Monday, October 09, 2006

A Day to Forget

Unfortunately for the University of Delaware Football team it was another one of “those” days again this weekend at Northeastern. The defense gave up two big plays early and quickly put the team in a 10-0 hole. To their credit, Delaware fought back to actually take a 17-10 lead into the locker room at halftime, but in the second half quickly found themselves trailing again mainly due to mental cramps, turnovers, and the continued inability to stop their opponents on third and long.

Quarterback Joe Flacco engineered a late fourth quarter touchdown drive hitting his favorite receiver Big Ben Patrick in the end zone with exactly 1:00 left on the clock, but after a squib kick that squeaked out of bounds, Northeastern back-up quarterback John Sperrazza, jammed fingers and all, led his team down field putting his freshman kicker Mat Johnson in a position to hit a 35-yard field goal as the clock expired giving Northeastern a 27-24 win.

Prior to Saturday, Northeastern had yet to play a home game this year; they were on the longest road trip in College Football including three separate visits to the Commonwealth of Virginia and one to the State of North Dakota, and I am sure at some point they must have clicked their collective cleats together and thought, “There is no place like home,” even if that home is Parsons Field a tough place to play and perhaps the worst place in all of sports to broadcast.

A trip to Northeastern University’s Parsons Field reminds me of going to my Grandma Sophie’s house for dinner when I was a kid. I knew it is going to be bad, but at least wouldn’t last too long. That was the case this weekend for the Delaware Football team and the Delaware Broadcast team as we trekked to that quaint neighborhood just outside the Boston city limits known as Brookline, Mass.

Like a date at Parsons, a trip to my grandparent’s house, back in the day, could be so uninviting. First off, I knew Grandma Sophie would try to kiss me as soon as I walked through the door with those lips that felt like a cat’s tongue wearing lipstick seemingly applied during the Eisenhower Administration. Then for dinner, I knew I would have to eat some horrible concoction of boiled meat, beets, and who-knows-what disguised as a family “delicacy” as my Papa Dave would ramble on about how bad the bread was; and then after the meal my Uncle Benny would be there with both of his teeth, cigar butt dangling from his fingers shouting at me over and over again loud enough for the whole block to hear mocking my proclivity toward the girls of my third grade class.

“Got your eye on any pretty ones? Eh Billy? Eh? Any pretty ones, Billy? C’mon, you can tell your Uncle Benny! Right? Ha!” he would say to me, which of course in retrospect seems quite creepy.

Not exactly the stuff of Norman Rockwell, I know.

And for Delaware fans, it has been just as ugly in recent years each time that their team has had to make the trip to Northeastern’s equivalent of Grandma Sophie's house: Parsons Field.

During the 1999 season, it took a last second field goal by Delaware’s Garon Sizemore to tie the game before Delaware would eventually win in Overtime against a Northeastern team that had never before beaten Delaware and, up to that point, was winless.

In 2001, Northeastern’s defense was one of the worst in the country, but Delaware could still only muster a meager 56 yards of total offense, the lowest output in the program’s 100-plus year history en route to an embarrassing 20-7 loss.

KC Keeler’s first ever trip to Parsons Field came in 2003 his second season as Delaware’s head coach. That year he would guide Delaware all the way to the I-AA National Championship with a near perfect 15-1 record the only blemish coming on November 8 in a 24-14 loss to Northeastern on the road at Parsons.

The early returns are in, and while no one will confuse this year’s Delaware team with the Championship edition of 2003, their performance this past weekend in Boston, even taking into account the incredible high number of injuries, was at best uninspiring.

As hard as it is to play at Parsons with its sparse crowds, short bleachers, and hodgepodge locker facilities forcing teams to divide into several separate tiny rooms put together in what Keeler calls a “renovated row house”, it is even a harder to try and do a broadcast.

First off, the tiny “press box” is so small that my radio partner Mike Corey and I just might be considered legally married in the State of Massachusetts after spending three plus hours so close to each other. Plus it is only about ten feet off the ground sitting atop of five rows of aluminum style bleachers. I hope this doesn’t come across as sour grapes, but it is impossible to call a football game from this vantage point. We are perched so low that unless the action is right in front of us at mid-field, you just can’t see what is going on including who has the ball, what the play is, who makes the tackle, or on what yard line the action is taking place. Also, you have to hope that no one in the fifth row of stands directly in front of you and within an arm’s reach decides to stand up to cheer or go to the bathroom.

“C’mon you can hold it until a time out!” I found myself thinking as fans were getting up in front of me and obstructing my view.

Mark Vandermeer, the radio voice of the NFL’s Houston Texans and former play-by-play voice for the University of Massachusetts Minutemen and a veteran of many a broadcast at Parsons, is a friend and confidant of Mike Corey. He and Corey have a little ritual they go through on the phone each time Corey and I find our selves at Northeastern on the Friday before a Saturday broadcast to set up the equipment. After I feign an asthma attack and pull out my inhaler for comic relief after bounding up the five “difficult” rows of bleachers, Corey calls Vandermeer and they always have the exact same conversation.

“Mark, its Corey. Hey guess where I am?”

“Where?” Vandermeer plays along.

“Parsons Field! Brookline, Mass!” To which Vandermeer always says,

“Ohhhhhhh Noooooooo!”

After the last four games at Parsons Field, I can imagine a similar reaction coming from Delaware players, coaches, fans, and broadcasters. Oh no indeed.

Bill Komissaroff

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