SANTA CLARA, CALIF. — Tom Rinaldi was walking the halls of his hotel in San Jose – the host city for the College Football Playoff National Championship – on Friday afternoon.
The long-time ESPN reporter was texting with the New England Patriots staff, a continuation of a conversation that had spanned multiple days and had begun the way most of Rinaldi’s conversations as a reporter do . . . with an idea.
As Nick Saban sits on cusp of his seventh national championship, Rinaldi wanted to chat with a man who has also won at the highest level and simultaneously shares a deep relationship with the Alabama coach – Bill Belichick.
“There is so much to their story: the success, the past, the respect and the admiration,” explained Rinaldi.
At 4 p.m. PT, Rinaldi got the green light from the Patriots – Bill would be available for a Saturday afternoon interview. There was one hurdle: Rinaldi was 3,100 miles away.
“That was just a small hurdle,” joked Rinaldi.
He set in motion a 27-hour journey where he would fly 6,200 miles over the course of 14 hours, drive another 100 miles and go from the Pacific Time Zone to the Eastern Time Zone and back.
TOM RINALDI’S TIMELINE:
Friday, Jan. 4:
9 p.m. PT: Leave for San Jose airport, taking a red-eye flight to Boston’s Logan Airport
11:25 p.m. PT: Flight takes off
Saturday, Jan. 5:
7:30 a.m. ET: Flight lands in Boston
8:30 a.m. ET: Sleeps for a few hours
1:30 p.m. ET: Arrives at Gillette Stadium, meeting with ESPN’s features unit
3 p.m. ET: Belichick arrives for the interview
4 p.m. ET: Rinaldi departs Gillette Stadium to go back to Logan Airport
6:30 p.m. ET: Flight is delayed
7:25 p.m. ET: Flight takes off
11:30 p.m. PT: Flight lands in San Francisco
Sunday, Jan. 6:
12:15 a.m. PT: Returns to San Jose
“The New England Patriots staff and Bill Belichick could not have been more gracious and warm with our crew,” Rinaldi said Sunday night. “I can’t thank them enough – especially [Director of Football/Head Coach Administration, New England Patriots] Berj Najarian and [VP of Media Relations, Patriots] Stacey James for accommodating us, and Bill for taking the time during his postseason prep.”
For fans, the interview will be a key part of ESPN’s Championship Drive two-hour special (6 p.m.) leading into the College Football Playoff National Championship Presented by AT&T between No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Clemson (8 p.m.).
For Rinaldi, it is another example of the lengths ESPN’s production staff goes to in order to provide great quality programming and storytelling.
“I can’t thank our operations staff in San Jose and our production staff in Bristol, including our features producer Kris Schwartz [who drove from Bristol to meet Rinaldi in Foxborough, Mass.], for making this happen. They are the ones who deserve all the credit and are the unsung heroes of our crew.”