Road Trip: Troy – From the Bird’s Nest
After Thursday night’s thrilling, but somewhat controversial win over Denver, it was time to hit the road Friday morning for the trip to Troy, Alabama. Again, I chose to travel with the team, rather than make that six and a half hour drive by myself. Besides, Sunday was the Super Bowl and if I were traveling alone, I would have been driving most of Sunday.
I drove to the complex Friday morning to meet the bus. It was around 9am and I realized I hadn’t heard from my friend, Basketball Jones, who normally calls me either right after the game or early the next morning. Right about the time I pulled my phone out to call him, he and Mrs. Jones walked up to see the team off. They also brought donuts. We got a chance to visit before it was time to go.
It was going to be a long trip, but it would be cut in half thanks to lunch. Mac, our bus driver, introduced himself before we departed and it was an uneventful ride to Mobile, where we stopped for lunch. On the way, we watched the Denver game again, and I got a chance to see the final play. I don’t think there was a question there was a foul, but I don’t know if I would have blown the whistle. I get on officials from time to time, but I wouldn’t want their job.
Speaking of getting on officials, one of the things occupying my time was the reaction to the end of the game by my good friend Mitch Hyder, Denver’s play-by-play man. Mitch had called into the radio show Thursday afternoon and we had a good visit. Mitch loves the food in Lafayette and he and I always enjoy our visits, but other than that, my buddy isn’t a big fan of coming to Lafayette.
Mainly because he always leaves with a loss.
Three of the last four games between the two teams in the Hub City have gone into overtime and in all three, the Cajuns have gotten a call that’s gone their way. As a result, Mitch doesn’t have much fun at the Cajundome. Anyway, Mitch had some very pointed things to say about the officiating, especially the call at the end. He also pointed out there were no fouls called in the last eleven minutes of the game against UL. Now, after watching the video, I’ll say Denver didn’t take the ball to the basket as much as they had earlier in the game, and that accounted for a lot of that. Anyway, twitter was kind of blowing up on the bus ride and I got a chance to hear the final minutes of his call. I got a text from Mitch letting me know the team was able to get back to Denver in spite of a pretty strong snowstorm that hit the Mile High City. He also said no fouls were called in the last eleven minutes of the flight. I texted back and told him his team just missed two more free throws, which had as much to do with their loss as anything.
We got to Mobile and stopped at Sonny’s barbecue for lunch. We were there quite a while and everyone had all they wanted to eat. Then it was back on the bus for another three hours to finish the trip.
By the time we got to Troy it was nearly six o’clock. The team was going to head to practice immediately. The women’s team was staying at the Courtyard by Marriott as well and I hadn’t even checked in to my room when I ran into Son of Saint, who was the bus driver for the women.
Mastern St. Julien, Jr, goes by “Saint” as well. He asked me if I was going to talk about him on the radio. I said of course, since he was somewhat famous. I knew he was related to one of our most famous callers on “Bird’s Eye View” and was happy to relay the story to him.
Those of you who are longtime listeners to “Bird’s Eye View” may remember Saint. He was a huge Saints and Astros fan. Saint worked for the original Mello Joy folks for more than 30 years and was featured in an article The Advertiser did several years ago. In his later years, Saint could no longer see, but he listened to the Saints and Astros on the radio and always called the show to let us know what he thought. The call would usually begin with a deep chuckle. Kevin Foote and I always referred to him as “the man.” And, after the chuckle, he’d sometimes say “I’m the man.” But in those days, both teams struggled and he would frequently ask, “What’s the matter with dem boys?” Saint was always in a good mood. Unfortunately, Saint passed away at age 86, and didn’t live long enough to see the Saints in the Super Bowl or the Astros make it to the World Series. But he lives on as one of our more beloved callers to the show.
I told Son of Saint that, although I never met his daddy, I felt like I knew him well, He said “you better stop, Jay, you’re gonna make me cry.”
I went upstairs to unpack and get a little writing done. Unfortunately, neither one of those things went well. When I opened my suitcase I realized I had forgotten to pack a shirt to wear to the game. I would have to take care of that. And, the internet service at the hotel was so slow it was not going to let me do any uploading to our website.
Later Friday night I headed over to Ruby Tuesdays for something to eat and a beer. It’s Alabama. They have Yuengling. Assistant women’s coach Lori Morris was with me and some of the mens’ assistants were there as well. I wasn’t really hungry, but had a queso appetizer. When Lori was ready to head back, I walked with her back to the hotel. Not long after that I was ready to turn in, looking forward to a good night’s sleep. I had been too wound up after the game Thursday to sleep well and was looking forward to making up for that.
About two in the morning it hit me. I don’t know if it was the queso. Or the Yuengling or if it was Sonny’s revenge from lunch. But I was one miserable guy. I was up for awhile and then went back to sleep. Around five it hit me again. And, again at eight. I went downstairs around nine and Coach Marlin was in the area just off the lobby. We visited for awhile and I had some coffee. He asked if I was going to join the team for breakfast and I said no and told him about my night. About that time, athletic trainer B. J. Duplantis came into the room. Evidently I didn’t look so good and he asked what was wrong. I told him and he gave me some medicine that would help. He also told me to drink lots of fluids, especially Powerade because I was obviously badly dehydrated. I thanked him and got ready to head upstairs.
But I still need to solve the lack of shirt issue. I saw Son of Saint in the lobby and explained my dilemma. “I gotcha, Jay,” he told me, and after bringing the women to shootaround, he came back and picked me up and brought me to Walmart to get a shirt to wear. I had my own personal bus driver. Choice.
Back to the hotel and upstairs. I turned on the television and lay down, still feeling lousy. I slept for three hours. When I woke up I felt I needed to eat something and walked over to Waffle House. Afterward I showered, did my game prep and packed. But I did it all slowly, feeling weak because of the dehydration.
We loaded up at 5:15 for the short drive to the Troy campus. The women’s game had started by the time we got there. I got the setup done and said hello to Matt Mays. Matt was at UL last year as a grad assistant in the Sports Information Department. He handled softball last spring. He’s back at Troy now, doing men’s basketball this year. He did a great job at UL and I’m sure is doing the same at Troy. I also visited with Troy’s new head SID, Adam Prendergast, who just got there from ULM. He’s enjoying the new gig.
At 6:30 I recorded pregame with Coach Marlin and then got ready for the broadcast. By this time I was feeling slightly better. The game stayed pretty close until midway through the second half when Bryant Mbamalu took over. The sophomore had 25 second half points, including six three pointers and the Cajuns built a sixteen point lead with just under four minutes to go. But Troy, as they often do at home, came roaring back and cut the lead to three. But in the end, the Cajuns prevailed for their fourth straight win.
Following the game, we loaded up and were ready to leave by about 10:30. They had pizza on the bus and I really didn’t need to eat a lot of that. I had one slice and settled in for the ride home. Mac made great time and we were back at the complex by five. I slept some on the way home, but still fought stomach cramps.
I went to bed, slept until eleven, and spent Sunday in my recliner. Finally, on Monday morning, I felt almost human.
But it was a good trip. The Cajuns had their fourth straight win. I got a new shirt.