Sunday, June 01, 2008

Flight Crew Finals Blog 

Posted by Sasha at 11:28 PM ET

Live from Ecko Enterprises: The Finals
By Eric Allen, Senior Managing Editor
June 1, 2008

06/01 — 10:15 AM EST:And a good Sunday morning to Jets fans everywhere! I’m here at Marc Ecko Enterprises, located on West 23rd Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues in the heart of Manhattan for the Flight Crew finals. The Crew, just a baby in '07, will more than double its size from 10 to 22 for the upcoming season.

“You’re a part of history,” Crew director Denise Garvey told the 52 finalists.

After Garvey addressed the hopefuls, we kicked this event off a couple of minutes before 10 a.m. In seven hours or so, Garvey along with Jets gameday ops director Brian Mulligan and a panel of celebrity judges, will select 21 Flight Crew members from an original pool of more than 250. The 22nd and final member of the ’08 Crew will be chosen by you, the fans, on newyorkjets.com and that voting will begin tonight.

“We’re going to choose three that will be part of the online vote,” Garvey said.

Al Pereira, our team photographer, is feverishly taking shots and they’ll be posted on the site live throughout the day. I'll check back in a little while with an update.

11:40 AM: We're more than halfway through the solo routines. The girls are performing inside Ecko's third-floor show room in front of a panel of three consisting of Garvey, Mulligan and gameday events coordinator Mike Alperstein. I'm told the celebrity judges will make their arrivals early this afternoon. On the side opposite the panels, the rest of the girls are sitting in folding chairs and cheering on the routines. Behind them are windows to an atrium and you can see the head of a stormtrooper from "Return of the Jedi" — apparently Ecko is a huge fan of the Star Wars series.

I'm stationed behind the judges in between web techie Paul Marsh (Marshie had to borrow my computer to upload the photos so that takes precedence over any editorial content) and marketing/corporate communications senior manager Jessica Lederman. Early this morning, I drove in with merchandise guru Chris Pierce and CP is pretty excited about the new uniforms.

"Ecko has produced a cutting-edge design that will put the Flight Crew at the forefront of dance teams in not only pro sports, but the fashion world will take notice as well," he said. "He has really embraced the DNA of what the '08 Flight Crew will be."

1:10 PM: A 30-minute break period has just concluded and the afternoon session is set to commence. Before retreating for a quick lunch, Garvey described the morning as "fantastic" and at times "moving."

"Everyone came with their A game," she said.

Mandisa, a member of last year's squad, was pleased with her solo routine.

“I am totally happy with what I did. I love the song (Pat Benatar's Heartbreaker) and that's the thing that is great about doing a solo is it’s actually you. It’s not someone choreographing for you —it’s your own personality style and you’re showcasing it to the judges.”

There are a lot of butterflies in this room. Mandisa provided a little comic relief to release some of her tension.

“I have Plan A and Plan B," she said. "Plan A consists of me celebrating if I make it and Plan B consists of me going to bed, sleeping and crying.”

1:25 PM: The celebrity judges are in the house and a couple of minutes ago, I bumped into Greg Buttle. The former Jet/Penn State standout LB is already in his chair and ready for the action.

"I'm looking for intelligence and I'm looking for character," he told me in a rather dry manner. "I'm looking for athleticism and they have to be good -looking, they have to be able to dance, they have to be able to smile — they have to do all of those things. Maybe not in that order but anyway."

Buttle, who is a fan of the Jets' dancers, remembers the Bob Cleveland orchestra playing at Shea when he was a rookie in 1976.

"I think its great," he says. "Why not? It's all about entertainment. If there's another way you can entertain the fans, do it."

2:30 PM: Let's call the afternoon session a review. The girls, in groups of five, are performing the same choreography routine they learned two weeks ago in the semis. One thing I can assure you of is this is going to be a fantastic 22. Ecko, donning a brown baseball cap and tiedeye shirt, is sitting to the left of Garvey and is an taking an active part in the evaluations.

2:40 PM: That's a wrap for Part Two. Garvey told the ladies she'll need an hour to deliberate with the judges and then 21 members of the 2008 Flight Crew will be announced. You'll start voting for No. 22 immediately afterwards.

3:00 PM: You might remember the name Bianca from a couple of weeks ago. The Baldwin, NY native graduated from Hofstra on the same Sunday she advanced to the finals.

“I feel like I’m bringing what I can offer to the team, so if they don’t want it — it’s fine," she told me this afternoon. "I did my best, I had fun and it’s a great opportunity and I’m so happy to be at this point anyway.”

I'm no judge, but I'm thinking the Pride product has an excellent shot of making the squad.

3:45 PM: Mulligan just walked by and facetiously asked, "Does anyone have any shots?" That gives you a sense that tensions are high in Ecko's office as the judges continue to deliberate.

3:50 PM: Most of the girls have returned to the folding chairs and are awaiting the "white smoke."

3:55 PM: Jon Bon Jovi's "Living on a Prayer" is playing over the speakers and a group of gals are belting out the lyrics. They're all wondering if their prayers will be answered momentarily.

4:11 PM: In walks Garvey to applause. The names are being announced and we'll release them on the site here before the top of the hour.

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