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Off the Cuff: Member Berries from Above

It’s time for some personal nostalgia

Member? Oh, I member!
South Park

The title is a South Park reference where these sentient fruits called member berries would say nostalgic things. “‘Member (insert nostalgic thing here)?” Of course, in typical South Park fashion, it goes down a different road as time goes on, but I used to watch “Family Guy” on a regular basis and enjoy “Rick and Morty”. I like some good, wholesome dark humor. You can find it in the 20th season of South Park back in 2016.

I’d embed the YouTube video here, but it has not-kid-friendly language and when my five-year-old gets proficient enough to read this, I don’t want her picking up the wrong things because of the videos I embed in my posts.

During my time covering the UCF Knights in person, I got to see and experience some incredible things.

While I “covered” the team a couple of times during 2017, the publication I was with at the time had a guy already assigned (he wasn’t any good though), so I was assigned to cover South Florida since I lived closer to Tampa.

Covering the rival team made me a better writer since it taught me very quickly to separate any fandom from the work. I wasn’t credentialed for UCF at the time, going as far as writing on my phone while in the stands. It was raining too.

That was not fun and to say the least, that publication wasn’t a well-run operation, so at the end of the regular season, I moved to another publication and was credentialed to cover the Peach Bowl. While numerous publications sent multiple people, I was a one-man crew and burned the midnight oil, churning out a slew of articles for both UCF and Auburn. I got to be on the field towards the end of the game. It’s an interesting field in that you walk on something like a platform and the ground feels a bit bouncy.

For a field of artificial turf, this is a definite improvement from when I was a member of the 2002 UCF Marching Knights performing on what was basically a thin carpet on top of concrete in Joan C. Edwards Stadium at Marshall University. I remember standing next to Allison Williams, the ESPN sideline reporter for the Peach Bowl, near the 12-yard line on the UCF side when Shaquem Griffin had his famous sack and roaring pose. I was in a perfect position for a really good picture if I had a camera better than my Galaxy S7 Edge. I got to go into the scrum after the game and could point myself out in the panned-out video after the game. Apparently, a white shirt and khaki pants are identifiable, especially when no one around you is wearing the same thing. Now that was fun.

I remember waiting a bit too long before going to the elevators to go up to the press box before the UCF versus Cincinnati game in 2018. Everyone who uses an elevator on the western side of the stadium goes through that area beneath Roth Tower and shares one of three elevators. The area was packed and you had to wait. Unless you’re Kirk Herbstreit.

I stand 5’9” with a bit of a slouch from multiple years wrestling (I celebrated when my wife’s iPhone said I was 5’10” this past week) and 6’4” Kirk walking by me up to the front of the line made me feel pretty small. Not only cause he has a half foot of height on me, but it prompted me to say to the guy next to me, “Man, I can’t wait until I’m important enough to skip the line” (I’m still not important enough).

I ended up getting tired of waiting in line and decided to run up the stairs, all the way to the 6th floor. By the 4th floor, I was slowing down and was definitely feeling the lactic acid by the time I got to the top. That game had so much energy. I also distinctly remember running down the stairs once with Trace Trylko and Bri McNaught because we waited too long to leave the press box to get to the post-game interviews.

Seriously, who said covering sports didn’t require some physical activity? No one? Good, because I’d tell you you were wrong.

Try running up and down Roth Tower
Ryan Lynch, Orlando Business Journal

Earlier in 2018 at the Pitt game, I was not feeling well. On the drive up, I stopped at a rest stop and took a quick power nap. Conventional wisdom says to go home, but pfft. Who listens to that? You might remember at the game, it was really hot out. I was stationed in the first row in the press box and the heat was leaking through. Since I was already feeling warm, I'm surprised I didn't burst into flame. By the second quarter, I felt truly awful, so I found an extra chair in the very back, laid my head down on the table and I was zonked out for the remainder of the second quarter, halftime, and a little into the third. Nobody bothered me. I felt much better afterward and my article didn’t miss a beat.

Those kinds of memories are what stick out in a sea of other games. It reminds me of my friend Lisa and her missing the Texas game in 2007, but that’s her story. All I can say is, stay hydrated.

If you want to be entertained, sit with Trace Trylko while the men’s basketball team lays an egg against South Florida in Tampa. You’d think I’d be the fiery one, but not so fast my friend. If Mount Vesuvius was a UCF fan, Trace personified it well. That made the evening much easier to deal with. Surprisingly, I didn't burst into flames at that game either.

I first started my “Knee-Jerk Reactions” for the second game of the 2018 season and I’ve done it for every game since. I was trying to create something consistent that gave me a chance to help give some perspective of what was going on, was not just a game recap you could easily get from the AP, was easy to remember and digest, posted early, and mixed in a little snark in there too.

You might have noticed that I did not do one after the Kent State game. This year, as an unintended consequence of UCF joining the Big 12 and due to more demand needed for the undersized press box at the top of Roth Tower, I won’t be there in the press box to see the field, feel the stadium, and see my fellow members of the media at football games, at least for the time being.

While disappointed, I don’t blame UCF for that cause they have a responsibility to the other publications. While I did away games from home as part of the package of covering the season, it’s been increasingly difficult to do because at home, I have responsibilities as a parent, and miss things as a result of being limited by what the television shows. I usually start the game sitting on the recliner typing and by the end, I’m sitting on the floor cause it’s harder to focus and work. It was one of those “You do what you gotta do” things, but the quality for road games was never as good as for home games, in my opinion.

The truth is that, unlike other members of the Black and Gold Banneret, I’m not local to Orlando. I haven’t lived in Orlando since 2007. On a good day, I’m two and a half hours away each way. I used to drive 40 miles each way for work and did it for years, so I never minded the drive (except near the Champions Gate exit by Poinciana. Your area sucks.). It was almost a ritual to stop and get some Del Taco just outside of campus before the trek home, even when it was midnight or later when I finally hit the road. There’s something special driving down I-4 at 1 a.m. eating a bean and cheese burrito with red sauce. They finally opened one five miles away from me. It’s close enough I could go myself or get Uber Eats to bring it over. That’s dangerous for a guy who has a slight obsession with tacos.

Where did “Sorry it wasn’t my best, but (insert excuse here)” come from? It started with a hack job of an article by some Georgia Tech writer back in 2020. You can find it here. Aside from coming off as a complete tool, the guy didn’t try at all to have a Q&A with the Banneret, despite what he claimed. So aside from giving the impression he’s absolutely clueless, he wrote at the end that he tried his best. It looks like it may have since been edited out, but I threw it in the GT game article as a snarky jab and kept it all season long.

The following season, I got creative and made new excuses after each game based on the situation and when I didn’t do it once, a friend called me out on it. My bad, Adam. It became a catchphrase of my series.

Andrew’s UCF Knee-Jerk Reactions: 2018-2022. We hardly knew you.

Is it the end of my in-box coverage of UCF sports? I don’t know. Maybe? With my friend and colleague Kyle Nash getting his new Knight Class series off the ground, I wouldn’t want to take any attention away from it. You all should check it out.

There’s also been a lot more people popping up this season that have decided to write. I'm sure they have some good ideas to share. I started writing in 2003, podcasting in 2006, and did a stint on terrestrial radio in 2012. My knowledge of sports extends well beyond just UCF and it had to. Until 2017, I was never siloed to a single team or sport, so while focusing on one team has its advantages, I do miss doing more general sports stuff and podcasting where it’s not just about the talking points, but having fun and being yourself.

For those fortunate, or unfortunate depending on what side you land on, to interact with me online, I’m never short of an opinion. As it turns out, one of the smart things I did over the years was save my work on the cloud. Outside of a piece here or there, all my work is still alive on the cloud even though some of the earlier websites I worked on no longer exist. It’s been interesting to see the evolution of the style and content I wrote about, such as the then Cleveland Indians retiring Chief Wahoo, a personal narrative about sports injuries after McKenzie Milton got hurt, a nine-part primer on realignment back in 2012 (Boy, have things changed), articles for Kyle’s old The Student of the Game website, and more.

OK, I got that out of the way. Now what? I got this weekly article, but what else? Maybe I’ll get back into flag football refereeing. I wonder if the statbook team needs a guy. Does the equipment design team want a guy 140 miles away to help consult on uniforms? Do I start a new podcast somewhere? I am already planning on making it to the Baylor and Houston games as a fan. It’s been years since I’ve been able to wear one of my many UCF jerseys to a game. Now I need to figure out which one to wear. One thing is for certain: Whatever I do, my love affair with tacos will continue. Tacos rule.

SOMERS POINT, NEW JERSEY- August 8: An order of tacos at Gregor
Tacos rule
Photo by Rachel Wisniewski/For the Washington Post