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Video From The 1st Annual Fantasy Football Fest in Atlantic City, N.J.

This past August, I was in Atlantic City to cover the inaugural Fantasy Football Festival, a one-of-a-kind fantasy football experience according to the organizers, ReedPOP.  This was the first time any festival or convention was organized and catered around fantasy football.

DSC_4086ReedPOP, the production company behind New York Comic Con (the largest pop culture convention on the east coast), PAX, PAX East, UFC Fan Expo,  & Star Wars Celebration organized the festival.  ReedPOP is dedicated to producing celebrations of popular culture throughout the world that transcend ordinary events by providing unique access and dynamic personal experiences for consumers and fans, is organizing the festival.

It took a while to get the videos edited as my editor was finishing up college and graduating.  I should be able to edit videos faster in the near future so everyone can experience the events closer to when they happened.  When the NFL Draft comes around in a few months, you will not have to wait long to see and listen to the 2013 NFL Draft prospects.

We has to break the footage into two videos.  The first video features NY Giants Super Bowl MVP and Super Bowl XXV Champion Otis Anderson as well as teammate Howard Cross from that Super Bowl.  We get a few words from employees at Fathead, the makers of sports wall clings, some fans, the Philadelphia Eagles cheerleaders, HGTV star of Man Caves & Baltimore Ravens Tony Siragusa, and so much more.

The second video features an interview with ESPN Fantasy guru Matthew Berry and former NY Giants and Jets player Billy Taylor.  You can see a fantasy draft in progress and action from the passing and field goal interactive station.  Plus as a bonus added extra, a joke shared with former New York Giants QB and CBS sportscaster Phil Simms.Fun was had by all that attended and if ReedPop has this event later this year, I am sure they will get a similar turnout.

DSC_4254Also on the second video is an interview with the head chef who drives and operates Johnsonville’s Big Taste Grill.  This thing is the size of an 18 wheeler.  The ideal item for that July the BBQ.  Johnsonville was there as part of the tailgating section of the event.

Thank you to Dr. Bill Chackes, Managing Partner of Football Reporters Online for asking me to cover the event and to incorporate my own unique style of sports media coverage into this fun, humorous, and a little sarcastic video.  Dr. Bill only asked for the first part.

Now keep in mind, these videos were shot in August of 2012 the weekend of the Jets vs. Giants preseason game.  So the topics range from preseason form, the Jets acquisition of Tim Tebow, Chad Johnson, Eli Manning, and so much more.

So enjoy watching the Fantasy Football Fest.  There was some footage not added, that could be used to create more videos in the next few months.  Come back often to find out.

My article from August about the Fantasy Football Fest.  More details about the event and pictures can be found there.

 

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Inaugural Fantasy Football Fest Fumbles The Ball, But Room To Improve

Last weekend I was in Atlantic City to cover the inaugural Fantasy Football Festival, a one-of-a-kind fantasy football experience according to the organizers, ReedPOP.  This was the first time any festival or convention was organized and catered around fantasy football.

DSC_4086ReedPOP, the production company behind New York Comic Con (the largest pop culture convention on the east coast), PAX, PAX East, UFC Fan Expo,  & Star Wars Celebration organized the festival.  ReedPOP is dedicated to producing celebrations of popular culture throughout the world that transcend ordinary events by providing unique access and dynamic personal experiences for consumers and fans, is organizing the festival.

Headlining the festival were Philadelphia Eagles’ stars Michael Vick and LeSean McCoy, New York Giants’ greats Phil Simms and Lawrence Taylor, former Washington Redskins QB Joe Theismann, NFL Hall of Famers Jim Kelly, Bruce Smith and Chris Doleman, Super Bowl XXV MVP Ottis Anderson, ESPN Fantasy Expert Matthew Berry and others as they participated in autograph signings, panel discussions and fan Q&A sessions throughout the weekend.

DSC_4091Aside from hosting your own fantasy draft live from the AC Convention Center with your friends, the inaugural festival in AC had a number of activities and special events throughout the weekend including fantasy expert round tables, video game tournaments, interactive athletic competitions (punt, pass, kick, sports memorabilia, & a tailgate party and beer tasting.

To read more about the festival and future events, you can visit their website at www.fantasyfootballfest.com.

Last Thursday night at 9 PM before the event, I was on the weekly Football Reporters Online BlogTalk Radio program interviewing our guest, Greg Topalian, ReedPOP’s Senior VP.  Gregg was excited about the coming event.  He mentioned the radio spots they ran, posting flyers on the boardwalk, and plastering any information about the event where ever they could.

Greg also mentioned how ticket sales were going very well and about 25000 tickets for the festival had either been sold or given out by the radio stations.  From all the information provided it sounded like the inaugural event was going to be a hot ticket in town.

DSC_4092But from those who attended, the event turned out to be a great effort rather than a memorable weekend.  Even Phil Simms could not wait to leave.  More on that later.

Day one started with about 25-30 fans waiting outside for he 10 AM opening.  I had this vision of a long line, maybe 100-150 people standing outside.  Chomping at the bit to get inside for a memorable fantasy football experience where one can also buy some memorabilia and meet some players for an autograph or two.

It was memorable all right, but not in the good way some may have liked.  By the time one was in the door, there was enough time and room to get everything done fast. Which many did.  Not many attended for fantasy football reasons.  Many came in and got the autographs they wanted and left.

Now some did come for fantasy football, but by the time the inquiries were done there was not much left to do.  Even though they had panels, fantasy football drafts on site, and video game stations lined up with Xbox & PS3 with Madden and NCAA football games, it was not enough to keep the patrons there.

The best part of the video game section was the original Nintendo Entertainment System with Super Techmo Bowl.  All one had to do was play as Bo Jackson to win the game.  Not a cheat, but a heavy advantage in the game.

There ere not many vendors inside as well.  There were a bunch of fantasy experts and websites to gain valuable knowledge from, but it was not enough to keep people there for an extended period.  After certain autographs were obtained, many fans left.  It seemed the players were more of a draw for some rather than learning how to draft your fantasy players.

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ESPN’s Matthew Berry & Philadelphia Eagles Michael Vick & LeSean McCoy

Over the two day period there were less than five fantasy drafts overall.  Tables were set up to handle at least 12-15 per day at a time.  The panels also drew little listeners.  The only panels people sat and listened to were to the Eagles cheerleaders doing trivia and when the Philadelphia Eagles Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy, and ESPN‘s Fantasy Analyst Matthew Berry were taking questions.

Besides the typical fantasy booths like RotoExperts, FantasyGuru, Fantrax.com, Gameday Fantasy Football, and a slew of others, companies like Fathead, Steiner Sports Collectibles, Jack Links Beef Jerky, World Poker Tour, Point Pong. and others tried to offer up football merchandise.

DSC_4208Sirus XM radio had their Fantasy Sports Radio show broadcast live as the event was going on.  Fans could listen in to fantasy experts give their opinion as well as former athletes give their analyst opinions on who to draft for your fantasy team.  94WIP Sports Radio, 97.5 The Fanatic, 97.3 ESPN Radio, & 103.7 WMGM Rocks were also doing certain live broadcasts or reports from the event.

For those wanting a true taste of playing on the gridiron, there were interactive areas where one could catch a pass, kick a field goal, or throw passes for accuracy.  The Giants Perry Williams was having fun along side the fans in the passing section.  Jets/Giants Billy Taylor was giving defensive stance tips to the Lingerie Football League ladies who were also a part of the festivities.

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Jets/Giants Billy Taylor with the ladies of the Lingerie Football League

One could notice some of the other players and former players in attendance wanted to get their time there over as soon as possible.  Many of the fans and even the vendors noticed how some shortened their time on purpose due to the low turnout.

For example, Michael Vick was originally scheduled for his autograph session from 1:30-3:30 PM and then a panel discussion with Matthew Berry breaking down the QB position from 4:15-5 PM.  LeSean McCoy was scheduled from 2:30-4:30 PM for his autograph session.  The only session that did not change was the QB panel discussion.  LeSean McCoy took part in that as well and it became a general Q&A session as well.

Both Michael Vick & LeSean McCoy had their autograph sessions changed from their scheduled times  to 5-6 PM.  $100 for Vick to sign any item and McCoy $60 for any item.  As soon as 5:30 came they both left before the end of their scheduled times.  This could be due to low autograph requests, low attendance, or the fact not many stayed until the 6 PM day one close.

They were great with the fans and signed whatever people presented and answered tons of questions.  One has to wonder why they would leave early.  If they got paid for one time and left before that scheduled time, they really made out like bandits.

DSC_4093Day two of the event saw less fans attend.  Even some of the vendors did not come back for day two.  Some even came in after the 10 AM start time.  The demeanor of the vendors showed their displeasure with the event.  From the supposed 25000 tickets either sold or given away it appeared less than 2000 attended the event.

My wife and I stayed at the Sheraton, less than 50 yards from the convention center.  One of the Sheraton’s attendants mentioned he had no idea the event was going on that weekend.  According to him, he saw no posted advertisements for the event.  While my wife and I walked, we barely saw any ourselves.  The only ads we saw were on a revolving billboard and light post flags leading to the convention center.

DSC_4254Outside the convention center, there was a tailgating section.   WMGM Radio was broadcasting live outside alongside the the worlds largest portable bbq grill.  It takes p the whole trailer of an 18 wheeler.  Johnsonville has three trucks and brings them to various events across the country.  The next stop after the Fantasy Fest was to Bristol, TN for NASCAR.

It appeared there were more food vendors inside than outside.  The driver of the Johnsonville truck was also the grillmaster.  Johnsonville was at the event to help raise charitable funds for the Marines.  But they felt let down by the event.

DSC_4253They claim there were no signs or posters inside to direct fans outside to the tailgating section.  After checking the event floor, there really was no signs.  They were all posted outside the doos of the event in various parts of the convention center.  We went outside both days and each time the tailgating section looked empty.

The guys from Johnsonville felt disappointed as they look to help raise funds for charity.  This event let them down as they could not raise the kinds of charitable funds for the Marines as they had hoped.

Day two also saw former Giants QB Phil Simms as the autograph attraction.  Phil was great with the kids and more than happy to talk to the fans and sign whatever they wanted.  I found out from one of his handlers that he drove himself down there that morning.

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NY Giants QB & Football Analyst Phil Simms

Phil Simms was scheduled from 11AM-1PM.  And like a few others the day before, he could not wait to get out of the event.  His line for autographs was short and he left the event before the end of his scheduled autograph time.  Phil Simms sped out the door so fast he beat Usain Bolt’s world record in the 100 yard dash.  I should know, I was behind him taking video.

The event may not have been an overall success for some, but for those who got what they paid for, they left satisfied.  I guess if you are a true fantasy football fan and you had your questions answered before you could draft your players, then it was a success.  If your kids saw the players you grew up watching and had them sign the autographs you wanted, then you left smiling.

If ReedPOP plans to do this event next year, there is a lot that needs to be rethought and restructured.  Not only do the fans who attend need to leave happy, but so should your exhibitors.  They pay for space on the floor and should be given a true chance to make a profit on top of their expenses for the festival.  If the exhibitors leave the event pleased, then they will plan  to return next year.

If there had been video game tournaments where players could play Madden, NCAA 13, or Siper Techmo Bowl with prizes and sponsor tie ins from EA Sports, Nintendo, Sony or others could have added more of an interactive feel to the event.

ReedPOP could show live status feeds from Twitter to encourage the use of social media to get people to the event immediately.  Even a prize every hour for the best tweet.

I enjoyed myself at the event.  The Philadelphia Eagle cheerleaders formed lines to welcome fans in and I ran threw.  I took my attempt at the field goal kick.  If you want to know how I did, come back when the video is up.  Plus I interviewed New York Giants Otis Anderson, Howard Cross, Perry Williams, Billy Taylor, Jets Bruce Harper, Ravens Tony Siragusa, ESPN’s Matthew Berry, and more.  So in order to know what we talked about, you WILL have to come back for the video.

DSC_4199If ReedPOP decides to do this event next year, I will come back.  I’d like to see how they can improve in their second year to increase attendance.  This convention can be a success with the right adjusting.  Take advantage of the successes it had and capitalize on it for next year.  You will find football fans do enjoy events like this as it provides the interaction fans welcome from players.

When the players are signing autographs & laughing, fans obtaining signatures and memorabilia, and vendors are interacting with sales and valuable fantasy information, then everyone is happy.  That is how you measure an event’s success.

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NFL Fans United & Documentary Filming Expands

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Yesterday was a day I will not forget.  Yesterday was my first time being on the sidelines for a professional football game.  Now before you ask if the NFL is playing on a Saturday, they weren’t.  It was for the UFL, United Football League.  This is the 2nd year of the league and their nearest team are the Hartford Colonials.  Last year they were the New York Sententials but never had a true home in the NY/NJ area.  Since I have been looking into cost effective football alternatives to the NFL, I thought the Colonials would be a great team to cover and see what their fans thought about the team.  Dr. Bill Chachkes of Football Reporters Online was able to get me a press pass and some time with one of the front office personnel. It may not have been the NFL sidelines, but to me, professional football is professional football.

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My associate Sixto and I left early, I wanted to get there when the parking opened to see how the Colonials fans tailgate.  Took us a little over two hours to get up there but the ride was worth it.  Sixto is a great kid, he is a film student at Montclair State University and is looking to get some good experience behind the camera.  We met Dr. Chachkes and his wife and he handed us our press parking pass and my on field media pass.  Unfortunately, I did not get a press pass for Sixto.  Bill informed us Quiznos was giving away free tickets to the game.  So that is how we got Sixto into the game.  By the time we made it over to Rentschler Field, where the UConn Huskies play football, there was not too much time left for tailgating.

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Sixto and I set out and we covered a lot of ground, not much ground to cover there.  About 5-6 rows of parking on each side as there were not as many fans tailgating like at a New York Jets game.  They had a stage set up for a live band, some inflatable sections where kids jousted and a mechanical bull tossed others around.  Plus some local sponsor booths and some role playing Colonials were there in full uniform.  There was a moment on stage where they had wheelchair boxing, yes, wheelchair boxing.  The boxing is done to help give those less fortunate a boost to their self esteem and make them feel that they can do anything.  It was fun to watch as many fans cheered them on.  After visiting those areas, we moved on to find some tailgaters to talk to.

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We found very few fans willing to talk to us.  Many were enjoying the games for the first time while few have been to previous games.  The ones that did talk to us are fans of NFL teams as well.  We found New York Giants fans, Jets fans, Patriots fans, and a Philadelphia Eagles season ticket holder.  Those we talked to have been to Giants and Jets games, but were never season ticket holders.  They felt it was too far for them to travel to the games on a constant basis.  However, they did become season ticket holders of the Colonials.  Reason being they were a closer franchise, $60 per seat for the whole season which is four games, and the players were from UConn and other local areas.  They also have former NFL players on the team.

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As we walked, there were more families having fun than the usual “beer drinking guy” crowds I find at Jets games.  The UFL’s prices make it easier to bring the family to enjoy a game.  Now the tailgates may not be super huge or have the flare of ones i have been to at NFL games, but it still had that warm friendly atmosphere.  People still offered us food and the occasional adult beverage.  The people may still support heir favorite NFL team, but they will also support the Colonials in the same manner.  This is what the UFL needs, fans willing to not just show support but to bring their friends to experience it for themselves.  It is always fun to see who tailgates.  That is where they true nature of the fan comes out.  No one I have come across has not been hospitable or unruly.

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About 20 minutes before kickoff I signed in and got my press vest.  I was smiling the entire time.  I Was ecstatic.  I was actually one of the media who gets to be on the sidelines to film and report.  Whereas Bruce Speight of the New York Jets said “I was technically not the media”.  I dropped my stuff off in the press room and proceeded to head out onto the field.  Felt strange looking up to the stand from the field, usually the other way around for me.  I got some great shots of the fans from the field as well as both teams.  I even managed to get some great footage of former San Francisco 49ers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Jeff Garcia, who is the QB for the Omaha Nighthawks.  The action on the field was exciting.  Every player played their hearts out and gave the fans what they came to see, true professional football.

I was approached by a Connecticut State Trooper on the field before the 2nd half began, his name was Danny.  He asked me where I was from and who I was shooting for.   I told him where I was from and that I was filming a football documentary where the basis was about the New York Jets and their fans.  He then proceeds to tell me he bleeds green.  He was a New York Jets fan for a long time.  His brother was on the waiting list for season tickets for about 15 years.  Once the Jets went through their season ticket holder base to sell the PSL’s his brother received a call fast for season tickets.  His brothers seats are in the upper bowl just below the catwalk, really high up.

Danny then says he remembers seeing some footage on the internet about some guy who was being followed by a cameraman looking for blue collar fans to talk to about the PSL situation.  I informed him that was me.  What are the odds I go to a Hartford Colonials game and talk to a State Trooper who has seen footage I have put out on the internet about my documentary?  It made me feel proud to know I have had others take not of what I am doing and behind my work.  Of everything that could have happened that was something I will always remember.  It let me know what I was doing was the right thing, that I was being heard even if no one was letting me know it.

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The entire time I was on the field the fans were into the game.  Fans did the wave and kept it going all around the stadium.  One far even dressed as a Colonial from the 1770’s.  They had a great fan base that showed they were excited to see the Colonials play their brand of professional football, even if they did lose by a small margin.  I walked around the entire field and got shots from every angle.  I loved ever minute being there and excited about any future opportunity it may bring.  Even though I write for internet websites and do independent filming, I felt like I was treated like any other member of the traditional media.

After the game I had the camera set up in the post game conference area.  A section where the press hears from the coaches and players about the game then proceeds to ask them questions about the game.  There may not have been many members of the press in there but it was a thrilling experience to be the only one there with a video camera to get footage.  After that I interviewed David Turner, the Colonials Personnel Director who had previously worked for Al Davis and the Oakland Raiders.  He was able to give me some insight into the differences between the NFL and the UFL.  His interview adds a perspective into NFL alternatives that is detrimental to the documentary.  A viewpoint not many can provide.

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Saturday’s experience was one I want to build on.  I have to see what else I can do to tell the stories not many tell.  To give a fan perspective the traditional reporters do not tell.  Majority of the time it is game statistics, plays, and what happens on the field.  Many seem to forget the fans perspective and what brings them out.  The UFL understands this and seems they know what it means to build that bond between the team and their fans.  They bring together fans of many NFL teams that would normally be at each other throats.  Instead, they all cheer for their local team, united under one flag that flies up in Hartford.

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