Road trip to Wrigley, Notre Dame a bit bumpy

JONATHAN DANIEL / GETTY IMAGES Temple played to a full house at Notre Dame on Saturday.
JONATHAN DANIEL / GETTY IMAGES Temple played to a full house at Notre Dame on Saturday.
Posted: September 04, 2013

THE SETUP was ideal. Go to Chicago and cover a Phillies-Cubs day game on Friday and head down to South Bend to do Temple at Notre Dame the following afternoon.

Temple had never played at Notre Dame, and for much of the weekend I'd wish they never had.

The trouble started right after the cab pulled away from O'Hare on Thursday. It got onto the freeway and stopped. Rush-hour traffic everywhere. Heard from one of the locals that Labor Day is to Chicago what Mardi Gras is to New Orleans. And it was. Put it on the bucket list. The city was jumping.

An hour went by when I got a call from Chris Coyer's father. Coyer is the gritty Temple h-back. He's one of those throwback guys. Used to quarterback, but new coach Matt Rhule switched him to a hybrid position. Reminds you of the way Patriots coach Bill Belichick used Temple product Dan Klecko.

Anyway, I had a 7 o'clock phone interview set up with Coyer's dad and he was calling ahead of time because he had some downtime and was just watching the South Carolina-North Carolina game.

Sorry, Chris. I'm on the highway, stuck in mad congestion and my work bag is in the trunk. I tried to ask the cabbie for a pen and some paper, but we hit a language barrier. He handed me a map of Chicago.

Fortunately, Mr. Coyer understood my dilemma. He played football at the University of Minnesota in the 1970s and made the trek through the Midwest thousands of times.

The normal travel time from the airport to downtown is 20-25 minutes. It took us 90. Morale was not high, even if a trip to Wrigley Field beckoned the following day.

Friday

Ryne Sandberg was due to speak to the media at 10 a.m. and would not be nearly as accommodating as Chris Coyer Sr. if I was late.

Took a pleasant train ride and got to the ballpark at 9 a.m. Walked around Sheffield and Waveland avenues and, in a way, felt bad for the old building. The Cubs haven't won the World Series since 1908. We decry the Eagles championship drought, but it's only half as long as the Cubs. No wonder they wanted to lynch Steve Bartman.

Picked up my credential and noticed two things: It was going to be hot as all Hades and the elevator I was riding up to the press box hadn't been inspected since 2008. If I get stuck in this thing, I will die.

At Citizens Bank Park, there is a large conference room just down the corridor from the clubhouse. It is set up for important news conferences. It's where the Four Aces plus Joe Blanton were introduced (how'd that work out?) and where Charlie Manuel was dismissed.

Wrigley Field apparently has no such room. Sandberg was talking about his return to the Friendly Confines to about 50 print, TV and web reporters in the dugout. After about 20 minutes, the sun starting blazing and things got real gamey. Hack.

Ran upstairs to bang out the sidebar before the Phillies came back to win what would be their only game of the series. Great game.

Afterward, Roy Halladay picked the worst spot in the visitors' clubhouse for his postgame interview. The visitors' locker room in Wrigley looks like something you might see in Division III. There's a narrow 10-foot walkway that leads from the manager's office to where the players dress. That's where Halladay held court.

It was pretty humorous watching players try to squeeze through as Halladay obliviously explained his poor outing. At one point, Sandberg popped out of his office, saw the impossible bottleneck and just went back inside.

Media relations assistant Craig Hughner tried several times to remedy the problem, but he couldn't get Halladay's attention and the TV cameras were not about to stop rolling while Halladay was talking. Afterward, it had to be one of the young bullpen guys who uttered, "That's why I'm not a starter." I couldn't tell who it was. I was sandwiched between a Chicago TV camera and a cement wall.

Saturday

I'm pretty good friends with renowned Irish fan "Notre Dame" Harvey, who grew up in Grays Ferry.

Harvey ran a trip and I jumped aboard one of the three buses from Chicago to Notre Dame. On the way out, they told this story about one of their wildest members. Guy wears a crazy Notre Dame wig, which must be some sort of good luck charm.

One time, after a long evening, the guy was passed out in his room and his money was all over the place. Incredulous, his friends asked him why he didn't secure his cash in the in-room safe. "Can't," the guy said, "my wig is in there."

This is the kind of people I'm traveling with.

We get to South Bend a good 5 hours ahead of time; can't wait to see this crowd on the way home.

Put a visit to Notre Dame on the bucket list, too. I had been there a few times as a fan, but this was the first business trip.

Temple gave up two early touchdowns and played uphill the whole time. They lost, 28-6, but have nothing to be ashamed of. The Owls were well within the point spread of 30, which led one disgruntled Irish fan to gripe "Who the hell is Temple to come into our house and cover?"

I was told the bus would leave 2 hours after the game. I was done writing in 90 minutes, but when I got out to the parking lot there was nothing. No rowdy tailgate. No guy with the wig. No Harvey.

In a mild panic, I called our leader and was told they were just pulling out of the parking lot. The bus driver was fuming (I'm sure we can figure out why) and if I wanted to not be stuck in Indiana, I had to sprint about three-quarters of a mile (in slacks and shoes and with a 15-pound workbag).

Harvey thought I was on one of the other buses. "It's Eddie Barkowitz," I could overhear him telling the annoyed driver. "I have to give him a ride back to Chicago."

At that point, all I really wanted was a cold beer. But there were none left. Bet that guy with the wig drank the last one.


Email: barkowe@phillynews.com. On Twitter: @EdBarkowitz

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