It was one night mid-September on NCAA.com’s eighth floor balcony. Dusk. Humid. Quiet.
Three of my coworkers and I soaked up the last of Atlanta’s long summer on the wrought iron chairs, comparing bucket lists of the college championships we wanted to work on in the upcoming year. All four of us were new to the staff, trying to get our feet under us and figure out what this website we were handed each night was all about.
The Final Four -- too big.
The College World Series? “We have to find a way to get there.” ... And #OmahaOrBust was born.
I remember how the words couldn’t leave our mouths fast enough, how we sat on that balcony until it was so dark we couldn’t see our noses, how we forgot to write it all down.
We were so determined, so confident, so passionate that we claimed the Twitter and Instagram handles that very night. We grabbed extra whiteboards from the supply closet because we had too many thoughts for just one board. For nine long months, we had GoogleDocs and email threads and sticky notes littering our desks.
Our bosses were curious, poking around to see if they could guess what Operation #OmahaOrBust was all about. In hindsight, we probably should have made a less obvious codename. But when we pitched the idea, they were just as giddy as we were. It awakened the little kid in all of us -- the one who wants to spend the summer, driving across the country with his dad to watch baseball.
This Wednesday, that casual-conversation-turned-serious-pitch became reality and we hit the road with one destination in mind: Omaha.
I was the guinea pig, the first writer to leave our office in Atlanta. And, as with any road trip, there are always snags. Navigational mishaps in Tuscaloosa (read: I got lost); bumper-to-bumper traffic in the middle of Jackson, Mississippi; Duck Commander closing 20 minutes before I arrived in West Monroe, Louisiana.
But none of it mattered. I couldn’t even be mildly upset. I was thankful there were even snags to be had. If there were snags to be had, it meant our labor or love was finally becoming a reality.
I’ve traveled across a lot of this country, but on Wednesday, I got to visit places I’d never been before. I drove down the entrance to Talladega Superspeedway under the checkered flags, feeling like Ricky Bobby. I strolled across Champions Walk in the shadow of Alabama’s Bryant-Denny Stadium. I drove above the Mississippi River, thinking how I was crossing the physical line between what’s best on “this side of the Mississippi.” I scoped out the Louisiana headquarters of one of the most popular reality show casts on television.
And I got to call all of this “work,” and do it all over again the next day.
With #OmahaOrBust, we’re using our iPhones to tell stories. We’re sharing 140-character moments through Twitter. We’re talking to fans via social media who want to do what we’re doing, who have become followers of not just our handles, but of our experiences.
Thursday, my coworkers will be hitting the road right behind me. Each of them will make his or her way to a super regional site and then roadtrip again so we can reunite at the pinnacle of collegiate baseball -- the College World Series.
Our job these next few weeks lets us meld the best of both worlds. We get to be fans and have the experiences we’re usually removing ourselves from as journalists. And then we get to put the press credential around our neck and write about it.
This week, our staff will drive across most of the continental United States, see the quirkiest landmarks in the USA, and watch the best games America’s pastime can offer. # OmahaOrBust is about allowing you to live vicariously through us.
For nine months we’ve worked on #OmahaOrBust -- and we’re finally giving it life ...