I have written before about the habit I have for being on time. I hate being late. When I'm covering a football game, on time doesn't mean at the kickoff, it means an hour and a half or two hours before.
Well, by my definition I was very late at Legion Field in 1990 for Southern Miss-Alabama.
That was a game that is remembered as one of the highlights of Brett Favre's college career. He was only six weeks removed from a near-fatal car wreck in which doctors removed 30 inches of his small intestine. He had missed the season opener against Delta State but came back to lead a 27-24 comeback win over Gene Stallings and No. 13 Alabama.
Favre would lead Southern Miss to a win at Auburn later that year. The Golden Eagles finished 8-3 in the regular season and lost to North Carolina State in the All-American Bowl in Birmingham when another Favre-led comeback fell short. That season included an 18-17 loss at Georgia the week after Alabama, and the four losses were by a total of 12 points.
Back to the Alabama game.
I was working in Meridian and had been in Gulfport the night before covering Meridian High. At the time my wife was on the path to becoming my fiancee. Not sure if she realized it then or if she realized it more than I did. Anyway, the Meridian High graduate and I got back from Gulfport in the wee hours of the morning.
I was wired with that adrenaline you get from being up late and knowing you have a big day the next day. After a little sleep, I was ready to go. But Laurie convinced me that we needed to leave as late as possible, not because of my lack of sleep but because she would take her grandmother to another part of Birmingham – a nicer part – to meet her Aunt for grandmother to continue on to a visit in the Atlanta area.
I felt like I was in no position to refuse, especially when the ladies don't usually understand or agree with my timeline on game day.
So for this late morning kick, we were heading east on I-20/59 much later than I would prefer. Ultimately we reached the exit where traffic was backed up to the interstate.
I was unhappy with this development, and I was told later – not with warm and comforting vibes - that Laurie and grandmother could feel the tension in the car rising.
Anyway, I inched off the interstate and along the neighborhood road to Legion Field. Soon I made the announcement that when I could see the stadium I would get out of the car and walk, jog actually. I don't think this helped the tension.
I half walked half jogged several blocks, made it to will call and finally up to the press box where I had to run off someone from my seat, a hanger-oner who was excited by his good fortune to find the front row seat of some guy who had ordered a pass and didn't show up.
When all was said and done I was a little winded, and kickoff was nine minutes away, long enough for me to catch my breath.
I watched Favre's performance, and Laurie, with grandmother on her way to Atlanta by then, drove right up to the stadium and picked me up a few hours later.
There was much less tension on the way home, and Laurie has enjoyed telling the story from her perspective a few times through the years.