Tales from the Beat: Wandering school hallways looking for the big game

By Tom Hardesty | Assistant Sports Editor Published:

By Tom Hardesty | Assistant Sports Editor

Back in the day, you usually had to call a school to get directions if you had never been there before. I would simply call a given school’s athletic office and ask directions, jotting them down in my notebook as the person relayed them to me. It was a very common practice.

What wasn’t common was getting directions for the interior of a school -- which in hindsight I should have done the night I had to cover the Kent Roosevelt boys basketball team in the Division I sectional tournament at Euclid High School in the late 1990s.

I had never been to Euclid High, so I called the school and got directions. They were perfect. Got me right to the parking lot -- and that’s where my problems started. I exited my car and headed for what I thought was the door that led to the gymnasium. Being around this time of year, the sun had long since set and much of the school grounds and exterior of the large building were encased in darkness.

I thought it was somewhat odd that I was the only person heading for that door considering it was a tournament doubleheader and four schools were represented at Euclid that night, but it didn’t entirely click with me.

Instead, my thoughts were on the task at hand as I mentally prepared for my coverage of the game ahead. I reached the door and pulled the handle. Sure enough, the door opened. I walked in, took a few steps down the hallway and realized there was nobody around. Not a soul. Now I knew something wasn’t right.

I should have immediately heard the familiar sounds of a gymnasium on game night: the roar of the crowd, the buzzer sounding, the squeak of sneakers on the wood floor. And I absolutely should have seen somebody.

Anybody. But there was nobody.

I continued on down the hall, figuring I would soon hear those sounds, that this was just a huge old high school building and the gym simply wasn’t near the entrance. Still, nothing. I turned down another lengthy hallway, then another, then another. And not even a hint of a gymnasium.

It occurred to me that if a school employee was working late that night and caught a glimpse of me walking the hallways alone, it would look for all the world like I was up to some serious no good. I had to find the gym -- soon. Problem was, I now wasn’t sure exactly where I was in the school.

I did my best to retrace my steps, and when things started to look familiar again I decided to just go back out the door I had come in and start over. However, as I made my way back toward the door, on a hunch I turned down a hallway I had passed up earlier. From there I turned down another hallway, and as I walked down this particular corridor something at the far end caught my eye. I couldn’t tell what it was at first, but as I drew closer I could see it was some kind of barricade.

Finally, I got close enough to where I could tell it was one of those floor-to-ceiling expandable metal gates blocking the hallway, and behind it were some people -- including police, who fortunately had their backs to me.

At long last, I had found the entrance to the gym -- only I couldn’t get to it.

And worse, I was sure that I was trespassing in the school -- something that certainly would not amuse the police on the other side of the gate. So I quietly did an about-face and headed back down the hallways yet again. I breathed a sigh of relief once I turned the corner to another hallway and left the police’s field of vision, and breathed a bigger sigh of relief when I reached the door that I had originally entered the school through.

Now that I finally had a general idea of where the entrance to the gym was, I walked back across the school grounds and quickly found the correct door.

I entered, and immediately in front of me were the ticket booth, the barricade gate, the two police officers -- and a metal detector that all spectators were required to walk through before entering the gymnasium.

Considering the impressive amount of security on hand, there is little doubt in my mind that had the police officers seen me on the other side of that gate, I might well have been arrested.

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