I haven’t always been in the South Dakota High School Activities Association’s corner when it comes to some of the decisions it’s made… but okaying the playoff system for football 30 years ago with the divisional champions crowned during one wild November weekend at the DakotaDome was a great idea from the get-go.
And it was a great deal for Keloland which won the right to cover the games because we had the deepest pockets and the strongest statewide TV signal.
What Keloland didn’t have, though, was a clue on how to go about making the production look professional. Basketball was one thing but football required lots more preparation and technical know-how. How many cameras do you need..where should they be positioned..what about instant replay and audio? With so many questions, our directors, engineers and announcer staff got permission from CBS to observe the network’s coverage of a Minnesota Vikings game in Bloomington a couple weeks before the South Dakota championships. They were going to fly to Minneapolis early Sunday morning and I was to go along and do a story on our guys looking over the CBS crew’s shoulders both in the remote truck and in the stands learning all their tricks. I think our plane was set to leave at 6:45 a.m. I’d had a long Saturday night playing music and when I opened my eyes..panic set in. I turned to my bedside clock and stared in disbelief. It was 6:30! I knew my chances were slim but I threw on some clothes and flew out the door and onto my motorcycle hoping against hope that the plane would somehow still be there..but I’d have to hurry. My little Kawasaki 150 wasn’t big on power and it was only by God’s grace that I made it to the airport at all. But it was too late. I could hear the moaning of Republic Airlines propellers churning through the sky toward the Twin Cities and there were no other flights scheduled. So, there I sat dejected on the seat of my little bike that had given its all to get me there. I suddenly became aware of my rumpled clothing, my dirty hair standing straight up from the wind and the inside of my mouth which tasted like the walls of a sleazy bar stinking of cigarette smoke and spilled booze. Well, that’s it, I thought, I’m fired. But, wait a minute I’m right next to Business Aviation, certainly somebody from Sioux Falls will be flying a private plane to the Vikings game. So I kick started the bike and headed toward their hangers. I caught my reflection in the glass door and tried as best as possible to comb down my fly away hair then went in to see if a local pilot might be able to save my bacon. “Nope, nobody here planning to fly out today, the guy behind the counter said, sorry.” I didn’t speed on my way home..no hurry now. The rest of the morning I spent trying to get in touch with one of our guys from Kelo to explain my absence.(No cell phones back then.) I finally just left a message and waited for Monday morning and that dreaded long walk into Tom Sheeley’s office for my official reaming out and possible dismissal. But there was no butt chewing; no getting canned and I owe it all to our director, Scott Burri. He figured something must have happened to me when I didn’t show up for the game so he had one of the production photographers shoot video of everything I would need for my story which, by the way, didn’t turn out half bad..just not as good as if I’d been there in person.
The Kelo crew learned a lot about how to shoot football that day and provided terrific coverage for many years until South Dakota Public Broadcasting got the broadcasting rights.
One thing even the CBS guys couldn’t help with, though, and that’s how to deal with the cramped quarters of the DakotaDome floor. A lot of camera operators should have gotten battle pay for all the hits they took from the sidelines.
Well, it’s just about time for the games to begin and “I don’t want to be late”…again.