I have passed the first major travel test in my recovery. In fact, I think I’ve proven I can handle almost anything after yesterday’s Odyssey.
My son Danny is at a camp in Vermont and this is parents weekend. On Wednesday my doctor cleared me to make the trip. He just told me to pull off and walk around if I felt tired. To be honest, if he hadn’t cleared me I probably would have gone anyway. But it never became an issue. A number of people tried to convince me to get someone to drive me or at least help me drive.
NO. Being alone in the car is the least stressful way for me to get someplace. If I want to talk, I pick up the phone. Most of the time I’m very happy with a ballgame, music or—depending on the city—sportstalk radio. I know I should get satellite radio. It’s just one of those things I haven’t gotten around to yet.
The trip was supposed to take nine hours according to Mapquest. It took 11. There was lots of rain and lots of traffic. Delaware, as always, was a mess. Has anyone ever driven through Delaware without hitting construction traffic? The state needs to construct one of those one-way tolls because traffic always backs up both ways going into the Delaware tolls.
Before I got to Delaware though I got pulled over by a cop. Seriously. I wasn’t speeding and I wasn’t talking on the phone. My seatbelt was fastened. I was seriously baffled. “Are you aware,” the cop said, “that your expiration tags are on your FRONT license plate not your BACK license plate?”
I was absolutely not aware of that. Apparently, when I bought the car almost two years ago, the dealer put the tags on the front. I never noticed and, until yesterday, neither did anyone else. The cop, who was very pleasant about it, wrote me a warning.
“Just grab a screwdriver when you get where you’re going and change them,” he said. Sure. I’m Mr. Handy without an incision running down the middle of my chest. With an incision that’ll be no sweat.
There was more traffic in New Jersey. Here though I picked up WFAN coming out of New York. I am not a fan of Mike Francesa personally. He’s three of the most arrogant people I’ve ever met. But he does good radio and did good radio with his ex-partner Chris Russo, who I guess I’d know more about right now if I had satellite radio.
Francesa spent an hour of the show Thursday embroiled in some dispute between the New York Racing Association and Nassau County OTB over the fact that the latter had illegally streamed NYRA races earlier in the year. Now, the NYRA won’t allow them to televise races from Saratoga next week until they acknowledge that they did what they did.
Francesa was into the story because he thinks of himself as a horse racing expert (maybe he is for all I know) and likes to watch races from his home in Nassau County when he isn’t hob-knobbing at Saratoga—which is to horse racing people as St. Andrews is to golfers. The only interest I had in the story was that the head of the NYRA is Charles Heyward—who was once my publisher at Little-Brown.
After that, Francesa had on Charles Wang, the owner of the Islanders. I am among the several dozen people on earth who still cares about the Islanders. When I was a senior in high school and had just bought my first car, I frequently drove to the then brand new Nassau Coliseum to watch the Islanders, who went 12-60-6 that first season. I was a big fan of Billy Harris and Billy Smith.
The Islanders got good in their third year and won those four straight Stanley Cups starting in 1980. What was cool was I got to cover them quite a bit. In those days, The Washington Post had one hockey writer—Robert Fachet—who covered the Capitals. I always volunteered to help out with the playoffs after The Final Four. I covered the Islanders a lot and loved the fact that they were such good guys AND winners. I’m not sure I’ve met a nicer man in sports than Bob Bourne. Even Billy Smith, with his reputation (not undeserved) as a dirty player was a delight to be around.
Now, of course, the Islanders are brutal and Wang doesn’t just want a new arena he wants half of Long Island rebuilt around the Coliseum. The whole deal will cost at least $3.7 billion to complete. If the town of Hempstead and Nassau County don’t say yes, Wang is threatening to move to Kansas City. The interview didn’t assuage my fears.
WFAN actually was able to pick up the last out of Mark Buehrle’s perfect game, which was cool. By then I was on the New York State Thruway and—finally—out of traffic.
Francesa, who can get guests I’ll say that for him, then had on John Walsh from ESPN. I’ve known Walsh for years, always respected him. But I laughed out loud when he kept refusing to say ESPN made a mistake ducking the Ben Roethlisberger story for two days—why can’t these guys just say, ‘you know what, we missed on that one?’ He actually brought up Duke lacrosse as a reason to pretend the story didn’t exist which was downright silly. No one ever said Duke lacrosse shouldn’t have been covered they just accused some people (myself included) of rushing to judgment. It was comical listening to Walsh insist ESPN had done nothing wrong. Gosh, I wish I could be perfect like those guys in Bristol.
Thank God for WFAN’s signal because I was able to keep listening to Steve Somers, who can be fall down funny all the way through the two lane roads in Vermont.
“The Mets magic number,” Somers declared, “is two thousand and ten.”
He had that right. No Yankee game to listen to because of rain, they didn’t start until I was pulling into the hotel. As I checked in the woman at the front desk looked at me and said, “You look like you could use a room that’s a short walk from here.”
She had that right. But it’s all downhill from here. I hope.