Secrets of the Media Lockdown Room

I spent Thursday night in what’s known as “media lockdown” at the Grey Cup. Lockdown is used often, when large numbers of media members are covering a sizeable event, like a federal budget announcement. In this case, it was the CFL’s Outstanding Player Awards. What follows, is the column I posted at A tongue-in-cheek look at the evening in media lockdown.

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Look. You can and will get all the information you need pertaining to the CFL Outstanding Player Awards. Tons of columns, video and terrific pictures right here on this very site as well as many other outlets. You don’t need more from me. I know what you really want is a behind-the-scenes look at the media lockdown area, correct? That’s the place near the gala where the working stiffs gather to prepare some of that excellent content I previously mentioned. Here we go.

The following takes place between the hours of 5pm Pacific and 9pm Pacific.

Oh, my bad. Should have let you know that line would be way cool if you pretended Kiefer Sutherland was saying it.

5:37: I enter the media lockdown area, dressed smartly in a suit and tie. Even though we’re sequestered in the deep dark bowels of the Convention Centre, where no light can enter or escape, the media hordes will be dressed up, right? I mean, it IS the CFL Outstanding Player Awards. Umm, no. But, I look damn good. Someone mistakes me for the catering manager.

5:39: A second person mistakes me for the catering manager. I remove my jacket and tie.

5:49: We’re given the rules. Doors are about to be closed. We will be given a list of the award winners ahead of time. At that time, it is announced, if you need to leave the room for any reason, even to go to the bathroom, you must surrender your cellphone. Suckers. I’ve got a quarter. Gotta be a pay phone around here somewhere….

6:02: Announcement is made. “The embargo is about to start!” The list of winners is given out. Guess who got the handout first? Me! I knew before anybody else that Travis Lulay had won the Outstanding Player Award. Sure, the guy sitting next to me found out 3 seconds later. But  I was first!

6:10: The legendary Joe Kapp peeks in. Seriously. Joe bloody Kapp! He yells “Go Lions,” three times in increasingly loud tones. It is then that he is politely asked to leave. Buddy, you may be a CFL legend, but media types are easily distracted. Really. I can’t emphasize this point — hey, look, they’re bringing in a tray of cookies.

6:29: I’m beginning to think I may have been duped. I was given this assignment by’s Jaime Stein who told me – and I quote – “It’s just like Spirit Of Edmonton, only with flourescent lighting!” It’s half an hour until the show starts. I’m sleeping my computer and going to look for some Gibson’s Finest so I can “MacGyver up” some form of sluice juice.

7:18: The show starts. Somebody makes a crack about Dave Randorf and Jamie Taras being twins. Sure. Like Schwarzenegger and DeVito.

7:29: TiCat Receiver Chris Williams wins the Rookie of The Year Award. Wonder if he realizes he’s just moments away from being dragged in here to be asked how he feels? I know he’ll be asked that because it’s my favourite question to ask.

7:37: In comes Williams. They turn down the volume on the TV so we can hear him at the podium. What am I missing? Jock Climie isn’t singing, is he?

7:38: Williams says he “Feels good” about winning. I glance around at the other reporters with a smug, satisfied look on my face.

7:45: Trouble as a small but hostile group of media members sees that the coffee being served is labelled “Organic Decaf Espresso.” They demand “real coffee” and threaten that if they don’t get it in less than 5 minutes, they will “occupy the podium.”

8:03: Chris Williams is STILL in the media room. Rookies. I see him tapping out a message on his Blackberry. I tell him he’d better not be telling people that Travis Lulay has won the Outstanding Player Award. I then inform him that I knew he’d won the rookie award long before he did. He tells me I’m standing on his foot.

8:04: Outstanding Offensive Lineman Josh Bourke comes in and bulldozes the occupying reporters off the riser. No word on survivors.

8:10: Jerome Messam is named Top Canadian. I lose 20 bucks to the guy beside me. Umm, I, uh, read the handout wrong. Could happen to anyone.

8:17: Messam comes in and takes to the riser. For the 5th consecutive winner, the same cameraman yells out: “Can you hold the award a little higher, please?” Buddy, maybe you could learn how to use that handy “zoom” feature. It zooms OUT AS WELL AS IN.

8:21: Know what? “Organic Decaf Espresso” ain’t half bad if you ply it with all the contents of the mini Bailey’s bottle you surprisingly just found in your jacket pocket.

8:27: All eyes in the room are on Danny McManus and Milt Stegall on the monitor. They’re about to announce the winner of the Outstanding Player Award. I think. It’s going on a while and now Dave Randorf is tapping his watch. Nice watch. Is that a Movado? When was he named a “Gladiator?!” Sweet.

8:33: Special teams Award winner Paul McCallum has come in to the media room. In a twist, he doesn’t have his trophy like the others. Instead, Jarious Jackson is holding it. Ha! Field goal humour.

8:45: Waiting for Travis Lulay to come in. While we wait, I’ll tell you an interesting story from the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ media breakfast today. And this is true. After interviewing Paul LaPolice, I thanked him and stepped away from his table. As I did, a reporter who told me he was with a Chinese news service asked if he could talk with me. I was perplexed, but said “sure.” Maybe he was collecting reporters’ opinions on what we’re likely to see on Sunday, I thought. He turned on his recorder and said: “You must be very proud of what your team has accomplished.” I told him I wasn’t with the Bombers. He said: “I asked someone which one was Paul LaPolice and he told me that it was the bald guy at the table.”

8:48: Lulay is in the room. Paul McCallum is recording the media conference on his smartphone. Dude, just dial up if you want full coverage.

8:59: A giant hydraulic-powered draw bridge starts to descend. Dozens of panicky media members scurry toward the opening, pausing just long enough to stuff the remaining free sandwiches into their pockets.

There you have it. A rare glimpse into the life of a sequestered media member at the CFL Player Awards. You youngsters who are considering a career in the burgeoning field of writing down every thought that crosses your mind have been warned.



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About Don

Don Landry is a multi-talented media pro: an accomplished morning show host, a sought-after voiceover artist and master of ceremonies, and a thoughtful commentator and interview specialist.