Jan 2, 2010, 1:00 PM EDT
When people used to ask me what I wanted to do with my life after graduating from NYU in 2008, I usually responded something to the effect of “Get paid to stay at home and watch TV.” That November, I interviewed for and was accepted at a New York office that came dangerously, frighteningly close to fitting that job description. A media research company offered to pay me $14/hour to watch TV shows and write trivia questions about them–in an office full of other workers all doing the same thing–in order to test viewer recall of the programs, and specifically how effective the product placement in the shows was.
It didn’t make sense to me then why this job needed to exist. Two years later, it still doesn’t make sense to me, really. But I didn’t care–someone wanted to pay me to watch television. As an unambitious post-grad with few marketable skills, I could not have asked for more.
Over the course of my two years at the company (which I’ll avoid mentioning by name because not doing so seems like asking for trouble), I was assigned to watch every type of televised programming known to man. The crap that even your grandmother in Florida wouldn’t be caught dead watching, the crap you’ve programmed your brain to skim over when skimming your TV listings–I was on the case. Did you know that The Hills has its own post-game show? Have you ever tried to sit through one of the 24 Hours of Le Mons racing? Did you realize that Smallville is somehow still on the air (in its tenth season?!?!?!?) For your sake, I hope the answer to all three is “No,” but unfortunately I can no longer say the same.
But it wasn’t all bad. In fact, most of the time it was pretty damn good. One night early on I realized on the way to work that I had forgotten to record LOST at home, only to get to work and discover that I had been assigned to watch it that night. I started watching both Damages and Rescue Me on FX because I had to watch them once at the office and quickly got hooked. Even the mediocre shows like Gary Unmarried and Castle, I was enough of a TV junkie to appreciate getting the excuse to see a sample episode. And most of all–and most pertinent to this article, obviously–I got to watch a whole lot of sports.
Being a TV-focused job, the office was run largely at night during primetime hours–most of the time, my days didn’t start until 7:30 PM. Consequently, over the course of the last two years, I was at work for a fairly high percentage of the most memorable moments in a couple of crazy years in Philadelphia sports. Sometimes I would be lucky enough to be assigned the big Philly games (if they were nationally televised), and other times I got them because I begged one of my managers to be put on them, but most of the time, I had to steal glances at co-workers’ TVs, or find a stream online, or watch it from our own databases an hour or so after airing.
Now that the job is over–the office is moving to Tampa, and only a couple of the managers were asked to go with it–I’ve started to reflect on the TV moments that I’ll always associate with being at that job, especially the Philly-related ones. Glad as I am to suddenly have my nights free again to watch games unabated (and occasionally try to sneak in something resembling a social life in between), I’ll miss the weirdness of experiencing the moments in those unlikely circumstances, sometimes with everyone in the office seemingly reacting with me, resembling a sports bar more than any office I’d ever been in before.
So here are the top ten moments from November 2008 to October 2010 that I’ll never be able to think of without thinking of this stupid, wonderful job. And, uh, anybody looking to hire a Journalism/English double-major with a weird-ass resume?
10. Eagles vs. Redskins, 2008. The game we all mistakenly assumed to be the end of the Eagles’ 2008 season, when Reggie Brown was brought down just short of a game-winning touchdown as time ran out against the Redskins. I was constantly refreshing my Yahoo! Sports feed when I heard people murmuring about it across the office, and my heart sank when I heard the all-too-likely-sounding phrase “Did he really get stopped a foot short of the end zone?” One of my co-workers kept insisting that the Eagles should’ve “just given the ball to Westbrook.” It didn’t make any sense, but I was too frustrated to try to argue.
9. Pedro Martinez’s First Start as a Phil. Lucky enough to be randomly assigned this one. We ended up liveblogging it here on the Level, and I spent the whole night approving comments while checking over my shoulder to make sure nobody noticed or gave a damn that I was doing this on company time. (They didn’t. They never did.) Pedro and company slaughtered the Cubs, though one fan in centerfield got his revenge on Shane Victorino by pouring a beer on him.
8. The Flyers/Rangers Play-In Games. The first one I streamed at the office while trading ball-busting IMs with my Rangers fan co-worker. He won the battle, but lost the war–the next night, he couldn’t even look me in the eye, after the Rangers came up short in the second game’s shootout. Getting to lord it over him the whole post-season was one of the best things about that magical Flyers run for me earlier this year.
7. Game Four, Sixers vs. Magic. Only twice in my two years was I at the office during a nationally-televised Sixers game (surprise), and both times they were terrible losses (double surprise). One was a game at the end of the ’09 regular season against the Celtics, where despite sitting all their good players besides Paul Pierce, Boston still edged out Philly, and the other was this game in the ’09 first-rounder against the Magic, where Hedo Turkoglu avenged Andre Iguodala’s game-one dagger in his face with a game-winning bucket of his own against Thad Young. Orlando tied the series at 2-2 and re-gained control of the playoffs. I sulked the rest of the night in my AI9 jersey.
6. Game Three, 2010 NLCS. Got there early to watch this one so I wouldn’t have to miss the last few innings in transit. Wish I hadn’t–Matt Cain blanked the Phillies and the Giants took a 2-1 series lead, never looking back. Towards the end a co-worker came over and asked me if I had a vested interest in the game. I stared back at her speechless in my Phillies hat.
5. Games One and Five, Flyers vs. Bruins. The Game One OT loss in what was easily one of the best games of the 2010 post-season was hard enough for me to watch at home by myself that afternoon, but having to watch it over again that night at work was beyond the pale. Luckily, the series eventually redeemed itself, and watching a stream of the team’s offensive onslaught in Game Five was my ultimate Silently Freak Out in Joy While Everyone Around You Looks at You Weirdly moment at the office. I was so sure they were gonna complete the comeback. So sure.
4. 2009 Elite Eight, Pittsburgh vs. Villanova. Though this was one of the great victories in Big Five recent history, I was actually rooting for Pitt this game due to my obsession with the weirdness of Levance Fields and DeJuan Blair. My feed was lagging behind everyone else’s in the office, and as was often the case with big sporting moments, I heard a loud “OHHH” gasp when Scottie Reynolds made his running game-winner, and glanced at what appeared to be the Villanova dark blue jerseys celebrating on the court on a co-worker’s TV. Sorta figured out the rest from there, though I watched the remainder of the game just to be sure.
3. Game Four, 2009 NLCS. Same thing for the Jimmy Rollins game-winning double to essentially clinch the NLCS for the Phils–I heard so many people clamoring throughout the office that by the time I caught up to the ninth inning, it was super-obvious that one of the Phils dudes was gonna do something dramatic. My disappointment at not getting to watch it fresh almost outweighed my bliss at the Phils pulling off yet another come-from-behind post-season win against the Dodgers. Almost.
2. 2009 NFC Championship Game, Eagles vs. Cardinals. Had to watch the tail end of this one in a secluded corner of the office so no one would hear me going nuts as the Eagles capped their incredible three-TD comeback, only to give up the lead again and end up losing the game. Most painfully, I had been assigned the SportsCenter after that game, where I had to watch the whole thing unfold again while Trent Dilfer drove home all the things the Eagles could and should have done differently. Then came the press conferences. It’s almost still too soon for me to be thinking about this again.
1. Games Four and Six, 2009 World Series. Game Four was actually kind of fun–the office had been split into pro-Yankees and anti-Yankees camps (no one besides me was ever Pro-Philly, as far as I could tell), and you could hear different pockets cheering or booing depending on what was going on in the game. But after the Damon double-steal led to a big Yanks ninth and they took the game, Game Six felt like an inevitable, if somewhat merciless outcome. The office was still split, but the anti-Yankees faction didn’t have much to cheer for this time around. Being at the job almost always softened the blow of the really big losses, though–getting to talk and laugh about them with my co-workers was considerably healthier then stewing about them alone in my apartment or marooned at some NY sports bar or whatever.
Sigh. So long watching TV for money. Hello actual adult living. Maybe. Eventually.
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