Since last Tuesday, days before the Heat and Thunder even took to the court, 22-year-old Andrew Paredes has been pulling 12-hour days working at AmericanAirlines Arena.
Whether it is moving heavy containers, putting large television cameras into place or running miles and miles of Internet and video cable, Paredes has seen about every inch of the downtown arena.
When one co-worker joked about the long hours and the sweat and work that comes with it, Paredes smiled. This, he thought, is nothing.
“I’m used to working and staying up for three straight days,” said Paredes, a reservist in the U.S. Army’s Military Police who returned from a tour in Afghanistan three weeks ago. “Working here is nothing like working overseas.”
Paredes and three other reservists are all working for the league during the NBA Finals as part of an initiative with the Employee Partnership Office of the Armed Forces. The NBA needs workers to help with the setup of arenas during the Finals and contacted the partnership office not long before the event took place. Reservists also worked when the Finals were in Oklahoma City.
All four working the games are paid by the NBA — and receive overtime pay when they work longer than an eight-hour shift.
“Everyone wants an employee who is disciplined, hard-working, drug-free, comes to work and does a great job,” Major General Boe Young said courtside before Miami’s win in Game 4 on Tuesday night. “The guys are getting some great experience and some skills they will translate into other things that they do. This is a career they are getting introduced to and they are having a great time doing it.
“It’s not as glamorous as it may sound, but these guys have been to Iraq and Afghanistan They’re used to it. That’s one of the things that was intriguing to the NBA. They have had trouble recruiting folks to do this work.”
For Paredes and Alejandro Romero, DeAndre Baisden and Ariel Dellanos — all reservists based in Miami — the assignment to work on the NBA setup staff at the Finals was more than welcomed.
The four have spent much more time in and around the arena than the players, making sure everything is set up and working smoothly for the Finals.
Although none of the four have ever worked in television production before, they sure seem to have become quick experts in the field. Not only have they run the cable to the cameras, the remote trucks and the production trucks, but they have been given a few hands-on sessions in directing and producing a game.
Before they started working at the arena last week, none of them had any idea how much work went into hosting and televising a major sporting event.
“This is more fun than I thought it would be and it’s interesting to see all the different aspects that go into this,” said Ariel Dellanos, a staff sergeant in an intelligence unit.
“We’ve helped with everything here. On a personal level, this has been fantastic because it is so interesting on a technical level. This is something that interests me. Who knows? It’s something I wouldn’t dismiss going into later on. This has been a great opportunity.”
The biggest perk of the time working at the arena has to be before and during the games themselves. Although Romero found out during Game 3 that sometimes working at a game doesn’t mean watching it — he was on “fire watch” outside the arena — Paredes and Romero had two of the best seats in the house on Tuesday night as they worked cable for cameramen behind the basket.
“Some of these guys paid thousands of dollars for these seats,” Paredes said pointing to folding chairs behind the basket. “And I’m sitting in front of them. Not bad.’’
The Heat plays its final home game of the season on Thursday — if the Heat loses, the series returns to Oklahoma City — and there will be plenty of work to be done once it’s concluded.
All the cables, telephone wires, temporary press boxes and stationary cameras have to be broken down and packed away before a concert comes in the following morning. Those at the arena will work through the night — not leaving until the job is finished so those who work for the band can come in and set up their equipment.
“We’re going to work all through the night and get this thing done,” Paredes said. “That’s what we’re here for.”