The thing I’ll remember most about my first football game in Pendleton’s Round-Up isn’t likely to be the Buckaroos 51-3 blowout victory. Or Connor Johnson’s three passing touchdowns. Or the rain that turned half the field into slop.
The thing I’ll remember most will be the rescue I received from a guy who looked remarkably like pitching great Randy Johnson, a delightful encounter, even if it cost me $40.
The game was nearing the end of its half time homecoming bonanza and I was fumbling in my pocket for one of the two pens I bring with me on every reporting assignment. I wanted to make a note about Pendleton’s goal line stand to end the half. I found both pens — but not my keys.
We’ll flash forward to midnight where a disheveled me is glaring at the keys dangling in the ignition of my vehicle, lonely in an empty Albertson’s lot. My article for the paper finished, I’d been ferried back to the car by sports editor Matt Entrup — not the best start to our working relationship — so I could wait for a tow company. From across the railroad tracks comes my buddy “Randy,” riding in on his white stallion of a tow truck.
He’s way too jolly for this time of day.
He pops the door open in less time than it would take me to get bucked from a horse — or any kind of livestock really — back in the Round-Up. I hand over every dollar of cash I had on me, a pair of $20 bills I’d pulled from an ATM earlier that day, the money I’d planned to dedicate to brews and getting to know The Prodigal Son a little better.
“You have a good night, now,” Randy says, a Bucks logo shining from his shirt. I wish him the same, his oddly upbeat attitude infecting my own.
The point is — I think — that some things will go wrong, but there’s some sort of goofy bond I usually make through things like this. For some reason this anecdote, while a minor hit to my bank account, has endeared me to this little town that I now call home.
My name is AJ Mazzolini and I’m a Montanan. I graduated from the University of Montana’s journalism school in Missoula, Mont., this May and worked in Columbus, Ohio, this summer before taking a sports reporter job at the East Oregonian this week. I look forward to becoming part of the great local sports coverage provided by this paper and breaking a few new barriers in Pendleton sports as well.
If you see me around town or at games, feel free to stop in and say hi or chat some sports — I’ll be the tall guy with the face that looks like that one up there. I can use some new friends around these parts so don’t be afraid to say hello.
Or buy me a frothy Prodigal beer. My beverage fund is currently a little low.