It’s a long way from Clinton to Des Moines. It sounds like the words of a song.
It’s a long way from LA to Denver / A long time to hang in the sky ...
It’s 16 hours by bus. That’s the way the Presbyterian College football team is traveling to Des Moines, Iowa, where the Drake Bulldogs reside.
The Blue Hose are busing for eight hours Thursday, eight hours Friday, and after going for a winning record against Drake (2-2), they’re riding back home straight on through. Undoubtedly snacks will be passed around.
Merciful God, as a colleague used to say. They’ll be telling tales on this godforsaken time for years.
Head coach Tommy Spangler likes to say that this team has done what was asked of them. Who knew it would be this?
“We’ll make it work,” he said on Monday, via Zoom, which was fitting. “I think with COVID … we were scheduled to charter (as in, a plane). The problem is a lot of money up front. If we canceled, there’s still a chance, we’d lose all that money.
“We decided to bus. Our guys’ll be OK. It’ll be a challenge. That’s a long trip.”
Back in my day, we didn’t have no airplanes. We rode to Iowa (pronounced “I-oh-WAY”) in a bus and were damn glad to get there.
This declaration will be uttered in the Bailey Memorial Stadium parking lot by a member of the Class of 2021, and it will be next fall, probably homecoming, and still in 2021. When the tale is repeated 10 years from now, it will have been exaggerated.
Colby, tell that story about that time y’all took a bus to Bombay. Or Constantinople. Or Xanadu. Whatever.
In the Era of the Great COVID, all bets are off. If I still covered NASCAR, I could’ve put $5 down in Vegas on PC flying to Iowa, and if PC had flown there, I would have made the princely sum of $6 back. If I’d wagered they’d take the bus, I’d have a tidy wallet full of spending money.
Who’d bet that? Even Walter Johnson would have packed the team on a train.
This great odyssey of cramped legs and poker games – or, more likely, earbuds and video games -- is not being undertaken solely in the name of fiscal responsibility. It’s wrapped up in the pandemic like everything else.
What Presbyterian College couldn’t afford was flying to Des Moines and then not playing Drake. A number of college football teams have “opted out” of the end of their seasons because they didn’t have enough able-bodied men left to play. The Era of the Great COVID has spurred the use of many words and phrases – contact tracing, false positive, zero tolerance, zero fans, piped-in sound – that even the most cynical of scribes pray never to have to write again.
If this was a normal time, and the PC football team was still busing to Des Moines, I would be angling for a feature. I would ask Spangler to let me – or, more likely, Caleb Gilbert, a man for all seasons – ride the bus with the lads, take photos and write an award-winning tale about the great crusade.
This not being a normal time, and the college having banned in-person contact by the media with all coaches and players, such a promising feature is impossible. We’d have a better chance asking the Biden Administration for a ride on Air Force One. Caleb covered most of Blue Hose basketball season without saying so much as hello to Quinton Ferrell or Alaura Sharp.
Banned in Boston? Hell, we’ve been banned in Boiling Springs!
Spangler, who has the scholarship-hemorrhaging Blue Hose 3-3 with a game to play, ought not be the national coach of the year. He ought to be recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. No one has hitched up his britches and gone to work so often since Satchel Paige hung up his glove. Tom Brady wonders how Spangler keeps it up. It’s a great story we were quarantined from really covering.
It’s a story I’ll never forget, even while wishing I could.