Saturday, July 3, 2010

The best sports day of the year -- and I didn't see any of it

A week ago Wednesday was a sports fans dream. The US pulled off a thrilling victory over Algeria to advance to the knockout round of the World Cup, Isner and Mahut played an incredible 118 games of the fifth set at Wimbledon and TCU rallied in the 8th with a grand slam to beat Florida State in an elimination game at the College World Series.

It was a day that was set up perfectly with the US game going in the morning, Isner-Mahut lasting for the better part of the afternoon, and TCU capping thing off at the end of the night. It was great day to be at home on the couch or even in the office watching on the laptop. As someone who loves sports theater, this was a day tailored for me -- a constant flow of nail-biting dramatic sports moments playing out on TV from morning to night, with very little overlap. Unfortunately, I saw none of it.

I spent that Wednesday in the car for 19 hours driving home from Omaha. The only images of the day we got to see were briefly during lunch at Eskimo Joe’s in Stillwater.

We were relegated to ESPN Radio coverage and satellite radio broadcasts of the games. People say they won’t forget watching Landon Donovan score the game-winning goal against Algeria. I have been told stories of how they reacted to the goal. The cheers you could hear in the office from everyone watching on laptops. The scenes captured on Youtube of the celebrations across the world. I was on the Kansas Turnpike.

We were going old school with this one, kind of. There wasn’t even a radio station in Kansas broadcasting the game, so we were going with the iPhone app and hoping the 3G coverage stretched the to middle of nowhere (had one little glitch in the 80th minute). Even if we wanted to stop somewhere for a quick break to catch the finish, there was no where to go. We were somewhere between Topeka and Hell and there just aren’t a lot of sports bars you can pop into on that stretch of road.

When we decided a year ago to make a trip to Rosenblatt Stadium and the College World Series, I knew I was doing it during a World Cup year. Ideally I would have picked another year to go to Omaha, but this was the final year at Rosenblatt – it was now or never. I was willing to take the risk.

We made the hotel reservations and decided we were doing the first four days at the CWS – eight games in four days, we were going to get the most bang for our buck. Shortly after booking the rooms, the World Cup draw came out. The England match was going to be no problem to watch. It was on Saturday, several days before we left. However, the last two games of the group stage were on the two driving days. I had hoped the last game wouldn’t matter. Unfortunately, it was a do or die for the Americans, and all I had to get me through it was the sounds of JP Dellecamera and Tommy Smyth.

The drive was excruciating. With every elevation in Delecambre’s voice Brian and I leaned closer to the radio as if we were going to get a look at the action. It looked like the World Cup run was going to end in the group stage for the US. The worst part was there were still 12 more hours of driving ahead. It would have been a much longer day had that game finished 0-0.When Landon Donavon scored it was pure elation. I’m really not sure how I kept the car on the road.

We listened to all the post match analysis, interviews and opinions. It wasn’t long that we started hear the first reports of what was going on at Wimbledon. Isner and Mahut were in the fifth set tied at 25. “Wait what? Did you just say 25 all in the fifth?”

It didn’t sound real. Most of the talk on the radio was about the US match. But between the brief updates as well as posts on Facebook and Twitter we were able to keep up. 30 all, 35 all, 40 all. This can’t keep going can it? 45 all. Are they going to get to 50? 55 all, 56 all, 57 all, 58 all and finally 59. Match was suspended at 59. From the time we left Omaha to the time we were stopping for lunch in Stillwater, Isner and Mahut had been on the court.

We were passing through Norman and listened to Clemson finish off Oklahoma in the College World Series. It was the conclusion of the game we were watching at Rosenblatt the night before. As we were driving through Dallas we decided to check out the TCU-Florida State game. For about 15 minutes we were able to pick up the TCU broadcast on the campus radio station and then it was gone. FSU had gone up big and we didn’t worry about it after that.

Somewhere south of Dallas, we checked the score and TCU was starting to put something together. We had the Rangers game on and that was getting out of hand, so we decided to see if there was a satellite station with the College World Series on. We found the game and 10 seconds later – PING! The Horned Frogs had just connected for a grand slam to take the lead after trailing 8-2.

We watched the first eight games of the College World Series – it was game No. 9 that produced the first dramatic come-from-behind victory of the final season at Rosenblatt. That is how our day was going.

We had been on the road for about 15 hours, listened to a dramatic World Cup match that will have non-soccer fans talking for years, listened for updates on a tennis match that was defying all reason and logic and heard Rosenblatt make a noise we didn’t hear in four days there.

The rest of the drive was left reflecting what had happened that day, and how we had seen none of it. A week or so later, I have a different look at things. The trip to Rosenblatt was a dream trip that will never happen again, and while I didn’t get to see the drama of that day unfold, I have a feeling because of the circumstances, I will never forget were I was the day the US stunned Algeria, the day Isner and Mahut played tennis all day with no result and the day TCU electrified the crowd at Rosenblatt for one of the final times.

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