NEW ORLEANS — I’ve always liked drinking, but who knew it would get me to meet the legendary Dr. J one day?
I sure didn’t. Then I got an email from a Crown Royal Canadian Whiskey brand manager, basically asking me to sell out and become a partnered blog and push the product.
But I’m no sell out.
Unless you count emphatically saying yes after they offered tickets to the NBA All-Star Game, free cheesy merchandise like a head band embroidered with the Crown Royal logo and a few samples of booze in exchange for random mentions on the site which led me to start the “Crown Royal Canadian Whiskey Reign On Play of the Game” series.
If you count that as selling out, then maybe I did.
So my paid-for behind got on a plane Friday morning and flew into Nawlins.
I landed to find an itinerary filled to the margins of Crown Royal tastings and gatherings at the Metropolitan Night Club.
This is how it went, well, what I can remember, anyway.
Friday, Feb. 14.
I landed in Nawlins, took a cab and the driver told me a funny story about Anthony Davis from the Final Four a couple of years ago, then I arrived at the Intercontinental Hotel.
Showered. Shaved up. Headed down stairs to meet the other blogging sell-outs that Crown Royal brought in.
Turns out these guys are pretty cool. We chatted and headed to the Metro. I still haven’t eaten anything, and I was pretty sure even a taste of whiskey at this point would lead to me with my shirt off on Bourbon Street screaming “who dat!” while throwing beads at pedestrians.
Any way, we show up to the Metro around 7 p.m. and we listen to Robert, an expert on all things whiskey, talk about Crown Royal’s stuff and their new varietals (or as he called them, expressions. Seriously, if you ever have a chance to talk with a master of whiskey, do it. They use cool words like “sexy” and “extravagant” and “approachable” when talking about booze. I wish someone would talk about me like that.)
We had a taste of the Crown Royal Deluxe (the normal one in the purple bag) and the newer Crown Royal XO in front of us. Robert told us to “nose” the whiskey, then “take a taste.” I was already trying to figure out where to buy some beads when they catered in Subway. I had two sandwiches, then a slice of pizza a few minutes later from Brees-only-knows-where.
Now we are up in a special corner of the club. On our itinerary, it said “10 PM Kenny Smith and Terrance J arrive” so now I’m thinking “Am I going to party with Kenny Smith?”
Turns out, I never saw him. But I did see Charles Barkley.
I tried to get to him, because, you know, I’m a friggin VIP with Crown Royal. The security guard promptly turned me away.
So I went back to the Crown Royal section and chatted with my fellow bloggers while sipping on some cocktailes provided by three pretty girls in silver dresses (I drank Crown Royal XO on the rocks. You really don’t need a mixer with this one because it already has some other flavors that Robert described to me as a “vanilla finish” with some “nuttiness” and possibly some “cinnamon” or “nutmeg.” I think it was cherry flavored.)
After about six, seven or eight free drinks, I decided it was a good time to leave. I found the exit, wandered to the street and what should have been a 15-minute walk back to the hotel turned into an hour-long adventure. If it wasn’t for some old guy that pointed me in the right direction after about 45 minutes, I probably would have ended up on Bourbon Street yelling things like “Gyur nawt Ken-eeeee Smifthhhhh” at the girls at Daiquiris.
Saturday, Feb. 15
Saturday was pretty excellent.
Other than the fact that I woke up with a hangover, found a chewed up cigar in my back pocket and felt like Alien was trying to escape from my stomach all day.
But other than that? Excellent.
After picking up my credentials and going to the NBA Jam Session, I walked back for a meeting with the other bloggers. But not before first meeting up with Will, editor of Always Miller Time, and grabbing a beer on Bourbon Street.
Then we met up with the rest of the group and walked to the Metro. Again. Except this time instead of a master of whiskey and Subway sandwiches, we met up with Julius Erving (and Subway sandwiches).
Freaking Julius freaking Erv-freaking-ing.
And what did we do with Dr. J? Drank Crown Royal, of course, toasting to the self-proclaimed “master of basketball.”
Then came a Q&A with the legend himself. We asked and he answered. He was thoughtful in his responses. This guy can talk basketball all day. I asked him if he wishes modern developments likes advanced stats, player tracking and multiple camera angles were available to him in his day. His answer was a mix of yes and no, mostly saying he could live without the advanced stats, then saying no to the multiple camera angles before sorta-kinda switching to yes.
We wrapped up by taking pictures. After about a 45 minutes-to-an-hour, Dr. J walked out the back door surrounded by a group of lawyers, reps and whatevers and he was gone. We saw him on TV later that night judging the dunk contest (which, by the way, he hinted he would vote for the East every time).
We watched the contest at some French restaurant. I don’t remember the name, mainly because it was in french. We were sat in our own section of the restaurant and the bar tender created signature drinks using… what else… Crown Royal. The first two went over really well with everyone else, even though I thought they tasted like potpourri. The third one was a Manhattan made with Crown Royal Black. I ordered seconds.
We went back to the Metro and partied. Brandon Jackson showed up and hung out in our section. He’s pretty cool. Apparently, he’s auditioning for the lead in Star Wars. I swear. That’s what he told me.
Sunday, Feb. 16
After writing the first part of this post, I headed down to the lobby to meet up with the gang. We went to lunch and, after we left, saw J.E. Skeets and Tas Melas from NBATV’s The Starters. I got an iced coffee at Starbucks and relaxed until the All-Star Game. Not much to report here. The game was cool, the concerts were incredible and I was thoroughly entertained. You watched it, right? I was there, seeing the same thing you saw.
After a round of drinks at the hotel bar, we all said our goodbyes and I got two hours of sleep before I had to wake up for my flight back to the Bay Area.
Thanks again to Crown Royal and those that put this together. I made a lot of good friends and learned a lot of great tips that will, hopefully, make AUCH even better. Also, Crown Royal is amazing and you should totally drink it. Responsibly. Drink responsibly.