We join this game in progress…
I almost forgot until a few minutes ago, but maybe the strangest high school football game I’ve ever covered occurred on September 1.
It was 2000, and I was winding down a season-long internship with the New Orleans Zephyrs Triple-A baseball club. The Zephyrs were then an affiliate of the Houston Astros, but have changed affiliations three times since then, going to the Nationals, the Mets, and the Marlins, who have been the parent club since 2010.
I was ready to get away from baseball. As much as I love our national pastime, doing it for five months straight, sometimes eight to 12 nights in a row, can be downright draining. There was a Sunday night game which lasted 15 innings, a Thursday doubleheader which didn’t end until 3 a.m., and numerous storms which forced the tarp to be pulled. And in minor league baseball, all male employees are expected to pull it, except during the game, when the grounds crew takes over.
I hated tarp duty. I revolted. I was a terrible intern. Asperger’s had something to do with it. I was 23 going on 24 that season, but my emotional development was more akin to an 8-year old. I still feel terrible for being a total jerk, because everyone there, including general manager Dan Hanrahan and media relations director Les East bent over backwards to help, and I spit in their faces.
As the Zephyrs began their last home series of the 2000 season, Robin Fambrough of The Advocate called me about prep football’s season starting. My assignment for the first Friday of the regular season was East Ascension of Gonzales at Hammond. This was a logical decsion, since I was living with my parents in Arabi, and Hammond was easier for me to drive to, since all I had to do was travel 12 miles past New Orleans International Airport, and then 33 miles north on Interstate 55. The drive would total 52 miles one way.
When I was driving home from the Zephyrs’ final home game on Thursday, August 31, I heard on the radio where the game between Baton Rouge Catholic and Jesuit at New Orleans’ Tad Gormley Stadium had been suspended less than five minutes in due to lightning. Robin assigned the game to Ron Brocato, the longtime sportswriter for the Clarion Herald, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, because I was not available.
I had not been home for 10 minutes when the phone rang at 224 Jaguar Drive. The caller ID said The Advocate. I immediately picked up and Jason Russell, one of the sports copy editors, was on the other end. He told me Robin wanted me to instead go to the resumption of the Catholic-Jesuit game the next night.
The good news: I only had a 20-minute drive. The bad news: I had never covered a football game which was being joined in progress.
The next day, with the mercury at 100 degrees and the heat index hovering at 115, I drove to Tad Gormley Stadium in New Orleans’ City Park, only a stone’s throw from my future employer, Delgado Community College. I made my way to the press box on the east side of the stadium and set up my computer, ready to input statistics into The Automated Scorebook.
The great news about covering a Catholic game is all of their games are on radio. Even better, the statistician for the radio broadcasts,, David Butler, keeps meticulous notes, charting every play.
What a relief. I was able to input the plays I missed and when 7:30 came and the game resumed, it was business as normal, even if nearly five minutes had elapsed and Jesuit was holding a 3-0 lead.
Catholic couldn’t move the ball very well. Jesuit’s offense was handcuffed for the most part, but when the Bluejays needed a key play, quarterback Perrin Rittiner and running back Dominic Webber came through. The Bluejays scored the game’s only touchdown in the third quarter, and in the fourth, an interception by Quinton Jason at the 1-yard line stopped Catholic’s best drive.
Final score: Jesuit 10, Catholic 0. After the game, the coaches, Dale Weiner of Catholic and Jay Pittman of Jesuit, were both glad I was covering the game. Nice to see them, too.
There wasn’t a phone line in the Tad Gormley press box, and I didn’t have a modem for my cell phone, but that was fine. My story was done before 10, and I would just drive home to file it, since deadline wasn’t until 11:15.
I almost didn’t make it. The Claiborne Avenue bridge across the Industrial Canal was in the up position. I didn’t have time to wait, so I ventured south on Poland Avenue to the St. Claude Avenue bridge. There is no left turn onto St. Claude from Poland, so I had to go down a block and U-turn, something I had done hundreds of times.
This time, however, it almost turned disastrous. The streets were slick from earlier rain, and I stopped because there was a red light. I couldn’t turn right immediately, and I heard the car behind me come to a sudden stop. Oh boy.
Fortunately, he skidded into the other lane and missed me. I turned right, crossed the canal,, and was home 12 minutes later. The story followed shortly thereafter. Another night in the world of a high school sportswriter.
Posted on September 1, 2014, in Basebal, Football, Louisiana, Louisiana High School Athletic Association, Sports and tagged Baton Rouge Catholic Bears, Jesuit Blue Jays, New Orleans Zephyrs, Robin Fambrough, The Advocate. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.