In the creative writing world, the one that involves going to workshop sessions toting copies of short stories that you've written, they'd call what I'm about to do an "exposition dump." It's a big no-no, unless you're a famous author and can get away with whatever you want, or you can explain very succinctly why you're doing it. In following those unwritten rules, I'll explain myself. I'm doing it because this is my column, and I don't have 10,000 words in which to sprinkle expository information. I have about 700 or 800, so here's what you should know before I start this one: Every time I drive to the Eastern Shore for a sporting event, I get lost. When I get lost, I get agitated (I've written about this problem previously). When I'm agitated, I become extremely gullible. If I lost my way to a basketball game and stopped to get directions from a snake oil salesman, he'd be in very good shape.
Last week, after six local boys and girls basketball teams advanced to their respective regional tournament title games, it was decided that I would head to the other side of the bay on Saturday night for the 2A East girls final, which pitted Patterson Mill against Queen Anne's County. Aegis Sports Editor Randy McRoberts, who normally takes care of girls basketball coverage, was booked up with the state wrestling championships in College Park that night, so I hit the road to see if the Huskies could nail down their third straight regional crown. Before heading out, I gave myself a pep talk, because, as mentioned, every time I cross the Bay Bridge, sometimes even before I get to it, I find myself lost.
It's amazing, really, because it's not that hard an area to navigate. There are only a few major north-south roads in that region, and they all end up, basically, at the same place. Two years in a row I've missed my turn as I was trying to get to Chestertown for the state field hockey finals. Once, probably four years ago, I spent an hour on back roads looking for Easton High School, only to get there and find out that the 2A East boys basketball final had started four hours earlier than I'd thought (that's not so much a navigational problem as an organizational one, but it's still illustrative).
On Saturday, I got stuck in traffic heading down to Queen Anne's, and, driving faster than I should have to make up for it, missed the turn onto 304 East that I was supposed to make, and had to backtrack after I realized what I'd done. Completely normal trip to the Eastern Shore. By the time I got to the gym, completely agitated and breathing hard, the game was essentially over. Patterson Mill had built up a 26-point lead, and was on its way to a 39-point victory. A man I'm assuming was Queen Anne's athletic director and another of the school's coaches acknowledged me as I took a place next to them near the end line. The coach turned to me and said, "it was tied up at one point. Patterson Mill went on a 26-point run." Still lost in my own little head space after getting lost again, I responded, "wow, really?"
Now, Patterson Mill had some pretty strange games this season, and I've witnessed teams go on 14- and 16-point runs before, but I should have known better. I looked over at the coach, and he was suppressing a laugh. Normally I'd have been irritated at having my leg pulled like that, but it helped me decompress. I had to laugh as well. I told the coach: "you had me going for a second."
After that, the athletic director, whom I wound up chatting with for a few minutes between the third and fourth quarters, asked me if I'd heard about the result of the boys regional final game. I asked him which one he was talking about, and he said, "the Patterson Mill, Wicomico game. Patterson Mill beat them by one point." That's when everything washed away, and I forgot about my terrible sense of direction, about the hour-plus drive home I was going to have to make, the deadlines that needed to be met. Patterson Mill had gotten past the regional tournament with a 60-59 win over Wicomico in the 2A East boys final, becoming the first boys basketball team to earn a state semifinal berth since I started at The Aegis seven years ago. I've been waiting for someone to do it, putting it on my winter season wish list every year, and now I can head to College Park on Friday night to see the Huskies make their bid for a state title game appearance.
I lived in College Park for four years, so I don't think there's much chance I'll get lost driving to this one.