas, Florida, Georgia and Tennessee.
Now, live cameras are a part of the formula, and although this was the only game of the year--in all likelihood--that will feature the Rams in a live setting, that could change in the coming years, especially if New Canaan racks up more double-digit-win seasons. MSG Varsity has seen a lot of positive reaction and interest in having live telecasts. So long as New Canaan, Darien, Greenwich, Staples keep winning big, the cameras should keep showing up.
"I think the FCIAC in particular is a very strong league," Rams head coach Lou Marinelli said. "We think it's the best league in the state, but I'm sure the other leagues feel the same way about theirs. I know the coaches in this league work very hard, so get this kind of exposure is great. Years ago it was just Jersey and some of the New York schools. But for us to be on live TV: I think it's wonderful."
Many agreed the scene at Friday night's game was unlike anything ever pulled off at New Canaan High. Homecoming was last weekend; it came the day after New Canaan inducted nearly 10 new members into its sports Hall of Fame. But the crowd tonight was bigger, despite the typical November chilly temperatures. The visiting crowd for Greenwich was healthy-sized. A mobile pizza truck parked in Hawes Plaza and sold $10 pies. Mounted to the truck was a 52-inch hi-def television that broadcast the game happening 50 yards away.
You couldn't turn anywhere without seeing indications of what has become of the Rams' football program, the passion the area has for the sport and how ambitious MSG Varsity has gotten with its coverage. There was one cringe-worthy sight, however -- a scissor lift with a camera man standing atop it. Those who follow sports know that just a week and a half ago a Notre Dame student was killed after falling from a scissor life when gusty winds toppled it over.
There was no reason to panic tonight over a mishap, but Declan Sullivan's -- the student alluded to above -- death has m' work.n
As for the game, players said, naturally, it was all the buzz in the hallways for the past few days. No nerves before kickoff, just anxiety to play Greenwich and show folks tuning it at home how strong New Canaan's program is.
"We've been on TV several times before, but it was kinda cool being on live TV," Macari said. "We had to take our focus away from the cameras and the lights, and everything like that, and just go play our game. For the seniors, it's our second-to-last home game."
Senior Joe Costigan played a terrific game on defense. He, Macari, quarterback Matt Milano and lineman Conor Hanratty -- who next year will be thrown into something even more intense in every possible way when he's wearing a Notre Dame uniform -- stepped their games up under the bright lights.
"It was just awesome knowing we'd be on live TV. It got our school pumped up, our team pumped up," Costigan said. "Everyone was ready to go. It was really cool, 'cause it was like a new thing for a lot of people, so when MSG Varsity is here live, it's a really great atmosphere. ... For the student section, it was a great environment."
The critics of having MSG Varsity overtake the campus Friday night were few. Marinelli addressed what the night meant, and why it was beneficial to have the broadcast.
"I think it's a great thrill for the kids, and any inconvenience it may cause is certainly outweighed by the thrill of having our town be featured on MSG Varsity," Marinelli said. "I think we have one of the best high schools around, and for them to come around and interview our kids, go through the halls--I think they interviewed our principal--and show case what we've got."
Amid all of this came embarrassment for the Cardinals on live regional television. Both coaches couldn't recall the last time New Canaan so handily defeated Greenwich. It was an unprecedented night in a lot of ways, and the Rams players and coaches made the most of what could soon be a not-so-rare opportunity.