Saturday, September 05, 2009

Hell, thy name is Bastrop

I went with the family to the Bastrop vs. San Marcos football game last night. One of my brothers oversaw the construction of the new stadium in Bastrop, which also happens to be The Wife's home town. So we met up with my mother-in-law, brother-in-law and young nephew for a football family reunion of sorts. We were coming from the San Marcos direction, and traffic wasn't bad at all--we arrived maybe 45 mintues before the game, had free buffalo wings from Chili's and looked the stadium over.

It's pretty impressive for a high school field. Seating a maximum of 8,000 (I was told) it featured aluminum bleachers in two levels separated by a wide walkway. The visitor's side is of the same design, sans the multi-level press box. The field itself is artificial, the new long-bladed fake grass with granulated rubber particles simulating soil, so the surface will give and reduce the number of ACL and turf toe injuries such as associated with traditional rugs. And there's a jumbotron in the endzone, an very loud one. All in all, an impressive package.

The teams themselves played like it was the first game of the season, with fumbles being the defining feature of the night. IIRC, Bastrop was holding a 10-7 lead with five minutes left in the second quarter when the ordeal began. Lightning flashed to the south, and the teams cleared the field for a mandatory 30 minute wait before the game could be resumed. Only the lightning didn't let up. And the wind picked up. And rain started to fall. We were heading to the van even as the announcer told the crowd a heavy thunderstorm was moving our way. We cranked up at 8:20. At 9:20 we had moved exactly 12 feet from our parking spot.

I spent the entirety of the 90s as a working sports reporter. I covered--at minimum--more than 100 high school and college football games in that time, not to mention basketball, baseball (high school, college and professional), pro hockey, rodeo and untold numbers of other sports. Friday night in Bastrop was, without a doubt, the single most FUBAR traffic control I've ever seen. Even after the game had officially been canceled, the traffic cops continued to allow in a seemingly endless stream of latecoming traffic. WTF Bastrop? There were exactly two exits to the parking lot (a brilliant design, he says sarcastically), and they'd closed one to allow these other cars in, choking the parking lot up with many, many unnecessary cars as everyone else tried to escape through the one single exit on the opposite side of the parking lot. During all this the heavens opened up and poured, with the wind blowing so hard the rain fell sideways. And the lightning! All around us, flashing and crashing like the end of the world, with us stuck motionless through the worst of it.

Tempers, understandably, grew short. After an hour of not moving, honking horns, curses and angry gestures grew more frequent. I expected a brawl to break out at any moment, tempers were so frayed, and probably the only thing that kept that from happening was the monsoon washing over everyone.

Bastrop officials should really be ashamed by the incompetence on display Friday night. They weren't even dealing with a capacity crowd--at the the time the players left the field, the stadium (including the visitor's side) was only 1/2 to 2/3 full. So despite the relatively light crowd, it was 9:55 p.m. before we finally pulled out of the parking lot. Absolutely pathetic. I covered high schools at every level, and colleges as well, writing stories up after games witnessed by tens of thousands of spectators. I normally had my story finished and submitted to the paper within 45 minutes of the game's end, and vast, empty parking lots invariably greeted me as I exited the stadium. I'll wager dollars to donuts there were still cars desperate to get away from Bastrop's new stadium two full hours later.

It was a nice stadium, for sure, but you couldn't pay me enough to go back to that log jam again.

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