My recollection is hazy, at best, but I remember the one sporting event I’ve covered in Los Angeles like it was yesterday.
Kansas State came here to play Southern California in football in 2001. It was Sept. 8. It was three days before 9/11.
The game was memorable because Kansas State won against a USC team with Carson Palmer at quarterback. He passed for 196 yards, but neither team could score. The Wildcats won, 10-6, even though K-State quarterback Ell Roberson passed for only 26 yards. Then again, he didn’t need to throw.
The star of the day for K-State was anyone who carried the football. Running back Josh Scobey gained 165 yards on 27 carries. Roberson added another 119 yards rushing on 21 carries and fullback Rock Cartwright rushed for another 56. Kansas State had 340 yards on the ground and scored 10 points.
It was a weird game played at the Coliseum, a stadium dripping with tradition. I was so caught up in being inside the place that the game, I’m sure, became secondary.
After the game, which was played in the afternoon, I went out to get something to eat near my hotel. Then I got up early the next morning, Sept. 10, to catch my flight back to Wichita. It was just another day in the life of a sports writer, even though it was spent in LA.
The next day, all hell broke loose. I was doing the radio show, Sports Daily, with Jarrod Bartlett. Bruce Haertl, who also had been covering the KSU-USC game for KWCH, had stayed in Los Angeles to visit his family. He ended up not making it back to Wichita for several days after the 9/11 attacks, finally renting a car and driving home because airports were shut down.
I’m sure we started off the Sept. 11, 2001, radio show talking about Kansas State’s big win. I know we had a guest on the show that day, my friend Kevin Haskin from the Topeka Capital-Journal. It was during our interview with Kevin that we noticed just how serious the situation was getting in New York City.
It was such a strange, sad day. We eventually stopped talking about sports and stopped our show, instead going to network coverage of the terrorist attacks. None of us, like none of you, could believe what was happening. I heard either that day or in the days shortly thereafter that the airport in Los Angeles had been a target of the terrorists. For a fleeting moment, I wondered what might have been.
But it was only fleeting.
All of my thoughts were with the victims of the attacks. And, like every other American, I could barely contain my rage.
I’m back in Los Angeles to cover another sports event – Wichita State’s appearance in the Sweet 16. The Shockers face La Salle Thursday night – really late Thursday – in the Staples Center.
It’s my second time in this venue. I was here for the Eagles’ Millennium concert – Dec. 31, 1999. Everybody was kind of worried then about what the crazies might do. Turned out they did nothing. The concert went off without a glitch and the Eagles played two songs – “Those Shoes” and “Funky New Year” – that I hadn’t heard them do before and haven’t heard since.
I like Los Angeles. I know it’s overcrowded and polluted, but it’s vibrant. You can feel it. As I type this, I’m a couple of hundred yards, at most, from the Nokia Theatre. Where the “American Idol” finale will air in a couple of months and where the Grammys were held a couple of months ago. We’re staying right in the hub of LA, near the Staples Center. There’s so much going on.
And tomorrow night, there’s the biggest basketball game in years for the Wichita State Shockers.
This is fun, people. My son, Jeff, and I are heading to The Troubadour shortly. That’s the historical nightclub where Eagles founders Don Henley and Glenn Frey met in 1970. We’re having dinner at Dan Tana’s. We’re feeling pretty good about our time in LA.
But Los Angeles does conjure those memories of 2001. Everybody was inside the Coliseum on a beautiful Saturday, taking in some college football. Two days later, all of those lives – and millions of others – were changed forever.
Have fun watching the Shockers. I know a bunch of WSU fans are making this journey. This is a great experience for them and I’m sure they’ll soak in everything LA has to offer.
Thanks for allowing me to ramble some in this blog post.