I left my home in Federalsburg, Maryland around 7:30 am on Thursday morning and began to make my way towards Philadelphia for the MLS Super Draft.
In the e-mail I received, it said I was able to pick up media credentials between 10 am and noon. I knew the trip would take a little over two hours, but I wanted to get an early start so I could get there with plenty of time to get my credentials, get settled, eat a little something, and maybe even meet some people before the event started.
How well was my plan executed?
Well, thanks to my faulty GPS, the design of the city of Philadelphia, and not being able to find anywhere to park; not so well.
I was able to make it through the rest of Maryland and Delaware fairly quickly, route 13 and route 1 were very kind to me, then my GPS gave me hell.
Instead of taking me right into the city of Philadelphia (which, I knew it was capable of, because the first time I went to Philly was to an Eagles game a few years back; Donovan McNabb's return to Philly in a Redskins' uniform. You know, that game that the Redskins lost.) it took me through the outskirts of the city. Taking me through a plethora of stoplights that were determined to slow me down along with one of Philly's public transit systems in my way virtually the entire time.
I was able to make it out of that mess and into the City of Brotherly Love. After a few turns my GPS said, "You have arrived at your destination."
Except, I had not arrived at my destination.
It appeared that prior to leaving my home, when I typed in "PHILADELPHIA CONVENTION CENTER" into my GPS, it instead routed me to someplace called "Convention Hall" which was located at one of the colleges in Philadelphia.
So after re-routing my GPS to the correct location I began a trek through the city to get to the convention center.
During this 5 minute trip across the city, I learned that the pedestrians in Philly simply didn't care that I had a green light and that I was in something capable of running them over. No, instead they chose to walk right in front of me, causing me to slam on my breaks, which then caused the bag holding my laptop to be thrown from my passengers seat into the dash and then into the floor.
My laptop was fine, but on the lower part of the dash is where the car charger was for my phone. That, had been broken in half by my laptop.
Eventually, I made it to the convention center, even after striking out three times on finding available parking.
(Note: If you run a parking garage, and you no longer have available space, you should put someone at the entrance of the garage to tell folks that you are full instead of someone at the very top.)
I was able to park right at the convention center hotel. I walked a block over and made my way into the building to begin my search for the table holding my credentials.
Remember how I said I wanted to get there right around 10 am? Yea, it was now 11:20 am. Thanks Philly.
I got my credentials and started making my way into the draft hall. Heading into the draft hall at the same time? The (insert adjective here) supporters of the Philadelphia Union.
With the draft starting in about 30 minutes I had to find a seat quickly. Except there was one problem, the media area was already packed in. I was however able to find one seat, right next to Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl.
We didn't get to talk too much, but Wahl seemed like a nice guy. He even knew what the Eastern Shore of Maryland was (most people I meet outside of DMV have no idea what or where the Eastern Shore, Salisbury, or Ocean City is).
The draft was underway when a chorus of boos began as MLS commissioner Don Garber approached the stage to give his opening speech. Garber was available to the media later, and answered questions about D.C. United's and New England Revolution's stadium issues, the fiasco involving Camilo Sanvezzo, Michael Bradley coming to MLS, Maurice Edu's possible return to MLS, television deals, expansion with Orlando and NYCFC, and many other topics.
From there, the draft was underway with DJ Clinton Sparks playing tunes and with D.C. United on the clock. In the media section, we assumed a trade was in the works as we saw Ben Olsen running from table to table talking to other teams. We were right about our assumptions, and after a "bidding war" between Dallas, Vancouver, and Philly, DCU traded the pick to the host city for their pick and allocation money.
Philly selected UCONN goal keeper Andre Blake with the pick, the first GK to ever be taken with the number one overall pick.
DCU was on the clock again, using the pick this time on Cal defender Steve Birnbaum. Olsen and Birnbaum made their way into the media room for photos and questions. I jumped up from my seat and was able to get to the front of the line to interview Olsen, bumping shoulders with Steve Goff of the Washington Post.
I interviewed Birnbaum one-on-one later and returned to my seat to write up the Olsen interview.
Before going, I was warned that I might be bored at the draft, but the picks kept coming, trades kept happening, and really time flew by at the Super Draft. I almost forgot to eat.
Time didn't seem to fly by for former Maryland forward and two-time Hermann award winner Patrick Mullins. Mullins was projected by many to be a top five, and maybe even the number one overall pick. But for some reason or another (some speculating that his six figure salary scared teams off) he slipped all the way to the number 11th pick where New England traded up to pick him.
I went back into the media room to interview Mullins and was able to make my way up to the front once again. I hit record on my phone and stuck it out to pick up what Mullins was saying, then he smacked it out of my hand. He claims it was on accident, BUT I HAVE MY SPECULATIONS.
In all seriousness, it was an accident. We laughed, Mullins apologized and picked it up and then started answering my and other members of the media's questions. Mullins was asked if he was surprised that he had to wait so long in the green room before being picked and answered saying,
"Suprised? No. This is draft day, anything can happen. You can't expect anything."
After Mullins spoke, I walked around and took some photos, talked to some of the other writers and bloggers there and then went back to my seat.
After the first round concluded, Garber spoke to the media, and answered a question about D.C. United's stadium situation saying,
"Progress is being made. It's a great ownership group, Erick Thohir and Jason [Levin] are very focused. They were making their business plan presentation in the league office last week, a number of other key milestones that they hope to hit in the next couple months. But they're encouraged and expect to start moving dirt in the next twelve months."
I then did my Q & A with Steve Birnbaum, who is a great guy. He seemed very professional, excited to be there, and answered every question I had. Also, a special thanks to the D.C. United PR guys for allowing me to do the one on one Q & A.
As I was writing that up, the second round concluded and clean up began. At one point, I thought the clean up crew was going to take the table out from under me.
The draft was over, I was done writing, and I gathered my things and started making my way back towards the parking garage.
The fee for parking from 11:26 to 4:54? Twenty nine dollars. Again, thanks Philly.
I was able to get out of Philly fairly quickly, and I have never been more happy to get on I-95. Not because I hated the city, or because I hated the draft, but because I was so over driving in Philadelphia.
I've driven through a number of cities; Atlanta, Baltimore, D.C., but none of those are as poorly designed as Philadelphia is. Maybe it's because the city is so historical, maybe it's because the buses and trains, or maybe it's just because my GPS sucks, but I hated driving in Philly.
So, note to self: next time I take a trip to Philly, park outside of the city and take the train in.
Outside of the driving part, I had a great time at the draft. I'd like to thank the guys here at Black and Red United, and SB Nation for allowing me to go and helping me get credentials. It was a blast and I would urge our other writers to make the trip next year and our readers too...
Just don't drive in (if it is in Philadelphia next year).