Sunday, October 30, 2011

Sunday's Word: Power Outage

Almost as soon as the season began, I circled 10/29/2011 on the calendar.

I very much wanted to go to Hamilton, NY that day - the weekend, of course, of a game that seemed in the preseason to be one that could pratically determine the Patriot League championship.

But what I wouldn't - and probably couldn't - have ever predicted was a freak snowstorm that hit our area.  In October.  A week after a 65 degree weekend.

That snowstorm - and the "power outage" that resulted - is today's "Word", as it not only affected my travel plans for Saturday but it continues to affect people everywhere in our area.

On Friday evening, I was pretty glum.

The trip I'd planned for Hamilton for months would have to be cancelled, thanks to a big, purple cloud on the Weather.com website over the area where I'd have to drive to the Colgate game.

It even said on the map, "Power Outages Likely".

Even so, I was still thinking about going up there.  What sort of Lehigh fan would I be, had I not even tried?

I thought that I could have probably beaten the storm up to the Chenango Valley, which wasn't scheduled to really get going until 8AM on Saturday.  But I couldn't justify leaving my family and a house full of people alone with even just a tiny a threat of impassable roads and a "power outage".

I pride myself in being a rabid Lehigh fan.  But I'm also a rabid fan of my family, too, and I need to take care of them.  I made the decision to stay home, though I wasn't happy about it.

What was especially strange was that the forecast wasn't even scheduled to drop a single flake of snow up at Colgate, a place where snow in Ocotober isn't a rare occurence.  But where I live, where the last October snowfall took place in 1975 (and was just a light dusting), we were expected to get hammered.

I moped.  I schemed.  I cursed the skies.  But no amount of calculation, gnashing of teeth or sulking could alter the reality that all I could do is stay at home and watch the game.

Step one: I had to order CBS Sports Network, having been too cheap to order it before.

I called my cable provider, and asked if I could upgrade my package to get that channel.  Of course he agreed - adding that a surprising number of folks had been calling that very day, too, asking the same thing.

("Is there some sort of big game today on that channel," the guy doing the upgrade asked me?  I swear to the Big Guy Above that this actually happened.)

Once in place, I grabbed some lunch and started watching the game, as the rain turned into heavy sleet and then turned into heavy, globby slush balls falling from the sky.

As I frequently do during Lehigh games, I updated my Facebook and Twitter accounts with real-time updates of the action as I'm experiencing it.

I celebrated when the "Barket Buster", senior RB Zach Barket busted through the Colgate defense for the first time to have the Mountain Hawks go up 14-3.   And I cringed when Colgate sophomore QB Gavin McCarney and senior RB Nate Eachus made it a game once again.

Little did I know that my updates would become more crucial to a significant number of followers.

I didn't know it at the time, but power started to go out around the Lehigh Valley as heavy snow and ice started to pile up on trees that still had all their leaves on them.  Tree branches and power lines started to break, as the (expected) "power outages" started to happen.

Many folks who were planning to watch the game on national TV (through CBS Sports Network) all of a sudden had to find out a way to follow the game in another way - and some actually turned on their phones, brought up their Facebook or Twitter apps, and followed my 120 character updates of the action as it happened.

It worked until about 2:30PM - when in my area, we had our own "power outage".

*****

I had somewhat planned for this.  I brought in some firewood, just in case we were out of power for an extended period.  Shortly after the power went out, I started a fire in the fireplace, and got it blazing.

Once done, I excused myself to "shovel the snow" off the driveway - though I didn't do too much shoveling of the heavy, back-breaking slush that the weatherman had the audacity to call "snow".

I turned on the car, and tuned in to ESPN AM 1230, and heard Matt Kerr and Matt Markus call the end of the game over a faint radio signal.

I missed Colgate's last-gasp effort to come back, and just missed senior WR Jake Drwal's clinching touchdown, but I did learn enough to know that there were no miracle Raider comebacks.

Satisfied, I invited my son outside, shoveled the driveway some more, and knocked as much of the frozen yuck off the trees in our backyard as I could.  My son had a field day outside - making a slush angel, starting a snowball fight with me, and putting snow on the slide and sliding on the slick surface.

We stayed outside until the freezing wind and sleet made being outside just too uncomfortable.  As we came in, my wife made some hot beverages for us to warm up with (thanks to our gas stove).

As light started to fade, we realized we had to make dinner - for the three of us, and the three other family members at our house.

Somehow, by flashlight, we julienned vegetables, browned some meat, boiled some pasta, and made some spaghetti bolognese.  My wife lit some candles, and I fed the fire some more, and the six of us ate a delicious meal.

"We don't want the ice cream to melt," my son mischievously said, as we quickly opened up the freezer and got some ice cream for everyone for dessert.

Throughout the evening, everyone talked as I worked on stoking the fire.  It remained comfortable in the house, and despite the amount of work it took, I was relatively relaxed.

The power would come on again at about 9:30 PM for us.  I frantically had to take care of a lot of things once it came back on - my automated scoreboards, which went down with the "power outage", and a host of other little things I needed to take care of.

And I'd later learn that many, many people around the Lehigh Valley - including the Patriot League office and Lehigh athletics offiice - would still not have their power back as of Sunday afternoon.

(On Paul Reinhard's blog in the Morning Call (subscription may be required), he mentioned that with the power still being out at Lehigh, Andy Coen and the coaching staff weren't able to get game video of the Holy Cross/Georgetown game in their offices.  So they called Lafayette, and asked if they could use their offices to receive and analyze the game video there.)

While I was upset before the game, I knew I ultimately made the right decision to stay home.  I saw my son make slush angels.  I took care of my family.  And I needed to be here, not in Hamilton.

And not only did I follow the game and experience it the best I could at home, I got to watch the whole game uninterrupted later on CBS College Sports, when they rebroadcast the game Sunday afternoon.

All in all, my non-trip to Hamilton didn't turn out too bad.

*****

To relate this back to Lehigh a bit, the Mountain Hawk offense certainly didn't suffer through any "power outages" in chilly Hamilton, NY.

For the sixth time this year, senior QB Chris Lum and the offense put up more than 30 points in a game.  While junior WR Ryan "The Answer" Spadola had a relatively quiet day for him - though many FCS receivers would gladly accept a six-catch, 59 yard day - Barket's monster day with 224 all-purpose yards showed there's plenty of generating capacity from different sources on this team.

But what was also encouraging was the play of the defense and special teams, too.

Junior LB Billy Boyko and senior LB Mike Groome made some key 3rd down stops in this game to force punts, and get the ball in the hands of the electrifying offense.  Before the game, I said stopping Colgate on 3rd down would be critical: the Raiders were only 3 of 10, and that was nearly as important as Barket's rushing yards.

And freshman RB Jason Suggs, too, gave a jolt to offense as well, with a bunch of good kickoff returns.  Lehigh's offense, after kickoffs, never started a drive inside of their own 35 yard line.  That extra room helped the Mountain Hawk offense really get going, as well.

That's not to say this was a perfect game.  There were times when things almost short-circuited, especially with some penalties on defense and special teams that extended Colgate drives.  And the Raiders got a little too close for comfort on multiple occasions - as it was right to expect.

The big question for these  Mountain Hawks has to be: can Lehigh keep the electricity flowing through the month of November, and into the FCS playoffs, without any "power outages"?

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