The Daily’s sports section takes road trips.
It’s oddly part of our identity.
And they’re not normal road trips, where you stop at a hotel and take it easy. We’re talking through-the-night-for-10-hours-back-from-New-York road trips. The type of road trips where you get done writing after a game and immediately get in a car, because there’s class or a paper to make the next day.
We wouldn’t do it if we didn’t have to, but the budget is tight, and we apparently don’t have any alumni at Boeing who want to donate a plane.
So we drive. And when we get to games, the adult sports writers shake their heads and laugh at our efforts.
That’s especially the case for a trip like last weekend’s, when the football beat drove to Piscataway to cover No. 4 Michigan’s game against Rutgers.
About 20 hours on the road for a game that was all-but-predetermined.
But The Daily’s sports section prides itself on covering things in person. So, Mark Calcagno, Max Marcovitch, Ethan Wolfe and I — along with the two photographers: Alec Cohen and Ruchita Iyer — crammed in a rental Dodge Caravan and took off around 10 a.m. Friday morning. An experienced crew, the trip to Rye, N.Y., — where we were staying the night with another Daily writer’s parents — went off without a hitch.
We stopped once for gas at a small station in rural Pennsylvania, where the attendant pumped our gas for us and told us to “just use the ladies’ room,” while we were waiting in line for the restroom. The local newspaper, The Progress, had stories about selfie stations and leaf pickup operations on the front page.
That was pretty much it until Rye, but the daytime drives aren’t the interesting ones anyway.
We had a hot dinner and a good night’s sleep, woke up, watched the Wolverines beat up the Scarlet Knights for a few hours, then wrote our stories and got back on the road, just over 24 hours after we had gotten off it.
Mark started and took the first tank of gas, filling back up at another rural Pennsylvania station around 3:30 a.m. Sunday. From there, I took over.
By this point, I’ve developed a reputation for driving the graveyard shift on road trips. The next morning, I regret it very much, but during the drive, with the help of too much caffeine, I honestly don’t mind it so much. There’s something peaceful about it, and if anybody’s going to fall asleep and crash into a ditch, it might as well be the Managing Sports Editor.
More than the actual driving, though, I think the affinity for these road trips stems from what I have learned about the people in the car with me and the memories that have resulted from that.
If we didn’t take these road trips, I wouldn’t have memories of Mark’s lead foot, Max’s inability to steer smoothly through a turn or Ethan’s crippling carsickness. More formatively, I wouldn’t have the countless inside jokes to look back fondly on.
It seems weird that these things come to mind for me before the events that we actually covered. I’ve covered Jordan Poole’s buzzer beater and a Final Four and football games at Notre Dame Stadium, Spartan Stadium and now, Highpoint.com Stadium.
Come to think of it, it’s weird trying to describe any of these personal memories shared between a few people. Perhaps this column was much better in theory than it was in practice, but in the dead of night, with nobody else on the road and me clinging white-knuckled to my sanity and the steering wheel, I pondered why we do these drives in the first place.
Then I looked in the rearview mirror, at Mark leaning on top of Max, both trying to get a few hours of sleep. I looked at Ethan, valiantly staying awake with me and singing along to my varying-genred music. I saw Alec and Ruchita in the backseat, falling in and out of sleep but along for the ride. I hope they’ll remember these dumb trips affectionately like I do.
Anyways, this topic is better than any exaggerated conclusions I could have drawn from the football game, which ultimately went as planned and told us nothing we didn’t already know.
We got back to Ann Arbor after the sun had already risen. I dropped off Mark then Max then Ethan. As I pulled up to Alec and Ruchita’s apartment building, Ethan texted me that he forgot his aux cord in the car. It’s a good thing he did, because I didn’t know how to end this column at that time.
But after Alec and Ruchita got out of the car and I was by myself again, “Comfortably Numb” by Pink Floyd came on shuffle.
I can’t explain, you would not understand, sings Roger Waters.