The last time I went to a Billings Outlaws game, I said someone would have to pay me a hundred bucks to go again. Well, someone did, so I went.
The Fayetteville, N.C., Observer came up short a stringer a couple of hours before game time on Friday and called in desperation. The sports editor offered me $100, so I borrowed a laptop and headed out.
I hated it. From the moment I walked in the door at a quarter to six, until the last bit of recorded music faded at 10:30 p.m., it was an unrelenting onslaught of noise and hype. Everything I wrote before still applies, with at least one new twist. The public address announcer, instead of simply saying, "Third down," has adopted the habit of yelling, "Third down! Third down! Third down! Third down! Third down!" He is trying to create a once-in-a-lifetime "Giants win the pennant!" moment every time two passes fall incomplete. In 39 states, this is a capital offense.
I'm an old sports writer, but my skills have rusted, and the Observer is two hours east of here, so I had a tight deadline. Also, MetraPark's internet was down. So I spent a fair amount of time trying to figure out a way to get my story to North Carolina. Then the contact number I had stopped working.
By the time the third quarter rolled around, I was typing play-by-play directly into my story, polishing the top of the story between plays, keeping notes on the action and trying every couple of minutes to place a phone call. Those blogging jerks who think reporters are lazy ought to give it a try sometime.
I wound up doing the story the old-fashioned way: With the game still in progress, I called in the story to a rewrite man, who turned it into serviceable English. With all the noise, he could barely hear me, and I couldn't hear him at all. I literally shouted myself hoarse into a cell phone. But we got it done, and someday I may get up the courage to actually read the story.
But the next time somebody offers me a hundred bucks to see an Outlaws game, I may just say that my price has gone up. I would rather spend a night in Abu Ghraib.
UPDATE: The Gazette story today emphasizes poor sportsmanship on the part of the Fayetteville Guard. But the worst case of poor sportsmanship I saw was when the execrable PA announcer went down onto the field (which should be a violation in itself) with about five minutes to go and the game still technically possible for either team to win. He urged fans to stick around after the game for the presentation of the championship trophy to YOUR BILLINGS OUTLAWS!
Is there a class below no-class? That's the class he's in. I thought the Guard showed admirable restraint by not dismembering him on the spot. If they had, I would have contributed to their legal defense fund.