With this week having a Friday the 13th near the end of it and a full moon scheduled to brighten up the sky after football lights get shut off tonight, I thought I’d share a little horror story of my own that occurred this time last year.
Fort Payne Wildcat fans may never forget last year’s matchup at Mae Jemison for the last-second Hail Mary pass that earned the ‘Cats a 48-47 win. I was there covering the game at Milton Frank Stadium in Huntsville that evening, but it’s not the only reason I’ll remember that night.
That night marked the only time I’ve ever been locked inside of a football stadium.
Yes, you read that right. After Fort Payne’s dramatic victory over Mae Jemison last year, some fool locked me inside of Milton Frank Stadium.
The reason why I was planning on staying late at the stadium that evening is because our deadline to send the weekend edition to print is midnight. With that night’s game ending just before 10 p.m., I obviously didn’t have time to drive back to the office in Fort Payne and get everything done by midnight.
Instead, I typed up that game’s story from the press box, wrote another two after taking calls from a couple of our stringers – shout out to all of our stringers by the way for all the help they provide me on Friday nights, we couldn’t put together a sports extra section without your help – and emailed those stories and photos back to the office for our staff to put on my pages so we can make our deadline.
Just as I was finishing up my last story in the press box, I looked down on the field and saw a man in a golf cart driving around collecting the end zone pylons and first down markers for storage. I gave him a wave from the press box and he nodded back at me as if we were agreeing that he would know to not leave me.
Well about five to 10 minutes later, I had gotten confirmation that everything I emailed in to the office had been put on the page, meaning it was time to pack up and head home for the night.
I packed up and got about halfway down the home-side bleachers before I hear a huge bang. The lights had been shut out on me. I didn’t panic at the time and assumed that the guy I saw on the field before was standing by a gate waiting to let me out before locking up.
I then began to sweat a little as I saw what looked like red brake lights peeping through the entrance tunnel under the home-side bleachers. I quickly ran down there and saw the man standing by his parked car looking like he was about to lock up the last gate to the stadium.
I began walking towards him and yelled “Hey! Let me out of here before you lock up.”
I was certain that the man had heard me yell, but he began wrapping a chain around the doors of the gate like he was going to lock me in.
With a backpack stuffed with two big cameras and a laptop, I started running towards the gate. I yelled again just before I heard a loud metal clicking sound. The man had locked me in.
I then just lost it. My blood was boiling at this point and I began calling this clown every name in the book. If you’ve ever watched an episode of “Last Chance U” on Netflix and caught a scene where a coach is verbally ripping a player to shreds, that was me in this moment.
So there I was, standing behind a 12-foot fence and locked inside of a 12,000-seat stadium. My jaw just dropped in amazement that this man could just totally ignore me and consciously locked the gate right in front of me.
Luckily, I was able to climb one of the fences with my backpack still on, but I did rip the nice shirt I was wearing in the process. Still waiting on my check from the city of Huntsville for that shirt, by the way.
I then walked to my car and tried to get the heck out of there when I realized that I wasn’t quite out of the thick yet.
If you’ve ever been to Milton Frank Stadium, you’ll notice that all four entry ways to the parking lot are gated and guarded by ditches. I had just recently gotten the car I was in that night and wasn’t taking it through a ditch, so not only had this clown locked me inside the stadium, he just about locked my car in the parking lot as well.
I started driving in circles around the stadium trying to see a way out and contemplated just calling local police until I looked through the tree line on the east side of the parking lot. There was a disc golf course through there that had a small gravel trail towards the north end of it.
I saw it as my only option, so yes, in order to get out of Milton Frank Stadium this time last year, I had to climb a 12-foot fence and drove my car through a frisbee golf course.
Here’s to hoping none of you readers run into that kind of bad luck on this Friday the 13th.