Sports | Sports Columns

YOUNG: The stories behind the journeys

  • Tales of locations | Ryan Young has had some of his most memorable experiences while traveling to watch Columbia athletic teams.

The fun part about covering sports is that you never know what your fate will be on a given day. For instance, you may stand for nearly seven hours in the cold to broadcast Columbia baseball’s wildly entertaining sweep of the Fighting “Call Me Maybes” of Harvard. But the truly memorable experiences were not about what took place on the field. Here are some of those short stories that took place during my travels to the various venues I described last week.

Robertson Field, New York: April 2011

The skies opened up during the nightcap of a doubleheader. I went into the press box to take cover, and the umpires followed suit. Since the game was a blowout, the umpires wanted to get home in a hurry, but they had no idea how to end the game. It took several phone calls to figure out that they needed to wait half an hour before they could formally call it. In the meantime, the umpires inundated me withlet’s just saypersonal questions, as they tried to act like fellow college first-years. I now completely understand why head coach Brett Boretti goes on the occasional five-minute tirade after a poorly judged call.

Levien Gymnasium, New York: February 2012

While broadcasting a women’s basketball game, a ball went whizzing by my head. The haunting memory from my ninth-grade gym class surfaced when I took an unexpected ball to the face. Instead of evoking sympathy, my fears caused the referee standing in front of us (who overheard my anecdote) to burst out laughing. She did give me a fist bump before resuming her duties, though.

White River Junction, Vermont: October 2013

There were literally no eating establishments in the immediate area of our hotel, so we ordered food from New Hampshire and then paid a special across-state tax. Still, that was more pleasant than our next trip to Dartmouth…

Vermont/New Hampshire wilderness: February 2014

Running out of gas, we turned off the main roadway to find a gas station, but took a wrong turn and ended up in—well, it wasn’t New York City. We were probably a minute away from being stranded in icy, pitch-black, scenic New Hampshire. Fortunately, we escaped a near certain crisis and arrived late to the men’s basketball game for the only time throughout my travels. (Alex Rosenberg had a near perfect game, which made us soon forget of our troubles, as well.)

Ithaca, New York: November 2013

We decided to leave Ithaca’s hottest nightclub—Applebee’s—to watch men’s basketball take on Michigan State from the vaunted Ithaca Econo Lodge. Great decision—it allowed us to take a sufficient number of screenshots of a bewildered Tom Izzo.

Newman Arena, Ithaca: January 2014

On my next trip to Cornell, I was able to witness a men’s basketball victory. But when leaving the building, Cornell’s mascot (a brown bear, of course) gave me a high five. I turned around and asked why he was so happy after a loss. I received undoubtedly the nastiest glare possible from a mascot ever—and his eyes were obviously covered.

New Jersey Turnpike: April 2014

The bus driver was pulled over for “speeding,” leading to a delay of nearly an hour. (He was not speeding. And even if he were guilty, who could blame him for trying to escape Jersey as fast as possible?) Luckily, Columbia supplied a fan bus to the Gehrig Division playoff the following weekend.

Rupp Arena, Lexington, Kentucky: December 2014

We planned to get to Lexington several hours before game time to check out the area. However, our connecting flight was canceled for absolutely no reason, which thwarted that plan. But our taxi driver from the airport assured us that the most popular tourist attractions were “either horses or bourbon.” We managed to walk around a little bit before entering Rupp Arena, confirming that there wasn’t much to do except to take in the great stage for college basketball. Our second cab driver of the day just happened to be Joe Cowley, a former major league pitcher who once threw a no-hitter. He told us he was fortunate not to take either of the bets he was offered before the game—would Columbia have 20 points at the half, and would the Lions lose by at least 30? He explained that he no longer followed baseball, but still harbored a dislike for Phillies fans. He also casually saved a car from driving right into oncoming traffic.

Boston, Massachusetts: February 2015

Countless feet of snow on the ground combined with rush hour on a Friday resulted in the worst traffic that our cab driver had “evah” seen in Boston. We somehow managed to escape to Dartmouth and then return home the next day despite a snowstorm striking the East Coast.

New Haven, Connecticut: February 2015

This was my most enjoyable weekend covering Columbia, as men’s basketball pulled off its first Ivy road sweep in seven years. It even concluded miraculously. Our ruthless cab driver plowed through a snowstorm, and we sprinted through New Haven Union Station to make our train by seconds.

The Palestra, Philadelphia: March 2015

There may have been over 5,000 people in attendance for the Harvard-Yale Ivy playoff at the Palestra, but I was certainly the only person to watch the previous week’s Harvard-Yale showdown from the Palestra (via my computer).

Every return to New York City from lesser destinations: 2011-15

It is always the best experience, because whether the Lions won or lost—we all win in the end.

Ryan Young is a Columbia College senior majoring in economics-statistics. He is the sports director for WKCR. Roar Ryan Roar runs biweekly. | @RYoungNY


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