Heres a recipe we havent seen before. Take the following key ingredients: one Nike GV jet, four cities in 48 hours, three PGA TOUR stars - Tiger Woods, David Duval and Jason Gore, a number of key Nike Golf executives, five print journalists, one television reporter (me) and the launch of two new Nike drivers. Mix thoroughly. The result? Nikes Whistle Stop Tour (WST); a media junket extravaganza that, even by Nike standards, is unprecedented.
The assignment given to me by Golf Channel ' create a reporters first person video journal of the trip. Roll tape as much as possible. When in doubt shoot first, beg for forgiveness later. And, oh yeah, interview Tiger Woods. This was going to be fun.
I believe I left off with the fact that it was snowing in Portland in the early morning of our anticipated departure to Los Angeles. There was accumulationground cover as it were. The shuttle van door had frozen shut. As we finally exited the shuttle van we heard, Welcome to Nike Air. Its slippery there. Watch your stepit might be a little icy in spots. Ice? Slippery? This language is not conducive to flying.
We were led through the Nike Air waiting area. Posh, oh man, it was posh. Through a set of double doors and it to a huge hanger, (maybe there arent any small hangers, I really dont know) white and very, very clean. Large banners with famous Nike athletes lined the walls. The one of Michael Jordan captured my attention. It was located, not surprisingly, almost directly in front of the nose of the first Gulfstream GV I encountered. Yeah, thats rightthe first one. I told you it was a big hanger. This GV, it was explained to me, was Phil Knights personal plane. Not for company use. Understandable, I suppose. I mean the guy founded Nike. He can have his own plane. It was, by the way, beautifully painted; white with yellow and black accenting and NIKE painted on each of the two aft engines. And clean, clean, clean.
In fact, after a couple of minutes getting adjusted to the somewhat surreal surroundings of this private jet hanger, thats what really stood out. Just how clean everything was. And nothing more so than the hanger floor. This might put it in perspective. If someone said to you youve got to have open heart surgery and they followed it up by saying you have to have it on the floor of Nikes hanger, youd say sureno problem. Thats how clean this floor was. A whiter, cleaner floor you have never seen. We were later told that the flooring is made of a special material, impenetrable to oils, grease, fuels and the like...its non-porous nature lending well to the frequency of applications of high polish. Judging by the gleam Id say they polish it like every five minutes or so.
On the far wall of the hanger was an enormous American flag. It must have been very large indeed for beneath it and off to one side were several vehicles: a pick-up truck, a sedan of some sort and a Hummer SUV. They looked like miniature toy models in comparison to the size of the American flag and the jets. Yup, the hanger was huge.
I kept walking towards jet No. 2. This one was also sparkling clean white but it had no markings. I rounded the nose of the plane and the boarding stairs came in to view. A gentleman was greeting passengers one by one. Hello, Im Captain Blair. Im your pilot on this trip. Youre welcome to go on board, he said with a big smile. Id find out later Captain Blair was always smiling.
Hi, Im Casey from the Golf Channel, I said, my mini-DV camera recording all the while. So, Captain Blair, I said, This weather going to affect us? The weather in Los Angeles is beautiful, replied Nikes GV jet pilot. Well be flying at mach eight-five at four-five-thousand feet. Should be a nice ride, said the youthful, smiling captain.
But Im thinking to myself he didnt really answer my question. I was asking him about the weather in Portland, not the weather in Los Angeles. Maybe he didnt hear me or maybe the cameras were throwing him off. I mean, heck, he must see its snowing to beat the band out there.
So, this plane has a good de-icing system? I ask. Absolutely, yes, replied Captain Blair. This plane has an excellent de-icing system.
With that I boarded the plane. Hey, when in Romeright? If Bob Wood is getting on the plane Im getting on the plane. In reality, I dont think we had much choice. The Nike Whistle Stop Tour was on a very tight schedule. We were due in Los Angeles at 8:45 a.m. for the first of a two-part day: Tiger Woods in the morning in L.A. and then David Duval in the afternoon in Scottsdale. Wouldnt do to be latenope, wouldnt be prudent.
Within moments of boarding the plane and taking our seats the door was shut and the ever smiling Captain Blair formally introduced himself as well as co-pilot Keith and flight attendant Allison. In no time we were pulled out of the hanger. One engine fired up and we began a slow, careful taxi out to the runway. Beautiful, stirring music was playing over the planes stereo system. Kind of an eerie music, really.
The taxiway was a blanket of fresh white snow. This didnt seem to bother anyone else on the plane. Then I heard my cameraman say, Everybody except the pilot and co-pilot grab a shovel. Well, at least someone else noticed the white wet stuff. No matter. The jets second main engine fired up and we turned on to the runway. With an initially gentle engines up ' then full power ' the Gulfstream GV was airborne.
You know the push-back in your seat you get during commercial jet takeoff? Well, the push-back feeling was more pronounced in the GV. Way more pronounced. This baby was airborne in a heartbeat. I could sense a sigh of relief from the Nike execs that there was no delay in spite of the bad weather. We were on our way to Los Angeles and we were on schedule.
In a matter of a couple of short hours wed be hanging out with Tiger Woods. I wonder if they serve breakfast on this baby.