Friday, November 29, 2013

Assumption Leads to Disappointment

Staples Field, Westport, CT, a little after 7:00 am. Taken Nov. 28, 2013.
This is my own fault.

Yesterday was Thanksgiving. For me, it's the 13th straight year that I've spent my turkey day morning at a football field, calling a game on WGCH. Over time, we've seen the Greenwich Thanksgiving game turn into an event, complete with a large tailgate. While I'm fine with turkey and the trimmings, my mouth waters thinking about the annual hot sausage, egg, cheese, and...oooohhh YES...chili sandwich.

I talked it up on The Press Box. Kato, CJ, Paul, and others were having visions of said food dancing in their heads.

I knew Thanksgiving, 2013 would be a busy day. Having to drive to Staples High School in Westport is not a pleasant thought so early in the morning on a very cold day. In fact, it might have been the coldest Thanksgiving I've covered, with the wind included in the mix. Yet with the knowledge of the tailgate, and an early HAN Radio pregame show before the WGCH coverage began, I set the alarm for 5:00 am.

I didn't make it, rising at 4:45. As much as I wanted some extra sleep, I passed, pulling myself together. I still had to print out my scorecard, and various game notes, along with getting the Staples roster off the CIAC website. (which was, in part, inaccurate, thank you very much).

I was on the road just after 6, with the equipment in the car, a chill in the air, and background noise on the radio. The news spoke of cold temperatures and possibly black ice.

Around Pound Ridge, NY, I heard a thump and listened as the sound of something dragging began. Muffler? Flat tire? The mind wandered. Of course, my trusty car is heading towards 240,000 miles, so any noise makes me shake.  I found a place to stop and got out. I knelt down. Nope. Nothing. Oh, wait.

A stick.  I pulled it out and motored on.

Chris Erway had said he would see me at 7:00, so I hustled to be there in time. Sure enough, I pulled off North Ave. in Westport at 6:59.

Surely, I'll say hello to the tailgating guys, maybe even grab a sandwich, and head down to the booth. Mike Zito, head of WWPT Wreckers Radio, and all around good guy, said the booth would be open by 7:30.

Wait. Nobody's in the parking lot. Well, no nobody, but close. No Cardinals flag. No tables. No grills. No eggs. No cheese.


I texted Mssrs. Erway, Kaelin, and Silverfarb: "Heads up. No tailgate."

Oh, by the way, can somebody bring me something to eat?

I left the house empty-handed.  No coffee or anything.

Later on, several people would say the same thing, but the truth is, nobody needed to tell anyone that the tailgate was off. The tailgate is done through tremendous generosity, and nobody - certainly not some radio guy - is owed an explanation.

Oh no, this is on me. I was the dummy who left the house without coffee. I was the dope who didn't at least have a bowl of cereal. They have the right to pull a tailgate without any prior notice.

It was bitter cold at Staples High. A few stragglers made their way in.

Staples is probably the hardest of the FCIAC schools to find, and Chris Erway's GPS failed him. So he called me for help.

He called me a second time when I was in the booth trying to set up the broadcast. Somebody had walked in, and chuckled as they heard me say, "Take 57 south. No, don't take 136 north. Go straight."

He was there by 7:45. Chris Kaelin, the hero of the story, showed up a little after 8:00 with a sack full of Sausage McMuffins from McDonald's.

And he threw my money back at me when I tried to pay him.

Football is a game that, like any other sport, can confound. I'm sure many didn't give the Big Red boys from Greenwich a great chance to win this game. Hell, some thought this Cardinals team would win only four or five games. Instead, after yesterday, they're 8-3 and can lament an October loss to Trumbull High School. A win there might have helped them into the Class LL playoffs.

Oh, but they took great pleasure in looking across the field and knocking off the Wreckers. Staples needed a win to advance to the playoffs. The Cardinals played their most complete game of the year in beating the Wreckers, soundly, 27-7.

In the booth -  a place I hadn't worked in at Staples since 2001, we stayed warmer than those in the crowd or on the field. We were solid on the air. We ended the 2013 season on a good note.

As with any year, the last broadcast brings trepidation. Will any of us be here when 2014 begins? Will we all be back? Our lives are all changing and evolving. New jobs, opportunities, and life events take us all in different paths. There will likely be changes of some kind.

What's next? Holy cow, I've been trying to get that question answered.

It was a lot to think about. It also was the end of a couple of supremely hectic weeks. HAN Radio, WGCH, Wilton Bulletin, etc. You get the idea. I was beginning to fall asleep by the time the turkey was hitting my mouth.

I got home, watched the end of a very disappointing Steelers/Ravens game, and was soon asleep.

Food coma? No. Just wiped out.

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