By Michael Lewis
Sportswriters have all sorts of strange and weird press box stories through the years.
I have plenty of “war stories,” inlcuding times when I have have experienced difficulty getting out of certain stadiums and parking lots through the years.
Let’s see, after a MetroStars/Red Bulls vs. New England Revolution game at Foxborough Stadium years ago, the fences were closed and there was no one around to open then, so I drove over grass to get out of the parking lot.
After a Cosmos’ Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup game at Belson Stadium on the campus of St. John’s University a few years ago, my usual exit was blocked and chained. So, Mauricio Mauricio Villarreal, the Cosmos PR boss (he’s now with the Portland Timbers), turned into the sentinel and led the way to find the right exit.
Then there was the incident at Joseph J. Morrone Stadium in Storrs, Conn. on Nov. 22, 2005. I took the ferry cross the Long Island Sound to cover the Stony Brook University-University of Connecticut NCAA Division I men’s tournament game on that date. Thought it would make an interesting story for the New York Daily News and FrontRowSoccer.com.
UConn won, 2-0, but if it hadn’t been for the spectacular performance of EJ Xikis in the nets for the Seawolves, the final result would have been greater. In case you were wondering, EJ is the son of Gus Xikis, the Long Island Soccer Football League president who passed away last month.
After the press conference, I returned to the press box to write my Daily News story. I was told by an assistant SID or an intern for the sports information/communications department that she had to leave because she was going to attend a party (this was on a Tuesday, two days prior to Thanksgiving). She left her contact information if I needed her.
I completed my story, walked to the entrance and could not help but notice that it was locked. I tried calling the assistant SID’s phone, but all I got was a voice mail. I left at least one message, probably more. Never got an answer that day, which was quickly turning into night.
I tried other means of leaving the venue, but it was getting dark and colder quite rapidly. And, I had a ferry to catch. Now, this was some 15 years ago, when cell phones weren’t as advanced as they were today. I wound up calling up BigAppleSoccer.com associate editor Dylan Butler, whom I asked to call up UConn security and explain the situation. He came through in flying colors.
About 15-20 minutes later – although it probably felt closer to two hours – a couple of security guards showed up. They did not have the keys to the locked stadium, but they knew of another way to get this reporter out. They managed to bend back the chain-link fence just enough so I could escape – and not celebrate Thanksgiving north of the Long Island Sound. I thanked them profusely, bolted to my car to catch the ferry home.
I have forgotten the name of the assistant SID — and that’s good for her and for her reputation (which forever will be mud to me) – but I have not forgotten the incident.
One thing is certain: I have never covered a UConn game in Storrs, Conn. since then.
Now, nothing against head coach Ray Reid, who I have known and respected for years for putting together formidable teams. In fact, when Reid discovered what transpired, he apologized to me, although I told him he had nothing to do with the stadium kerfuffle. Still, it did show what a class guy is he is.
Given the state of sports and soccer during and probably after the pandemic, I am not certain how many games I will be able to attend this year and have the opportunity to get locked in a stadium again.
I am hopeful for the former and hope against the latter.