Tales from the Beat: A trip-up before deadline in the sports department

By Tom Hardesty | Assistant Sports Editor Published:

By Tom Hardesty | Assistant Sports Editor

They say that most accidents occur in the home. It's an assertion that certainly can be extended to the workplace as well, considering the amount of time we spend at our jobs.

And in the cramped quarters of the old Record-Courier building in Ravenna, there was no shortage of mishaps in the way of tripping, slipping and stumbling by employees as they navigated the narrow, irregular walkways of the main floor, particularly in the editorial department.

More than one person caught a wheel of their office chair on the lip of a plastic carpet protector and tipped over backwards, landing on the floor in a pose similar to astronauts hunched in their space capsule prior to liftoff. This embarrassing faux pas happened to me on occasion, although I somehow always managed to keep from becoming "Major Tom" and was able to stop the chair's momentum just in time.

Especially hazardous, however, were the telephone cords that snaked from the top of the desks to the phone jacks in the floor and lay coiled on the carpet, ready to snare an unsuspecting victim as they sauntered past. These cords were just close enough to the desks to blend in with the office furniture, but far enough away to create mayhem on the footpaths.

One such unforgettable episode involved former Record-Courier writer and assistant sports editor Don Dreger. "Big D," as he is affectionately known, was and still is a father figure to me. He took me under his wing the day I was hired at the R-C in March of 1994 and has been a close friend ever since. Don was an accomplished athlete in high school and college and is a member of the Cuyahoga Heights High School athletic hall of fame -- and Big D needed every bit of that athleticism one night in the late 1990s.

The deadline was rapidly approaching as we busily produced the next morning's sports section, and Don had just printed out a copy of one of the pages to be proofread. Deadline pressure being what it is, Don hurried down to the printer that sat on the counter in the news department, grabbed the printout and quickly headed back toward the sports department -- a walk of roughly 20 feet. As I sat at my computer in the sports department, frantically trying to finish my pages before deadline, I suddenly heard a loud DING, followed in rapid succession by a cracking noise and a thud.

I immediately turned around and was greeted by the startling sight of Big D lying face down on the carpet, surrounded by what can only be described as debris. Resting on the floor next to Don were what used to be a telephone, and something plastic that I couldn't identify. Don lay motionless for a few seconds while those in the office rushed to his aid to check on his condition.

To our great relief, Don slowly rose to his feet, stood up and assured everyone he was fine -- but a telephone and smaller office printer weren't so lucky. Apparently, Don had been eyeballing the page printout as he rushed back toward the sports department, holding it out in front of him as he walked. With the floor hidden from view beneath him, Don -- walking at full bore -- had tripped over a protruding telephone cord and been flung forcefully toward the ground. With his foot caught in the cord, the phone had been instantly yanked off the desk and sent crashing to the floor, where it broke into several pieces.

Ever the athlete, Don tried to break his fall on the tray of a smaller printer that sat on the counter adjacent to him. The plastic printout tray jutted several inches off the counter top, and as he fell forward Don had put his hands out -- promptly snapping the tray clean off the printer. With that, Don hit the floor in a heap, the remnants of the phone and printer tray scattered around him.

But all's well that ends well: Don was OK, the machinery was replaceable -- and, most importantly in our business, we still made deadline.

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