Tweeting with Jim Irsay: A Suite Experience

Anyone ever tell you you’re wasting your time with social media? They don’t see the value it could bring to them?

Fortunately, I’ve found tons of value by connecting daily via “social networks” focused on social collaboration, golf, football, entertainment and life. But if you still have doubt, maybe my little story about how a few Tweets led to immeasurable “ROI” with one of my greatest passions, the Indianapolis Colts.

I wrote this blog post on New Year’s Day about the Twitter engagement with fans of Colts owner Jim Irsay (@JimIrsay). But that was BEFORE I found out I had been selected as a winner of one of his contests which I had been trying to win for the previous 36 hours. Recently re-reading the post I realized I certainly wrote it assuming I wouldn’t win because of how many people were trying and how few winners were left to be announced. I still think that the blog post contributed to me being part of the final winner announcement less than 24 hours before the game, but we’ll never know, will we?

So here is my story from the point I found out I had won…until we found out the Colts had won the AFC South division and the #3 seed in the playoffs:

Fold – As the darkness arrived New Year’s day, I decided I had neglected my wife and children long enough following the fan response to @JimIrsay’s tweets and contests, trying to find ways to prove myself as a dedicated fan worthy of winning, and writing a blog post about the whole experience. I also didn’t want to be a person publishing a tweet-a-minute to draw attention to myself with little substance. So, I published my new blog post, tweeted it a few times to draw some attention, then put the mobile away and started getting the kids ready for bed and folding laundry. I stopped following the tweets. Then my phone buzzed. It was a Direct Messages from Jimmy Land (@jland23). Jimmy was a perfect stranger, but one of the first winners selected by Jim Irsay the previous day, and he and I happened to connect had been exchanging tweets the better part of Friday and Saturday:

I didn’t believe Jimmy Land, had to check and see it for myself. Low and behold, Jimmy Colt had thumbed my name on his BlackBerry! I spent the next 4 hours in shock, tweeting some more, scrambling for kid care options so my wife could join me and reworking tailgating plans and ticket plans with friends and neighbors (I already had a ticket in section 612 I was going to use for the game).

Coincidence? I think NOT! – So I get a phone call from Irsay’s representative late Saturday night to talk logistics for winning, and I knew things were going my way when she and I discovered via phone that her First, Middle and Last Name were the EXACT SAME as my 5 year old daughter’s! Are you kidding me? She informed me I would be getting TWO free tickets to the game and ONE suite pass to Jim Irsay’s suite for before the game to meet Jim with the rest of the group, but that we would be returning to our seats before the game started and watching the game from there. Sounds good to me!

PPppppppp-rrrrrrriiiiiuuussssssss with 7777777777000000001111111111111 bbbbbballlllllsssss – It was cold Sunday, especially in the shade. It was a sunny day, and when we were in the sun it didn’t feel too bad. But the Prius being offered for the Sunday 1pm giveaway was parked in front of Lucas Oil Stadium in the shade! Typing on a mobile was not easy, and obviously neither was counting the number of balls you can stuff in a Prius. I didn’t win, and I guessed “147” when the answer was “701.” I tweeted my answer before I knew the balls were not all regulation size!!!

Will Call Tweet Up – We all had to pick up our tickets and Suite passes from Will Call. One of my favorite moments of the day (again, being someone in the “social” profession) was when a bunch of complete strangers, having only shared a few tweets with one another, immediately recognized each other like they’d been friends for years. I arrived at the window and quickly was able to say, “Hey, you’re @AmyMack74! And you’re @jland23.”  It was a really cool moment thanks to the use of Twitter to allow the participants and winners to have already established their own sense of “community,” purely via the act of participating.

Pre-game Pep Talk – So we arrive at the suite, do some more meet and greets…most sounding eerily similar to “Nice to meet you Chris, what was your twitter name?  Ah, @dunkman42, of course! Great to meet you in person!”  Then Mr. Irsay came to meet us all and talk to us a bit before the game. What a great talk he gave. He covered topics about his life, from growing up knowing and learning from Johnny Unitas and Bubba Smith, lessons his late father taught him, dealing with the death of his sister, dealing with the potential pending NFL lock-out and the implications that could have on the 2012 Super Bowl that is scheduled to be here in Indy. He talked about a visit he made to Twitter headquarters in San Francisco and his meetings with their CEO as he was obviously thinking and planning ahead about how to effectively leverage their service to best engage his fan base. It must have been a good meeting, because he has done things pretty darn well in my opinion. And as a huge NFL fan, my favorite story, when at Lamar Hunt’s funeral a few years ago (deceased owner of the Chiefs), former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue put his arm around Irsay and told him “He was the last of his generation of owners. It is your time to carry on the legacy of the founders of the NFL, the people that have raised you in this league, and it is your time to now to lead us.” Of course that line is paraphrased, but that is how I heard it. Great story telling.

Another memorable moment was when he stopped everything in his tracks when a women entered the room, and gave her a hug and had a private conversation with her, and you could see she was a little shaken up. I didn’t know it at the time, but later found out she was the mother of a young man that had passed away in Iraq or Afghanistan serving our country, and he treated her to the same experience he treated us. It was a special moment for sure.

Then near the end of the talk he made a passing remark about “…when we take you guys down to the field…” and you could see the faces of each person in the room immediately light up. You mean we get to go on the field??!!?? It is only one hour before game time, there are going to be players roaming around, practice punts booming, fans looking at us jealously!  Awesome!

Field Pass -You can see most of my field experience from the photos in this album and the videos I uploaded to my YouTube channel. But the most exciting moment (no offense Mayor Ballard) was being on the field during warm-ups while Phil Collins’ song “In the Air Tonight” played.

Nobody Puts @TheBrycesWife in a Corner! Except @JimIrsay – So as all of the excitement above comes to a close, we are instructed to take our regular tickets and go watch the game from the seats associated with the free tickets we received for winning. I will never complain about free seats, but I was a little surprised to find out we were in the top row of the corner of the stadium. Thought we may get some nice seats, but cool, no biggie. My wife and I are there, having a good time, I don’t need to exercise again that evening after climbing all the stairs. And one more positive? If I stand up the entire game, nobody is going to yell at me from behind!

About one series into the game, however, my cell phone rings. It is one of Jim’s aides. He says I am welcome to use my suite pass to return and hang out, eat, drink, be merry for the rest of the game! Suite!! Dude! Sweet! Dude!!!  Oh, but I only have one Suite Pass. What is @TheBrycesWife going to do the whole time? Is a loving husband, like myself, really going to leave his wife all by her lonsesome in the stratosphere of a huge stadium just to go hang out in the owner’s suite during a division clinching Colts game?

See ya honey…meet you at the car! Zoom…

Back in the Suite – To little surprise, I returned to the suite to find many of my new friends hanging out with one another, all with a similar family abandonment story to share. “But how often to you get this opportunity?”, we all convinced each other, so we could enjoy our guilt-free game together. I know I am forgetting some of the other winners I met, so I apologize, but it was great meeting all of you: @AmyMack74, @TaxMegan, @dunkman42, @naturallysassy1, @Mr_Focker, @badtippy, @jland23, @ssimonindc, @LynnieLynn77 and @amcarter. You guys rock!

Unexpected encounter of the day? During the first half someone informed me that IRL driver Graham Rahal (@GrahamRahal) was also roaming around the suite with us. I had seen him in the suite, but not recognized him as Rahal until it was pointed out to me. So I didn’t think much of it. But during the 3rd quarter as I was standing watching the game, Graham and his girlfriend Katie Osborne (@ktmosborne) came up behind me and asked which of our group was the person that had requested to have a picture taken with him. Well, turns out it was @jland23, who happened to disappear for the better part of 30 minutes! So I was looking around and informed them he wasn’t around at the moment. I fully expected Graham to go back to his business and forget about us. But he didn’t. He and Katie stood and talked with myself and some of the group for the rest of the game! Most of the 3rd and 4th quarters. We talked football, racing, golf, workout methods (I was quiet during that portion of the conversation), Ohio sports (he grew up in Columbus) and more. What a great, down to earth guy for a 22 year old IRL super star. Oh yeah, and he got his ticket because AJ Foyt and Casey Irsay couldn’t make it that day! Ha.

This is @Mr_Focker and @GrahamRahal. I’m not in the picture (my batteries died!) but I am just off the left edge, I promise!!  No, really, I am. Seriously.

Really enjoyed meeting Graham and Katie. And of course as we were leaving the suite I couldn’t resist relaying to Graham as I said goodbye, “Drive Safe!”

Most importantly of all, the Colts won in dramatic fashion and we were all treated to a spectacular game, a spectacular experience and memories we’ll never forget. Thanks to everyone involved, especially Jim Irsay and the Colts organization for being so good to the fans.

Now, Go Colts, beat the Jets!!

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2 thoughts on “Tweeting with Jim Irsay: A Suite Experience

  1. Pingback: Working Out Loud with Stories about Working Out Loud | TheBrycesWrite

  2. Pingback: Working Out Loud with Stories about Working Out Loud | TheBrycesWrite

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