Last night I ushered at Phoenix’s historic Orpheum Theatre for the broadcast of Feherty.live.
O.K., I’ll admit it. When I volunteered, I had only the vaguest idea who Feherty was. If pressed, I might have come up with; “I think he’s a ‘sports guy'”. Phoenix is hosting Super Bowl XLIX this weekend so I wasn’t surprised a sports show would be broadcasting from here. You can’t swing a dead cat in Phoenix this week without hitting someone connected to sports media. It didn’t matter. I signed up because I thought it would be interesting to attend a live television broadcast. The content didn’t matter.
Through the buzz leading up to the event, I learned that Feherty.live is not a football program. It is a weekly talk show hosted by David Feherty, a writer, sportscaster, and former professional golfer known for his bawdy wit and charming brogue. He’s kind of like Craig Ferguson or Billy Connolly for sports fans….only Irish instead of Scottish.
Feherty.live is broadcast on the Golf Channel.(“Check your local listings“). Surprisingly, I knew the Golf Channel to be channel 44 on our cable system. I knew that because channel 44 was previously the home of the USA Network (“Characters Welcome!”). Last time the cable company shuffled the channels, USA moved to channel 28. I bumped into the Golf Channel for a while until I got USA’s new location in my muscle memory.
Why would the Golf Channel be broadcasting this week from the Super Bowl? There are several reasons. The show is, apparently, hugely popular, nowhere more than in Phoenix, permanent home to many golfers and migratory home to many snowbird golfers. It is a sports-related talk show and there is no lack of sports-related guests here this week. Most importantly, the Golf Channel is owned by NBC. NBC is broadcasting the Super Bowl so it’s not like they didn’t already have a camera crew or two in town. I imagine that was also a factor in their decision to broadcast The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon from here this weekend.
Ushering for Feherty.live was unlike my previous experiences ushering at the Orpheum. I knew it would be special when I arrived at 4:30 to see people lined up in the rain waiting to get in. Another tip was the extraordinary number of police and other security people in evidence. The number of visible handguns was noteworthy, even by red state standards.
NBC and the venue staff were very organized for crowd control. This is obviously not new for the NBC folks. They opened the outer doors early so people could get in from the rain. People still had to wait 45 minutes before they could enter the theater but at least they were dry…and the bars were open.
Seating was a process. It was ‘general admission’ so tickets did not have assigned seat numbers but there were restrictions. Rows 1 & 2 had been removed. Rows 3-5 were reserved for Very Very Important Persons. Those folks were escorted in by network staff. Rows 6-9 were reserved seats. People got reserved tickets in a variety of ways but the most interesting was production staffers just selected some people and upgraded them because of their appearance. These rows are most clearly visible to the camera and they like to see as much diversity as possible. Of course, their success was limited. It was a crowd of golfers in Phoenix, AZ. There were some visible difference in age and, based on appearance, economic level but it was still 50 shades of white. The balcony was closed to the public for a private reception. Exclusivity was enforced by venue security staff and Phoenix PD.
Apparently one of the critical elements to broadcasting live television is making sure there are no empty seats and no sign of people moving around. After the VIPs, VVIPs, and General Admission folks were admitted, the network staff identified any empty seats and filled them. This process was pretty awkward. People were asked to stay in their seats so vacancies could be identified. Of course some of these folks had been drinking for several hours which meant a) they weren’t listening and b) they had to use the restrooms. Eventually every seat had a butt in it and the show could begin. I was moving into my fourth hour of standing, smiling, and giving directions to the bars and the loos.
At 7:30 the doors were closed and the untelevised, warm-up, part of the program began. The televised segment started at 8:00. Once the doors were closed audience members were free to leave if they wished but they were readmitted until a commercial break. One of my more challenging duties was to remind people of this quickly and quietly before they left…and then explain it to them again 5 minutes later when they tried to re-enter. Apparently there is some correlation between urination and short term memory loss. Research is needed.
On the whole, people were very friendly and well-behaved. There was much drinking but very few people were unpleasant. They were there to have fun and they did. Feherty is very funny and a decent interviewer. Only one of his guests, Greg Kinnear, was familiar to me but the audience seemed to know them. During the commercial breaks the audience was entertained by humorous taped interviews.
At the end of the show the audience pelted the host and guests with foam footballs, or as I like to call them; “Fabulous Parting Gifts”. Check out the video clip on the Golf Channel’s website to see the closing of the show.
For those who care, the consensus among the guests and a (thin) majority of the audience is that Seattle will win on Sunday.