Sunday, May 13, 2007

Horsing around in Loudon County

I just kept saying the same word over and over; WILD! That was the only way to desribe the America's Cup of Polo. I kept trying to think of another word, but none seemed as appropriate. So here's the story of how Dan Steinberg and I were able to mingle with over 5,000 very wealthy people on a fantastic Saturday afternoon just outside of Leesburg, Virginia.



It all started with what seemed like a drive to the middle of no where. I had figured that once I exited the Dulles Toll Road, I would be sort of close to my destination. I was wrong. It was way out there!


Once I was arrived at Historic Morven Park, I was amazed at the amount of people already there on the grounds. And this wasn't any regular crowd. This was a crowd dressed in their best cocktail attire. Men in light-colored suits and ladies in tight-fitting, breast-exposing dresses were the norm. Most of these ladies were pretty damn good-looking too. I'm talking "double-take as they walk by because they are so hot" good-looking!


This is what polo is all about!



So, the first thing that stood out on the day were the rocking versions of the UK and US National Anthems by Journey guitarist Neil Schon.




I'm being totally serious when I say that, other than Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock, this was the coolest rendition of the National Anthem that I have ever heard. He really wailed! More on Journey in a bit.


While Schon was rocking it on stage, The BlackWater USA Parachute Team was dropping in from high above and two United States Navy F-18's buzzed the crowd at a very low altitude. See what I'm talking about when I say this event was wild. This was all just the freakin' PREGAME! I was literally just standing there, my mouth agape, just taking it all in. I hadn't even seen a single horse yet!


Unfortunately for Steinz, he missed all of this, showing up shortly after Take 6 Founder and 10-time Grammy winner Claude McKinght finished up his rendition of "God Bless America", which in this man's opinion, wasn't all that great. He arrived just as the United States Park Police were performing some kind of Horse Trot set to the theme song from James Bond, it was very weird and it lasted for like 45 minutes.


After Agent Bog's arrival, we made our way over to the Chairman's Tent. Now, understand that admission to this tent probably cost some ridiculous amount of money, but Steinz and I were able to just waltz right in thanks to our trutsy press badges! Very Nice! This was the cream of the crop of this hoity toity crowd, and we were right in the middle of it. The actual America's Cup of Polo Trophy, which seemed to be about eight feet tall, stood in the middle of the room, surrounded by the $5000 Cartier watches that would be awarded to the winning team. Funny story; as we walked by the watches I kind of stuck my hand out, in the motion of swiping one of the watches. One of the many security guards who were close to the awards table caught sight of me doing this, smiled, and said, "It's your life". I don't know if was serious or not, but he did seem to be fondling his gun as he he said it.


Steinberg admires the ginormous Trophy



It was at this point that I caught a glimpse of some tremendous looking crabcakes. I immediately jumped in the line, because they really looked worth it. While I was waiting in line, a United States Park Police helicopter swooped in and landed in the middle of the polo field, my line of sight was blocked, but I noticed two men sprinting away from the helicopter, and then I noticed two attack dogs chasing them. WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE? The problem was, I was nearing the phenominal crabcakes, and I didn't want to jump out of line to see all the commotion happenning on the field. Unfortunately for me, when I finally reached the front of the line, I was told that they were out of crabcakes and it would be another 15 minutes before more were ready. Huge Bummer!


It was then time for the polo match to begin! The UK team took a very early 2-0 lead and it looked like the game would turn into a rout! I had been told that these were some of the best polo players in the world but, to be blatantly honest, the game didn't really seem to being played at a very high level. I'm the furtherst thing from a polo expert though, so that will be the extent of my actual analysis because I really have no idea what I am talking about.


Anyhoo, Team USA was able to cut into the deficit with a goal in the third chucker. A "chucker" is the polo term for what would be a quarter in an American Football game. Every polo match is made up of six chuckers. So at the half, the score was 2-1 Team UK.


It was about this time that Steinz and I scored what I consider to be our best interview of the day. We were chillin' in the Chairman's Tent when from across the room, I spotted a face that looked very familiar. It was Al Saunders, offensive coordinator of the Washington Redskins.



We immediately made our way over and quickly introduced ourselves. We proceeded to have a very nice coversation with the coach, which will be a part of an upcoming episode of BogTV sometime this week on Washington Post Live. Topics ranged from how OTA's are going (just fine) to which Redskin would make the best polo player (Santana Moss). Saunders was very open in his answers and seemed to be very relaxed around Steinz and I and as you can see from the picture to the right, he doesn't always seem to be that comfortable around the media. I'm sure it helped that I chosen to wear my vintage Redskins polo yesterday!


After some more interviews with high-ranking officials from the two team sponsors; Ritz Carlton (Team UK) and Cartier (Team USA) we spotted another person who we wanted to interview, NBC News' David Gregory. Steinz politely introduced us and asked if we could have a few words. Now, you would think that if we had just scored an interview with the offensive coordinator of the Washington Redskins with seemingly no problem, it shouldn't be a problem to get a few words with a fellow member of the media. Well, if you thought that, you would be wrong, because Mr. Gregory blew us of! Thanks a lot Dave!


Mr. Gregory shows us the size of one his most intimate body parts



At this point, our energy was running low and we had already gathered some great content, so it was looking like we would be making our exit, but then in a bit of magic, we were able to secure an exclusive interview with Journey themselves, but in order to get to them, we had to jump into a golf cart with Michaele Salahi, wife of Tareq Salahi, the founder of the America's Cup of Polo. Now, you have to understand a little about Michaele; she's is quite possibly the most energentic person I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. She is also quite stunning, if I do say so myself. Way to go Tareq! She seemed to know everyone at the event and she just kept saying how much love was in the air.


So, now that you know that about Michaele, you can understand the fact that the route to Journey was full of detours, one of which lead us to another interesting interview.



One of our stops was right in front of the player's tents so that Michaele could get a quick word with Tareq, and one of the miglers in front of the tents was the one and only John Walsh, of Amerca's Most Wanted fame. Turns out John is a polo player himself, and one of his teammates from his club team down in Florida, was a member of the British team. Walsh really knew his stuff when it came to polo and he was very forthcoming and open with Steinz and I. I guess we just have that effect on people. After a few more minutes of schmoozing, we were again in the golf cart on our way to finally meet Journey!


Now, keep in mind that all of this was happening during halftime. This was no oridnary halftime though. For one thing, it lasted for what seemed like an hour and a half. It's definitely the longest halftime I have ever witnessed. There was also live entertainment from The Webb Sisters, whose groove was so smooth that it even had Agent Steinz dancing. In fact, at one point, two hoity toity's walked by as Steinz was shaking his thang, and gave him a look of pure confusion. It was truly a terrific moment!


Steinz gets down to the mighty sound of The Webb Sisters



After what seemed to be an extra long golf cart ride, we finally reached a little cabin in the woods. We went inside and were told to wait. The anticipation was at a peak, and after a few minutes, we were escorted into the room that had been set up as Journey's dressing room. It was quite chill. Two things stood out to me, one of which I cannot mention here and another was the cooler full of Sam Adams. We met Leslie, who seemed to be some sort of PR type and then we were face to face with Neal Schon. A few minutes later, Jeff Scott Soto, Journey's new lead singer, joined in on the converstaion. The boys were very gracious with their time, spending almost 25 minutes with us. It was kind of a surreal setting in the back of the little cabin. We were surrounded by huge trees, speaking with one of the more popular groups of the 1980s, and it was all because of a polo match. WILD!


Jeff Scott Soto: replacing the legendary Steve Perry



This brought our day in Leesburg to an end. It was definitely a day that I will not soon forget and I really cannot wait until next year's edition, when the American team will take on Italy! Maybe next year David Gregory will take time out his wine drinking to actually speak with us.