Home Travelogue: My week (OK, not quite a week) at the College World Series
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Travelogue: My week (OK, not quite a week) at the College World Series

Chris Graham

chris graham college world series The sense from the UVA sports fans in my circle is, Chris, no more trips to the College World Series, the NCAA Tournament, bowl games, it’s enough already, you’re a jinx.

In my defense, I was in Minneapolis for the Final Four in 2019, but since, yeah.

Lost the Orange Bowl, lost in Orlando (to Furman!), lost in Dayton (to Colorado State), and now, two 0-for-2s in the College World Series.

Don’t send me to Paris to cover the swimming, is what folks are getting at.

To satisfy the IRS, I’m filing this final story from my most recent failed visit to Omaha, in the form of a travel itinerary.

Wednesday

At the airport in Charlottesville, wouldn’t you know it, I run into another reporter, Greg Madia, from the Daily Progress.

The other reporters in the UVA media circle probably think I’m a snob because I never talk to anybody, but really, I just assume that they all look down on me as “fringe media,” so I keep my distance.

Greg and I chat amicably before we get on the plane to Chicago, our first stop on the way to Omaha.

The world being small, we end up being seat-mates on the plane.

Which, I’m glad it worked out that way.

Greg, it turns out, is a good guy, who may think to himself that I’m “fringe,” but if he does, he kept that to himself.

Thursday

Technically, having to change hotels happened on Thursday.

So, full disclosure, I booked my flight to Omaha on Saturday, not long after UVA had clinched its spot, but I wanted to wait on the hotel, because there’s a media hotel, and it’s a lot more cost-efficient to book that one than to try to book one on my own.

I’m not hurting for money, but I try to be smart with it.

The NCAA says I didn’t fill out my credential request right, which, I’ve been filling out credential requests for 25 years, and I’d never filled out one wrong before this one, so, whatever.

Long story short, I missed out on a spot in the cost-conscious media hotel.

I ended up getting a space in a hotel in Council Bluffs, across the river from Omaha, that was not only not cost-conscious, but also reeked of stale cigarette smoke, body odor and broken dreams.

There were towels on the floor of the bathroom from the previous occupant, trash in the trashcans, clothes left behind.

My wife found me a new hotel, but it was 2 a.m. CT.

I slept on top of the covers, and still felt like I’d need to burn my clothes as opposed to taking them back home with me.

Also Thursday

shot Thursday was a long day.

After getting maybe an hour of sleep, there was media day at Charles Schwab Field, which was great.

Then I made a beeline for Rocco’s, the bar across the street from the stadium, which hosts an annual contest to see which school’s fan base can consume the most jello shots.

I’d missed out on this last year, so I bought two.

I’m going to need a ruling on whether there was actually anything in those “shots” other than the jello.

I tried, without success, to get someone from the wait staff to take an order for dinner from me, to no avail.

Then I trekked a mile over to Barry O’s, the Omaha bar famous to UVA Baseball fans because Brian O’Connor worked there as a bartender during his time as a player and then assistant coach at Creighton.

barry o The place was wall-to-wall with UVA fans.

My goal was to be in cognito, because, you know, who knows, there are haters out there.

I mean, I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know.

One reader recognized me, acted like I’m a big deal, which, ego satisfied, I had a couple of drinks, bought two Barry O’s UVA T-shirts, and Ubered back to my new hotel, which I didn’t mention, did not reek of cigarette smoke, body odor and broken dreams.

I didn’t eat at Barry O’s, either, so I was reduced to ordering pizza delivery.

Friday

knees Not a good start to the day. I’m a distance runner, and pretty avid about getting my daily workout in , and while my hotel didn’t reek of cigarette smoke, body odor and broken dreams, it also doesn’t have a gym, so I had to run in the adjoining neighborhood.

I know better than to run on sidewalks, but that was my option.

I fell so hard, about a mile into my four-mile run, that my Apple Watch wanted to call 911.

I’m an idiot, so I kept running, blood streaming down my legs – did I mention that I’m on blood thinners since my near-death pulmonary embolism three years ago?

The adrenaline kept me going, but when I made it to the press box, and sat down to watch the UVA-North Carolina game for three hours, yep, my right knee, which took the brunt of the hard fall, swole up to the size of a grapefruit.

That, and UVA lost on a walk-off.

Saturday

fanfest No UVA game, so I headed to the ballpark to watch the other bracket.

Between games, I did the fan thing, walking through the FanFest, which, by the way, yep, awesome.

As much as I hate the NCAA and everything it stands for, I plunked down several hundred dollars for T-shirts and hats, then made my way to the adult beverage garden for, you know, adult beverages, and dinner.

The second game of the day was supposed to start at 6 p.m. local time, and when the big-screen TV said something about weather delaying the start of Game 2, I was confused, because I was there, and there was no, you know, weather.

I couldn’t get the weather apps to open on my phone, so I had to text my wife, who texted me back, yeah, there’s a tornado watch, and a storm with hail coming your way, so, leave, now.

Nothing like weather to kill a good buzz.

Sunday

The battery in the smoke alarm in my hotel room picked a good time to start chirping at me, at 6:30 a.m. local time.

Up and at ‘em, I headed over to the Downtown Omaha YMCA for a workout, where I ran into Evan Blanco, UVA’s Game 1 CWS starter, getting in an early-morning workout, looking ahead to getting another CWS start later in the week.

Also Sunday

Game 2 went the way it went.

The missus booked me a new flight home, for Monday.

I’m sitting here writing this, and I’m already missing the College World Series.

Next up for me: jinxing the next UVA team.

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham, the king of "fringe media," is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].

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