I must’ve been something to see when I first sat down at my (clean!) work space nearly seven months ago. It wasn’t due to my physical appearance, because I didn’t start wearing overalls and straw hats to work until the four-month mark.
It was because, in preparations to learn about the Fighting Scots, I had to ask around about who their arch-rival was. Really.
As fate would have it, my very first assignment for the Laurinburg Exchange was a baseball game between Scotland and Richmond hosted at McCoy Field. It didn’t take long to be spotted, as a guy equipped with a large camera and notepad had become an increasingly rare spotting at Scotland sporting events for the first part of 2012.
Scotland senior pitcher Curt Britt (more on him later in the week) would end up blanking the Raiders, and it was a proper introduction to the winning culture that’s been established in Scots Nation over the years.
It was also my first chance to interact with the proud parents and supporters of the Fighting Scots. And most conversations that evening ended with the Scotland/Richmond rivalry and a knowing grin when I admitted ignorance about the history between the two teams.
“Just wait until you see a Scotland and Richmond football game,” was what usually accompanied the knowing grin.
I didn’t know it at the time, but my date with destiny was set in stone at that exact moment.
Since that day, I’ve run the gamut of Scotland sports and feel truly honored to have been a part of history. There’s never been a better time to be a fan of the Fighting Scots than these past few years, and you’re all witness to it, as I’ve been during my time here thus far.
With that said, you can’t call yourself a true Scotland supporter or sports writer without taking in the sight of 12,000+ screaming fans waiting to see their homegrown athlete make a play that will be discussed years from now. That’s a moment nobody can take away from you.
And as I continue to nurse my sore ankles (a likely indicator that I don’t get nearly the amount of exercise I should), I’d like to think I underwent my Scotland rite of passage on Friday Oct. 26.
I should’ve known that this would be an experience unlike any other when I realized I didn’t need directions to get to Raider Stadium.
Directions were provided of course, thanks to Matt Smith and Alicia Krout who (unlike me) can likely get to Richmond Senior High School blindfolded. But if I truly flirted with getting lost en route to the game, all I had to do was simply look around.
Seemingly every car in Rockingham was headed there.
I thought I was pretty clever when I left Laurinburg 90 minutes early for the game. I’ll get a prime parking spot, a comfy perch in the visitor’s press box and have ample time to make myself comfortable, I thought to myself as I made my merry way to Rockingham.
I found a parking spot all right: In a ditch, right next to a forest ripped straight out of a direct-to-dvd horror movie. It was roughly a two-mile trek to get to the stadium, and by the time I arrived there with my man-purse computer bag, I was completely out of breath. Many others were forced to park a great distance away, but you didn’t hear a single complaint from any of them.
And the press box, like the stadium itself, was standing-room only, with nearly a dozen people crammed in that little space.
In hindsight, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
To my left was WLNC radio who I enjoy working with on a weekly basis, and to my right was Time Warner Cable complete with color commentators and two modestly-sized LCD televisions that carried a live feed of the game. The rest of the available space was a toss-up between the Scotland coaching staff and myself. Again, nobody seemed to mind.
What followed was a heavyweight prize fight between two state title contenders, a tense battle that demanded everyone’s full attention. But my gaze couldn’t help but survey the atmosphere at Raider Stadium.
I’ve followed many a prominent team in my career, experienced the aura of a big-game time and time again. But I’ve never seen or felt anything like that. If nothing else, my first Scotland/Richmond football game validated both the passion of the surrounding sports communities and the athletic programs who strive so hard to give them something to celebrate.
That wasn’t just a football game I saw out there. If I didn’t have a Friday night deadline staring me in the face, I would’ve sworn time had stopped that night.
It’s no wonder that Scotland coach Richard Bailey cited that game as one of his biggest reasons for coming here. And I also now know why I was greeted with grins when I silently wondered why a football rivalry game was brought to my attention hours after setting foot in Laurinburg. At the beginning of April no less.
The 4A state playoffs start this Friday night, and I can’t wait to have my fiance in the Pate Stadium press box with me for the opening round matchup between Scotland and East Chapel Hill. I’ve dragged her to several games I’ve covered in the past, and this will be her first taste of Scotland football.
She’ll get to see what I’ve been seeing all season long, and I’m grateful to share it with her. But poor girl, she had the chance to attend the Scotland/Richmond game but couldn’t due to a prior commitment.
Oh well, I guess that’s too bad. At least I got to enjoy arguably the best moment of my early career.