Holding down the fort

Hurricanes can’t even scare away true sports fans

 By Marc Katz

Ralph’s electricity went off at 5:32 p.m., a couple hours before Ohio State was hosting Oklahoma, and if you know anything about Ralph, you know he wanted to see that game.

Ralph is 81-year-old Ralph Morrow, a former executive sports editor of the Dayton Daily News whose electricity did not shut down because he had too many devices plugged into the wall.

It shut down because he lives in Key West.

Yeah, he rode out the storm(s)…then had second thoughts because he missed the OSU-OU football game.

When he found out the Buckeyes lost, he considered himself lucky – not that he survived the storm, but he didn’t have to watch the Buckeyes lose. For some reason, when every other convenience or method of communication was lost to him, Ralph was able to text on his cellphone.

Did he call for help or try to find out if there was a safer place to stay than his second-floor apartment? No. He texted a friend in West Virginia who fed him OSU updates until his daughter in San Diego fed him the final devastating score.

Yeah, he was devastated about that.

That’s the way it is when you devote your life to games.

I know, I went over this storm stuff with you a couple weeks ago when I noted former Dayton Dragons manager Alonzo Powell was an assistant hitting coach with the Houston Astros. He was out of town when his storm hit.

Morrow was right in the middle of his, and Gary Nuhn, former sports columnist at the DDN, was not budging from his Lakeland, Florida home either. That’s about 400 miles from Key West, but the storm split the state, trying to affect everybody.

He survived, too.

Morrow thinks too much was made of the trashed streets.

“News outlets, they’re only interested in showing destruction,” he says. “They’re not interested in showing places that are okay, which we are. We had 2 percent destruction to our homes.”

Ralph’s “okay” and my “okay” are two different kinds of “okay.” He lives in the upstairs of a house – a big house, he says – occupying the whole floor. There was damage to his entrance door. It’s always open now, so he props a table against it to keep it semi-closed, except he hasn’t been there for awhile. No electricity, no air conditioning. Remember all that snow we get sometimes in Dayton? They don’t get it in Key West. Ralph’s staying at his son Rob’s house, about a half mile down the road. Rob has air conditioning.

It’s in the high 80s in Key West, and only a confrontational president would look that sun in the eye and not blink.

Ralph didn’t leave because he didn’t think he could get anywhere that would be safer.

“Where was I going to go?” Ralph says. “I got on my bed. It was pretty noisy. It was a hurricane. There were probably a half dozen tornados, too.”

Miami is 120-130 miles away. Cuba is closer, about 90 miles. Neither destination seemed feasible, especially at his age.

“I just laid there all night and listened to the rumble,” Ralph says. “I guess I fell asleep. We have no TV, no internet, no newspapers, one radio station operating. Nothing from the rest of the world or US. Nothing on sports. It’s like a third world down here.

Nuhn’s area didn’t take the direct hit like Key West, but there was howling wind.

“I survived, as did the house,” Nuhn says. “I lost half of one of my old-growth oak trees.” It split and fell backward, away from the house.

The rest of his yard was covered with branches and other detritus (his word).

He lost a clothesline, half a back fence, and part of a side fence.

Of course, there was more. The storms were gone and he was watching college football the next week when he heard a thud on his roof.

“I looked out through my porch door windows and there was a large branch that had broken off (a bit late),” he says. “Being the typical football fan, I waited for the next commercial to go out and see if it damaged anything.”

It didn’t. And he’s not the typical fan.

“I was never scared,” Nuhn says. “What’s that song lyric, ‘What will be will be.’ That’s my motto.”

What can I say about Nuhn? Clearly, he marches to his own drummer. He’s the only one who hears the drummer.

A magnificent writer, he could delight and infuriate a reader within the same column.

He does that in his regular life as well.

When the storm was on its way, he never thought about leaving. He watched games on television and surveyed the damage when the winds stopped.

I don’t know what’s going to happen first, the return of Ralph’s electricity or Nuhn cleaning up the debris in his yard.

Yeah, the electricity will come first.

Ralph’s 81 and working for a daily newspaper, the Key West Citizen; he doesn’t know if it will return.

Nuhn’s nearly a decade younger and put so much into everything he wrote, he doesn’t want to do it anymore.

I’m not sure he does much of anything anymore, but watch games on television.

Ralph likes the work that goes with the games.

“Come on, I need sports,” he says. “Every day’s a new day.”

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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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