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Three cities, two meets, one passion...with Matt McCue

Puma Street Meet Highlight Video - by Moses Galindo

by Matt McCue - Special to DyeStat.com
Photos by Jeannette Seckinger - Video by Moses Galindo

What’s it like being a DyeStat reporter? Glitz, glamour, and groupies? Rock star treatment at every turn? Last weekend, I found out by taking a break from my day job in advertising and embarking on my first assignment. It was a fast-paced affair that took me to three states over the course of three days—from New York to Pennsylvania to Massachusetts, and then back to my hometown of New York City.

The crazy twist occurred in the leg from the Penn Relays in Philadelphia to the Puma Street Meet in Boston. I would cover the distance in a "Bolt Bus" chartered by Puma. I would be joining a large group of high school athletes from Jamaica and the United States, elite teenagers who would pull a unique weekend double in two states. It would be my first bus ride with high schoolers since, well, I graduated from high school eight years ago. Would they nail me with spitballs? Heckle me? Call me “gramps”?

To help record the trip, I took periodical readings on a very official device, a Fun Meter. Not familiar with the Fun Meter? I don’t want to brag, but I feel confident boasting that is it more accurate than timing chips and more credible than FinishLynx. In the same way that a meteorologist uses radar to track the weather, I use a Fun Meter to measure the amount of fun in the air.

Beginning with the departure from the Penn Relays on Saturday night, I sprinted into a whirlwind 24- hour twister where I learned that being a DyeStat reporter means hustling behind the scenes to get you, the loyal reader, the breaking news and latest results that you crave.

Oh, and, shameless name drop, I got to interview Usain Bolt along the way.

Here’s how it went down:  

Saturday, April 25

  Photo by Kirby Lee, imageofsport

6:15 pm:  The running of the 115th Penn Relays has just finished and the crowd of nearly 50,000 is simultaneously exiting the stadium onto South Street. Sunburnt and sweating profusely, I find myself being bumped by the waves of dawdling humanity. I’m holding my suitcase in one hand, computer bag in the other, and I’m anxiously searching for Juliet from Puma who is in charge of loading the Bolt bus. I’m supposed to board by 6:30—we’re leaving at 7:00.

6:30  Unable to locate Juliet on the appointed street corner, I ring her cell. She insists she’s there, wearing a yellow shirt. I scan for a Jamaican woman dressed in a yellow shirt. That description seems to fit nearly every woman who walks past. I continue to search, unsuccessfully.

6:45  I finally locate Juliet, who was standing across the street the entire time, about 20 feet away. A line of buses idles against the curb. Our bus is not among them.  The bus driver is lost or stuck in traffic—no one quite knows for sure. I’m starving, so I tell Juliet that I’m running around the corner to grab a sandwich for the road.

7:00  The line at the sandwich shop is out the door. Think about turning away and going hungry. Decide to risk missing the bus, and wait in line for a mile-high roast beef and cheese.

7:15  Sprint like mad to catch the bus, hoping that it hasn’t left without me. But the bus still hasn’t arrived. No one seems to know where it is.

7:30  The Bolt bus finally arrives! Brett Johnson, Robby Andrews and their dads, among others, hop on. But we can’t leave yet. We’re missing a team of Jamaican runners. They had competed earlier in the day and returned to their hotel to shower and change. No one seems to have any idea of when they’ll be back, so we wait.

FUN METER CHECK: As much as I want it to be on MAX, it’s starting out on MINIMUN FUN.

8:15  To pass the time, I wander into Franklin Field, which is being cleaned by the grounds crew. I grew up in Iowa, a Drake Relays participant, so I’ve never competed at the Penn Relays. I take a lap (in my street clothes) to feel what it’s like to run on the hallowed ground. Oddly, Christmas music is blasting from the loudspeakers. It’s about the last thing I had expected to hear.

8:20  Leave the stadium, stop and talk with Robby and Brett. They are looking for a screwdriver. Apparently, they want to dislodge the top of a Penn Relays hurdle from its base and take it to their University of Virginia dorm room next fall. Thankfully, I don’t have a screwdriver.

8:30  The Jamaican team has arrived! The Bolt bus takes off into the night, by far the last vehicle to leave the Penn Relays.

8:35  Settle in and begin typing first article for Dye Stat.

10:30  Break for dinner: sandwich, banana bread, Reese’s peanut butter eggs leftover from Easter, and semi-smashed chocolate chip cookies. In retrospect, not the healthiest meal.

11:00  The bus meets bumper-to-bumper traffic right outside of New York City. Really? Really? The interstate has turned into a parking lot. This can’t be happening. We’re never going to get to Boston driving three miles per hour.

FUN METER CHECK: Unfortunately, it’s still showing a MINIMUN FUN reading.

Sunday, April 26

12:10 am:  Juliet announces that we are stopping for dinner. Trying to be a mature 26-year-old, I had brought dinner per her earlier instructions. However, this doesn’t stop me from joining the others for my second dinner of the night.  Calzones, from a family-run Italian joint, are quickly consumed because the owners are literally closing the restaurant with us inside of it.

FUN METER CHECK: Good news. It’s up to MEDIUM FUN.

12:30  With four hours of riding still ahead, I seriously contemplate taking a taxi the 20 minutes home to my Midtown New York City apartment. Fearing the wrath of John Dye, I re-board the bus.

12:35  Attempt to continue writing article. Fall asleep instead, as videos of Jamaican sprinting highlights play on the bus’s mini TVs.

4:15  The Bolt bus finally reaches our hotel. Stumble into my room and try not to wake my roommate Moses, who films for Dye Stat. We have never met, and I’m glad he doesn’t see me now. My hair is sticking out in every direction; my dry contacts have practically glued my eyes shut. I fall into bed. Lights out.

9:15  Moses wakes me and says he’s going over to the Puma Street Meet press conference. My once mature attitude is gone—I wave him off, tell him I need more sleep, and drop my head back on the pillow.

9:30 Can’t sleep. Start stretching for a run. Right before I head out the door, Moses calls. “Bolt’s going to be at the press conference!” he says. Can’t miss that! Manage to shower, change into a navy blazer and necktie, and literally sprint the half-mile to the press conference in 20 minutes, which has to be a record.

10:15-10:45  Dye Stat, the only U.S. media outlet in a group of international journalists, has the opportunity to interview him on camera. Bolt speaks in a low, deep voice with a heavy Jamaican accent. Wearing dark jeans and a white Puma T-shirt, with large veins snaking through his arms, he is much more subdued than I had expected. Very media savvy. Dye Stat is told we’re not supposed to ask any questions. We ask questions anyway.

10:47 On the way out, I learn that we will receive a free pair of Puma’s new shoe, the Puma L.I.F.T. Racer. Sweet.

FUN METER CHECK: Up! Up! Up! It’s now showing MAX FUN.

11:30 Return to the hotel and throw on shorts. I manage to squeeze in a 10-mile run through the streets of Boston. First thought: What a beautiful city. Second thought: Man, I am crazy for needing to run every day, and doing so.

1:00 pm: Back to the Puma Street Meet. Cop a free lunch—roast beef sandwich again. Start reporting.

2:45 Usain makes an appearance. Crowd goes wild.

  Matt McCue interviews Street K winner Charlene Lipsey
  Photo by Jeannette Seckinger

6:30 The Puma Street Meet finishes. Need to make it to the Boston train station to board a bus back to New York City.

7:30 Bus pulls out of the station. I’ve got yet another sandwich with me, this time a BLT.

7:31 Begin the event recap for Dye Stat. Learn that the bus doesn’t have Wi-Fi. Really needed that for my article.

7:45 Apparently, the bus driver has an affinity for slamming the brakes in an erratic fashion. This is not contained to red traffic lights. He literally almost runs over a Hondo and, at one point, nearly smashes into the back of a Budget Rent-a-truck.

8:30 Bus driver makes an announcement in a gruff tone, “I normally don’t let people eat on my bus, but I’m feeling nice today, so I guess you all can as long as you don’t make a mess. But DON’T throw any wrappers on the floor.  I have to clean my own bus and I HATE it.”

10:30 Take a break from writing to eat dinner. I throw my sandwich wrapper on the floor. Kidding.

Monday, April 27

12:15 am Open the door to my apartment, toss bags on floor, turn on computer. The recap must be finished, so I grab a cold drink and continue typing.

1:30 Send the final Puma Street Meet draft to crack editor Dave Devine.  Collapse into bed. Exhausted, but oh so happy about the trip. Shut my eyes and start dreaming about my next assignment.