Keeping up with the Kriens: the Move

Travis Kriens

On Dec. 14, I received a phone call a little after 5 p.m. from the Charlotte Bobcats of North Carolina, offering me an internship with the public relations department for the upcoming season. I had interviewed for the spot about two weeks prior for a little over 30 minutes, but never really thought that I would get it. I was over 1,300 miles away and there were only two spots, so I figured it would be a good experience just to interview for a spot with one of the big three professional sports leagues in the country, without really thinking that I would get the job.

I had been working in the SDSU sports information office since August of 2007, and had done pretty much all there was to do, so I was ready for a change. I was curious to see how the two jobs would differ, as on any given day, you could work three different events at SDSU. By comparison, a normal NBA schedule only has seven or eight home games a month in a normal season, so I was interested to see how I would keep busy and how you operate with only a couple of games every week/every other week or so.

One of the special things about the Bobcats is that they are owned by Michael Jordan. I was a big time Chicago Bulls fan growing up and I still am, so this was a once in a lifetime opportunity to see quite possibly the greatest and most well known athlete ever, and the guy that played such a huge part in shaping my sports life as a kid.

The closest thing that I could compare a NBA game day to is the Summit League Tournament in Sioux Falls. For a Tournament game, I would generally get to the arena at 11 a.m. and be there until the fourth and final game of the day was done at around 11:30 p.m. It is much the same in the NBA, but instead of four games in one day, it is only one. A game day for me goes from 10 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. with a multitude of activities going on.

Setting up about a dozen or so stat monitors throughout Time Warner Cable Arena as well as placing the seating cards down for the media takes up hours before the game. The media covering each game is just incredible. For a normal game, there will be about 70 media credentials given out to TV/radio/newspaper/game day workers. However, that number reached over 100 when the New York Knicks came into town on Jan. 24th, which was even more than when the Miami Heat played Charlotte in December.

Some games may not pique your interest at all, such as the Bobcats vs. the Houston Rockets. But when you get to walk among the players and coaches before and after the game, it has a special feel and an opportunity to see the legends of the game as well as the future greats.

For instance, the Atlanta Hawks are a pretty good team with a few All-Star caliber players, but the real treat was walking past former Hawks player Dominique Wilkins who currently serves as an analyst for their TV broadcast. He is someone who went head-to-head against Jordan in numerous slam dunk competitions and was one of the most spectacular high flyers in history. The Houston Rockets may not have any players that you would seek out for an autograph, but their head coach is former Boston Celtic great, and Minnesota native Kevin McHale. The Golden State Warriors have a couple of exciting, young players, including Stephen Curry. It is surreal to me that just a couple of years ago, I was watching Curry lead Davidson to within one victory of the Final Four and now I get to see him in person. Same goes for Cleveland Cavaliers rookie point guard Kyrie Irving, who should turn out to be a future All-Star.

What may turn out to be the biggest learning experience of the entire internship is the cultural impact.

I have talked and spent time with a greater variety of people from numerous different backgrounds just in the past two weeks than I have for the first 20 plus years of my life, which is something that you just cannot experience back at home.

I grew up less than 10 miles west of Sioux Falls, which is the largest city in the state by nearly 100,000 people. I spent the next six years in Brookings, which hovers around the 20,000 mark. The entire state is a little over 800,000. Compare that with Charlotte that has a metro population that more than doubles the state of South Dakota, and it’s a whole new ballgame.

Obviously most of the other interns with the Bobcats are closer to home than I am. Of the 30 interns, one is from Michigan, one is from Kansas, there is a handful from the northeast, but most are from around the Virginia and Carolinas area. Not surprising and also one of the reasons why I thought getting the position was a long shot, but it raises an interesting point. Most people don’t veer far from home.

The old motto at SDSU is that, “You can go anywhere from here.” I am sure you can look at many examples of this throughout SDSU’s long history, but when looking at the people that I have dealt with throughout the years, they seem to follow a similar pattern. They live within a few hours in either direction of Brookings, go to school for four to seven years and then head right back on home or stay in the area. It is easy just to stay near to the place that you have known your entire life with all of your family and friends. Even though I have taken the long journey to the east coast and have just stated how everyone stays close to home, ironically, my dream job would be to work for the Minnesota Vikings, the closest thing to a big time professional team that we have in this area in the biggest pro league in the country.

Can you be happy and achieve all of the goals that you have by staying close to home? Absolutely. But for me to reach the goals that I have for myself, there is not much of an opportunity back at home. You only go around this world once, and I have decided that the comforts of home are not a good enough excuse to stop me from having a career that seemed unthinkable to the 11-year-old me.

My internship ends at the end of April when the regular season ends and I have no idea where I will go from here. I can guarantee you that two months ago, I never would have thought that I would be writing this column from North Carolina. That’s the fun part about life. You never know where you are going to be or what you are going to be doing in the future. But I am sure about one thing. Whatever I do, I am going to be having fun doing it.