By Tom Nader | Sports Editor
Any time I covered a football or basketball game, I always wanted to get to my location early.
And by early, I mean about an hour before the start of the varsity contest.
I don’t like to be rushed, and I enjoy having the appropriate amount of time to get my stat sheets set up just right, talking to people I may know from that particular community or just simply sitting and watching the environment.
On one night filled with some road blocks, some literally and some figuratively, my habit of leaving for games early provided me the necessary cushion to just get to the game on time.
Assigned to cover the Sept. 30, 2005 football game that featured the Garfield G-Men hosting the Waterloo Vikings, I gathered all of my information, materials and work items, and left the apartment complex I was living in at the time in Ravenna.
The entrance and exit drive to the complex was quite long and had some twists and turns that led you in and out of property.
As I navigated the final small turn and neared the exit, my direction changed just enough for the sun to pop into my eyes. As I attempted to shield my vision, I felt a twinge in my nose and a sneeze on the brink.
Already slightly obstructed from the view, the road completely went black for the milisecond that my sneeze lasted.
Unfortunately, that was long enough for me to hear a huge thud, my car lift slightly off the ground on the front passenger side and another rather loud thump as my car’s tire became reacquainted with the road.
Thinking I had rode up on the side curb, I quickly put the car in park, opened the door and prepared to survey the damage. I walked around the front of my car to get to the passenger side and noticed the damage was much more than I thought. The impact had broken the tie rod in half and had forced the strut up so violently that it had established a new style that featured a hideous bubble over the front fender.
I couldn’t believe hitting a curb could do such damage and started to look back behind me to see where I had hit. Then I realized that the damage to my car was not done by the curb, but rather a boulder of a rock — easily the size of two basketballs — that had been set in the grass as a decorative piece.
The rock had been knocked onto the road from the collision and had been left with scrapes and gouges. It looked rough, but my car looked worse and had lost the fight.
Obviously, my split-second sneeze, combined with the blinding sun, had taken me just off path enough to cause some problems.
Nobody ever enjoys dealing with car problems, but I shifted that to the back of my mind. I had a football game to cover. How was I going to get there.
I quickly ran through names in my head who would be available to either drive me there or let me borrow their car. Knowing that I would have a late night ahead of me — filing the game story afterwards usually didn’t get me home until after midnight easily — I didn’t want to inconvenience anyone any more than I had to.
When in trouble, the first place to call? Home.
My brother Travis answered the phone and I quickly brought him up to speed of my off-road racing adventure and wondered if he would be willing to let me borrow his car for the night.
Understanding the time element, that I needed to get to my game sooner rather than later, he dropped everything he was doing and drove from neighboring Rootstown into Ravenna to pick me up.
I was relieved and thankful.
The two of us drove back into Rootstown, where I dropped him off at my parents’ house, and I headed to Garrettsville for Week 6 of the 2005 high school football season.
I was still doing OK on time as I made my way down S.R. 88, but then soon hit a “road closed” sign with a huge blockade and all of a sudden I was taking back roads into Garrettsville that threatened whether or not I would get to the game by kickoff. I was starting to wonder if I was truly meant to cover this game, but I trudged on, thinking that if this many crazy things have happened so far, maybe I was in for a wacky, interesting game to cover.
I pulled into Garfield High School just after 7 p.m., still about 20 minutes before kickoff.
Garfield, which went 9-1 in the league that year, won the game rather easily 20-0.
My car eventually got repaired, but it also lost at least 20-0 that night to a decorative boulder in Ravenna.