Best fan moment: In 1971, my dad took me to Game 7 of the World Series — the Pirates beat our Orioles. Last October, life came full circle when my wife and I took our 8-year-old daughter to Game 5 of the World Series. Our Nats lost to the Astros, but as in ’71, the enduring lesson was how sports can forge family bonds.
Worst press box moment: Gazing into the restroom mirror at halftime of UVA’s 2007 football game at North Carolina and discovering I had … the chicken pox.
Future statesman: I can’t wait for the election when former Virginia basketball All-American Malcolm Brogdon is on the ballot. Young athletes don’t come more worldly, benevolent and humble, witness his current efforts to bring clean water to impoverished East Africa.
How DID he do that? No timeouts left, clock ticking inside a minute, first deficit of the season. One play symbolizes the Michael Vick era at Virginia Tech, and this is it.
On the first November Saturday of 1999, Vick rolled right from his own 38 and, with West Virginia defenders blanketing primary receiver Ricky Hall, turned the corner. Seven yards downfield, he encountered All-Big East linebacker Barrett Green, who had a textbook angle to force him out of bounds.
But Vick found another gear known only to him, jetting past Green for a 26-yard gain. Three plays later, Shayne Graham’s 44-yard, walk-off field goal gave Tech a 22-20 victory and silenced Mountaineer Field. Outside the locker room, Hokies running backs coach Billy Hite lit a cigarette, exhaled and asked me where he could get a drink.
Anyone have an abacus? I haven’t witnessed many football games in which the teams passed for 730 yards combined. In 2012, Old Dominion’s Taylor Heinicke did it himself, setting myriad Division I records and carrying the Monarchs to a 64-61 victory over visiting New Hampshire.
Heinicke completed 55 of 79 attempts and threw five touchdown passes without an interception, rallying ODU from a 23-point, second-half deficit. He passed for 480 yards after intermission, 289 in the fourth quarter, and led the Monarchs on consecutive touchdown drives of 90, 98, 81, 75, 89 and 74 yards. ODU’s leading rusher that day? Heinicke with 61 yards on 11 carries.
Favorite stadium grub: Soft pretzel. Light salt. No mustard. One of life’s simple pleasures.
Favorite road eats: Cabo Fish Taco in Blacksburg, Foods of All Nations in Charlottesville, Pastabilities in Greensboro, Jacques-Imo’s in New Orleans and any Wawa off of Interstates 64 and 95.
Satellite savior: Cheers to the SiriusXM option in rental cars. College football, college basketball and full-length Springsteen concerts are better than caffeine during the endless highway miles.
Passport travel: Boo Williams invited me to help chaperone his AAU all-star basketball teams for competitions in France and Brazil. Among the notables were future ACC players Shane Battier, J.J. Redick, Jarrett Jack, Jason Capel and Elton Brown. Among the opponents was a tall German named Dirk Nowitzki. But the lasting image is of the wide-eyed Battier strolling the Champs-Elysees and gazing up at the Arc de Triomphe.
Most painful sports injury: Falling and breaking my left arm while running the morning after a January 2010 ice storm. Was in a sling for three months. Typing one-handed on deadline is, uh, suboptimal.
Only athletic feat: Won back-to-back free-throw shooting championships at Lefty Driesell’s Maryland basketball camp during the 1970s. Lefty presented me the trophies but not a scholarship offer.
Not so fast, my friend: Four decades in newspapers and a lifetime of fandom have taken me to some of sports’ classic cathedrals. Lambeau Field, the Big House and both Death Valleys (LSU and Clemson); the Rose Bowl, Orange Bowl and Los Angeles Coliseum; Michie Stadium, Owen Field, and Ohio Stadium; the Palestra, Allen Fieldhouse and Cameron Indoor; Pauley Pavilion, Carmichael Auditorium and Reynolds Coliseum; Fenway Park, Wrigley Field and Dodger Stadium; Madison Square Garden, the old Yankee Stadium and Wimbledon.
Augusta National is one void, and while in town to cover the Peach Jam youth basketball event in July 1997, I thought it would be cool to drive the rental rig up Magnolia Lane to at least see the clubhouse. The guard manning the gate was not amused. I forget whether he was packing.