After 36 hours, I'm home. Has it been 36 hours or 136 hours? I'm not sure. My clock says that it's Monday night, 7:30 p.m., but my body tells me that that's impossible. It must be Thursday, at least. In any case, today was an interesting day that featured an encounter with arguably the greatest athlete of the 20th century. What? Is that something that would interest you? But I'll get to that.
Dan Fleschner/NBC News
Why is Matt chatting with Michael Jordan? Read on to find out...
When we left off yesterday, we had arrived in Chicago from Boise late on Sunday night. I ended up sleeping for about two hours before my wake-up call came at 3:30 a.m. Shortly thereafter, I met Matt in our hotel lobby before heading over to the NBC News Chicago bureau.
On our way in, we passed a couple of TODAY die-hards, one of whom informed us that she had driven all the way from Schaumburg. I don't know how far that is, but I appreciate the effort, since it was 4:30 a.m.
At the bureau, Matt went over the day's segments with me and producer Tammy Fine, who had flown in from New York on Sunday afternoon. Compared to me in my zombie-like state, Tammy was downright effervescent.
It was a split show, with Matt and Al in Chicago and Meredith and Ann back in New York. The show had its usual array of diverse subjects (from Blackwater's troubles to an appearance by Sir Richard Branson to cooking on the Chicago plaza), and after two hours, Matt was done.
We then joined forces with booking producer Matt Glick (the yin to Matt Zimmerman's yang) and headed downstate to Champaign, the home of the University of Illinois. There, Matt was to interview Michael Jordan and his oldest son, Jeffrey, who is a freshman walk-on with the Illinois men's basketball team.
Within the first few minutes of MJ's arrival at the Illinois practice center, he and Matt started discussing the Senator Larry Craig situation in Idaho, which, as an observer was kind of surreal. I can't say that when I would lay in bed at night, pondering what life had in store for me, I ever imagined I'd witness Matt Lauer and Michael Jordan discussing whether a senator would resign because of a sex scandal. Though I guess you could also argue that I never thought I would meet Michael Jordan, but when all this was going down today, the context struck me as weirdly funny.
In any case, before the interview with the Jordans began, MJ got off the line of the day. When a microphone suspended above his head, suddenly fell onto him, he said with a half-smile, "I won't sue you for much." He obviously needs the money.
Dan Fleschner/NBC News
Matt joins Jeffrey and Michael Jordan for a post-interview photo-op.
Matt conducted an entertaining interview with the Jordans, despite the fatigue that was setting in (it's one thing for me to be exhausted; at least I don't have to go on TV while in such a state and actually be energetic and engaging).
When things were wrapping up, I had the chance to ask MJ if he told his kids that they should "go into math, because that's where the money is." This is only funny if you've seen the 1989 NBA video, "Michael Jordan: Come Fly With Me." I don't know if he caught the reference, but it prompted Michael to explain to me why he didn't end up majoring in math at North Carolina, despite his initial intention to do so.
As the shoot wrapped up, four of us -- Gretchen Eisele, who is producing the Jordan segment, Matt, Matt Glick and I -- said goodbye to the crew and the Illinois folks, boarding a plane for the last time on the trip.
From New York to Boise to Chicago to Champaign to New York in 36 hours. Was it really 36 hours? I guess I'll let you know when I'm back in the control room for our next show.