On the Road Again
“On the road again, just can’t wait to get on the road again….”
Willie Nelson always resonates deeply with me this time of the year. Not that I have a ton of the old warbler’s CDs hanging around or because I need to get back to my Western roots of which I don’t have any. Because it’s state tournament time.
Almost nightly except for an occasional day off so that I can grab a nap and a pork chop and make sure my wife and son still remember my name it is in the car and off to the next destination as teams pursue their post season dreams.
Where, could be any place this side of the Mississippi. Usually it starts near home. Wamogo, Holy Cross, Kennedy, Northwestern Regional, Torrington, any of the Berkshire League or Naugatuck Valley League schools.
After that, who knows? It could be Plainville High or Glastonbury or maybe Coventry. With the quarterfinals switched to the site of the higher seed this season instead of a neutral sight, the frequent flyer miles add up.
I’m a little anal when heading off into the distance. If I’m not sure where I’m going, I’m out early. My wife asked one day why I was leaving Wednesday for a Friday night game. Hey, we all have our crosses to bear.
I run off my little stat sheet that I’m going to need for the night, go to the CIAC website and run off the rosters, rankings and all of that stuff, drag a pick through my three strands of hair and I’m off.
Texaco and Mobile are making the profit margin on these trips about equal to a McDonald’s Happy Meal and occasionally you have to stop and ask directions.
A little note here, be careful where you stop. I pulled into a Rite Aid this year looking for directions to a school and the clerk tried to sell me a two month supply of Viagra. I’m thinking she must have thought I said the University of Niagra and that I need to stand a little taller.
Now rarely do I get lost which means that leaving so early I usually get there early. I got to Plainville High the other night to watch the Torrington High girls and arrived in time to attend the last gym class of the day.
By the way, remember where you park and where you enter the school. Particularly at the really big schools. Last year at Southington High which is about the size of the Pentagon and has a student body bigger than Justin Bieber’s fan club I walked out the wrong door after the game.
Nothing looked familiar and there was no guy like at the Casino that looks at you like you have been drinking Long Island Ice Teas all day but helps you find your car. I walked around the school three times, lost six pounds and was almost picked up for vagrancy. By the time I found my car, the sun was almost up. By the time I got home I had about seven minutes and 40 seconds to right my article.
Anyway, at Plainville I was there so early the ticket table wasn’t set up and when I walked into the gym somebody asked me to get a broom and begin sweeping the floor. I fired out my trusty notebook and with all the indignation I could muster, mentioned something about press and moved on.
In a sense nobody at the door is a good thing. Because usually once every year you got to a site where you get one of those guys with 50 keys hanging off of his belt and thinks only Obama has a more important job and only then if there is some kind of world crisis going.
They want to do a retina scan, ask for ID and demand your birth certificate. Sometimes they’ll ask if you called ahead. After some wrangling, usually I can convince them that I am not part of some secretive CIAC plot to get into the game for free and that the notebook is more than a prop.
Another advantage of getting their before the teams arrive is schmoozing. A little time to catch up before the big show begins. At Plainville, a policeman on duty came over to me and I’ll admit had my pulse racing a bit. Was he going to arrest me for my last article?
Was I some kind of nefarious character casing the joint for future hijinks? It turned out to be a boyhood friend I hadn’t seen in 35 years. He had a recognized me (how I’m not sure) and wanted to say hi.
Former Torrington High boys coach Rob Martin was there along with Red Raiders’ baseball guru Gerry Carbone. Down the other end of the gym Northwestern Regional coach Fred Williams, his daughter Lindsay, Gilbert boys coach Mark Douglass and Torrington boys coach Eric Gamarai were among the luminaries to share a word with.
One of the officials was former softball umpire Ed Hamilton. Different gyms, different people, a time to catch up and you never know who you will see.
You also get to catch up with colleagues who are often at different venues. On this night it was Joe Palladino of the Waterbury Republican, Tim Gaffney of Litchfieldcountysports.com, photographer Mike Kabelka and Register Citizen writer Peter Wallace.
Three of us ended up sitting in one corner of the gym in classroom desks. I was glad for a place to sit, the bleachers wear on me these days, but I kept thinking my old history teacher Mr. Robinson was going to appear and lecture us on the causes of the Civil War.
Before you know it the evening was done and it was to race home and beat another deadline. The glory of this game was that the next morning was Saturday morning. Sleep, sleep and more sleep.
Monday it is back on the road again, this time to St. Paul’s in Bristol. The eyes are getting like slits, the games drifting into one another. But, I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. It is our glorious March madness. Where to next?