On Your Marc: 3/15/16

A jackhammer morning

By Marc Katz

Really, Gary Nuhn is going to scream when he reads this—and he will read it—and he’ll dispute every word of the narrative, somewhat like certain members of Congress dispute every word of Obamacare.

But I pledge to you every bit of this is true, even though Nuhn, one of the all-time great newspaper columnists, will have his own version.

We were awakened at 8 a.m. by a sledgehammer doing remodeling work on our hotel near Westwood, a swanky part of Los Angeles where UCLA happens to reside.

It was for the 1984 Great Eight in the West Regional of the NCAA Tournament, where UD was a participant.

No, the Flyers didn’t quite make it to the Final Four, but, as legendary coach Don Donoher quipped, “We made it to the Final Five.” The Flyers, playing Georgetown (which continued to the national championship) in the last game of the weekend, were beaten in a close one at Pauley Pavilion.

But you can look that up on the Internet.

Here’s the part you can’t look up, and Nuhn will say I can’t remember … except I do remember, and I think I am wearing hearing aids today because it did happen.

First of all, it was absurd to even think the Flyers were going to be part of the NCAA, which invited only 53 teams. Ten of them had to play a “preliminary round”—the last time that happened as the tournament expanded to 64 teams the next season. That meant the best teams had first-round byes.

Dayton was 18-10 and had not played in the NCAA in the 10 years since it took UCLA to triple overtime before losing in 1974 to Lew Alcindor and folks. The Flyers were hoping just to sneak into the NIT.

This is why you should never bet. Dayton not only was invited, but beat LSU and Oklahoma in the first two rounds of the West Regional.

It was on to Los Angeles, and Nuhn, who just returned from the Flyers’ successful run in Salt Lake City, would leave for Los Angeles to cover games against Washington on Friday and, potentially, Georgetown.

He was going to “set the scene” with the Flyers. I was going to wait behind with the Dayton fans, band and cheerleaders. We were on a Thursday charter scheduled to leave Cox International at 5 p.m.

A hint of what was to come arrived immediately when—you aren’t going to believe this—Dayton assistant football coach (he’s the head guy now) Rick Chamberlin took control of the baggage truck, promptly backing into the plane, creating a hole that had to be patched for the next eight and a half hours.

I was expecting dinner in Los Angeles. Instead, I ate little pretzels on the Dayton tarmac. At 3 a.m., Pacific Time, I arrived at my hotel. Do the fast math. It is 6 a.m. for me.

To shave expenses, Nuhn and I were sharing a room, and he was already asleep. He wouldn’t immediately let me in, demanding I obtain a second key, which was unavailable at the front desk, this being a Holiday Inn probably built before the chain came into existence.

I am going bald now because of the steam that singed what hair I had left on my head, but I made it into the second twin bed in the room, assuming I had a solid morning of sleep ahead.

At 8 a.m., Pacific Time, the jackhammer started. Nuhn put a pillow over his head. He said he banged on the wall, but there was no blood on his knuckles like there was in my eyes.

I opened the door to ask the construction goons what they were doing. They were remodeling, they said. Kind of early for that, I said, maybe not that kindly.

One of those old, heavy phones was on the side table. I think it was beige, a color that no longer exists.

I called the front desk and—you don’t need to read the conversation—if you were there, you wouldn’t have heard a word. I was so loud it was like I was speaking through a dog whistle.

Before I slammed down the phone, the jackhammer stopped.

A lot of other stuff happened on that trip that I will talk about in other columns, but stopping the jackhammer is a good place to start.

We got up at a civil time and had brunch, walked around a little, wrote some first edition blather and hung around the hotel lobby before going to the arena.

Bucky Bockhorn, then as now a radio voice of the Flyers (but more famous in my mind as a player at UD and in the pros with Oscar Robertson), walked up to me and extended his hand.

“Thanks,” he said, “for getting that jackhammer to stop.”

I asked him how he knew it was me.

“My room is only three doors down from yours,” he said. “I heard every word you said.”

Columbus-born Marc Katz had a 44-year newspaper career, 41 of those years covering sports, 40 of them at the Dayton Daily News. He now blogs at katzcopsnsports.com. Reach Dayton City Paper sports writer Marc Katz at MarcKatz@daytoncitypaper.com.

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Marc Katz
Columbus-born Marc Katz had a 44-year newspaper career, 41 of those years covering sports, 40 of them at the Dayton Daily News. He now blogs at KatzCopsNSports.com. Reach Dayton City Paper sports writer Marc Katz at MarcKatz@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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