Column: State finals adventure is a filling, tiring haze

Herald Sports Editor

The prep baseball season is now six days gone. And ideally, this column would have been written about three days earlier. But you’ll have to excuse me. My body clock is just now starting to come off Mongolian time.

The baseball state finals — brief as they were — were essentially a bumper car that knocked me silly for a good couple days.

First off, let’s give thanks to the glorious and always genius IHSAA for being a co-conspirator in this five-day haze.

I’m still searching for the clarity behind the decision to place the state finals matchup that easily drew the most fans on a Friday. Last week’s Jasper-Norwell clash for the 3A state crown drew a record 3,522 fans; the 1A, 2A and 4A games attracted a combined 5,269 fans the next day. The IHSAA’s rationale when The Herald inquired about the decision for a story last week was that “someone had to play on Friday.” Well, OK. But that someone should have been Lafayette Central Catholic and Vincennes Rivet, which had shorter drive times to Victory Field than Norwell and Jasper, respectively.

But hey, no wasting time being whiny, I suppose. I’m just relieved. The newspaper the next day got finished. I quite eat myself into a diabetic shock. Both qualify as minor miracles.

At a small newspaper, it’s not an in-and-out process; we don’t finish our stories, press “send” and wake up after a full restful night to see our stories in print. We stick around, edit each other’s work, design all the sports pages ourselves. The whole shebang.

In other words, torture, on nights like last Friday.

I may never again read the June 15 issue of The Herald, in fear that I may have referred to Jasper baseball players as Nick Goobert or Otto Spencer. In writing stories from the biggest game of the year, we did so by the light of laptop and amid the INDOT-ignored bumpy stretches near Martinsville. And to begin the trip back home, Herald photographer Matt Busch decided to crank the radio to frat-party volume at the precise moment when sports writers John Patishnock, Joe Jasinski and I began playing back our recorded interviews. I may or may not have threatened to stab him in the eye with a mechanical pencil.

The most glamorous games of the season, it turns out, are not the most glamorous ventures.

Jasinski couldn’t find one of the kids he needed to interview amid the postgame free-for-all. He did it via phone instead, somewhere along a dark stretch of State Road 37. Midway through the convo with former Jasper player Cole Rohleder, he blurted, “We’re going over some bumpy road right now, so I need to find my keyboard.” Once off the phone, he reviewed his notes to find that, at one point, he typed “lyg, brrn.” We’ll quote you on that, Cole.

Things only got weirder.

My last cogent thought of the night came outside a gas station near Bloomington. With a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos and Red Bull in hand, I whimpered, “I don’t wanna get back in the car.” There was one story and part of another to finish. It was already 11:30. Crap.
Fortunately, everyone else was just as loopy.

Picture a gaggle of college freshman girls after their first wine coolers, and that was us. I remember exactly two things the rest of the night. At 1:11 a.m., after we raided the McDonald’s drive-thru in Jasper, there was a conversation about Chicken McNuggets that somehow went horribly wrong. It can’t be repeated unedited. At 1:47 a.m., the said 10-piece McNuggets — I recall eating six of them and the rest were apparently consumed in some drowsy state of blackout — were resting not so comfortably.

That could have been on account of the seven White Castles and six chicken rings from the ride up. And the four Subway cookies from the game. And the Red Bull. And the last doughnut from the prior morning of work. And the Doritos. Where did all the Doritos go? There were two handfuls remaining in a full-size bag. If you want to know the secret, binge eating is how serious journalistic work gets done.

Somewhere after our 1 a.m. return to Dubois County and the stress-eating bender, 5 a.m. happened. My brain had shut off about three hours earlier. My stomach felt no better than two hours earlier. But like the phenomenon of snoozing through a car ride and waking up at your destination, I looked up and the stories were all written. The pages were all designed. A product of high-calorie, slap-happy sorcery.

As only people who’ve been up for nearly 24 hours can justify, an after-party was the logical next step. You’ll have to wait for the DVD extended cut and deleted scenes for all that. For the first time since college, I woke up on the other end of noon. My stomach still felt like it contained a cinder block.

I hope to never do that again. (IHSAA, I’m talkin’ to you.) If it happens, though, I’ll smile as I grumble. After a couple thousand stories in my Herald career, I won’t remember that one midweek basketball game from December 2011. I’ll remember nights like last Friday and Southridge’s Friday-night state football finals from 2006 in which we caught the Saturday morning sunrise. And Jasper’s rain-wrecked repeat trips to the softball state finals in 2008. I crave the 9-to-5 lifestyle sometimes. But part of me lives for the 3 a.m., Dorito-powered thrill ride.

I’ll be waiting eagerly for the next state finals venture. Wherever it is, there better be a White Castle on the way.

Herald Sports Editor Brendan Perkins, who regrets not pursuing his personal record of 11 White Castles in one sitting, can be reached at or 482-2626, ext. 111.

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