Hardly a year goes by where I don’t cover between 100 and 140 high school basketball games.
Inevitably, in mid-March, someone will ask me the score of a game I saw in mid-November.
Of all the games I’ve seen, there’s only one score I actually remember. It was in January 1991, when Sullivan’s girls’ basketball team won at Decatur St. Teresa, 115-15.
It’s the only 100-point spread I’ve witnessed in person.
There’s another first — and hopefully last — that stands out.
It was a Friday night in mid-April 1996. I was a few years into covering the weekly auto racing program at the Vermilion County Speedway.
I always had a theory that promoters didn’t look at the car count as much as they did the number of spectators and were quick to postpone events if it looked like they might take a financial bath by running races where they would have to pay out drivers without generating much revenue.
On April 19, 1996, inclement weather was predicted for the area, and the call was made early to cancel the evening program.
I was fine with that. A Friday night off is a rare commodity in my profession.
I was traveling west on Interstate 74 when I noticed a number of vehicles that had pulled to the side of the road. This was before my love affair with the Weather Channel started, and at a time I paid little attention to forecasts. I could see dark clouds to the southwest, but the rain was light.
I wasn’t quick to pull over, but did so after a number of semi drivers parked their rigs.
It was the first time I’ve stopped on the side of an interstate. Within minutes, my car was rocking from the wind, and I wondered how safe it was to remain inside.
Before I reached a decision about whether to exit, the winds subsided and, shortly later, the truck drivers were steering back onto the roadway.
I followed suit and discovered how fortunate I was to have stopped when I did. As I approached the Ogden exit in less than a mile, I saw a semi that had been blown into a field on the north side of the road.
A tornado had caused extensive damage in the community, including to the grade school.
Back to the auto racing.
I was probably the least likely staffer to draw the coverage assignment. I can summarize in one word what I knew then or know now about the mechanical workings of a race car: nothing.
What I discovered was that these men (and a few women) were so excited to have their sport covered that they overlooked my deficiencies and went out of their way to be helpful and cooperative.
In turn, I wrote stories about the personalities that were at the track without focusing on the inner workings of the setup changes they made on their cars between the heat race and the feature.
It has been more than a decade since I’ve been back to the track (2001), but I have so many fond memories of the drivers and mechanics who made my job so much easier.
Individuals like Jim Ribbe, Bob Pierce, Marvin Burton, Arby Burton, Larry Dines, Jack Dowers, Bryan Clendenen, Kevin Weaver, Rick Hufford, Tim O’Donnell, Don Kiger, Jason Lakey, John Simmons, Jesse Simmons, Steve Hillard, Marcus Phelps, Roger Cary, Roger Long, Jeff Link, Richie Hedrick and Eldon Wright.
They might be what some would describe as "gear-heads," but I marveled at the passion they held for their hobby and am forever thankful for their willingness to share a tiny part of their world with me. Wonderful people, all.
I’m sure there were more, but as folks get older, we don’t remember things quite so well. Like those basketball scores.