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November 12, 2013 8:54 am

On the road: A socially inept sportswriter’s weekend in Casper

Written by Dante Geoffrey

Two weekends ago I was one of the fortunate few who witnessed the PHS volleyball team battle every step of the way to a state title in Casper.

 

For about an hour and a half at a time, the Panthers played with the determination, heart and grit needed to best the top competition Wyoming had to offer. It was sporting entertainment at its purest.

The 22 hours between games, however, were a free-for-all of options being navigated by one of the worst time-managers this side of — what’s that? This column was due yesterday?! Aw crap ... OK, here we go.

I’d like to tell you about my two nights in Casper. (Also the the title of my screenplay for a ghost-themed adult movie.)

OK, perfect. Now that I’ve done away with 80 percent of the readers, I can move on assuming those of you who are still with me, are with me to the end.

I arrived to Wyoming’s most beautiful, famous, city-like city with my heart as full as my bladder. Which is to say, very. I had high hopes for my stay, but first I had to pee.

I headed straight for the Casper Events Center, where the Panthers were starting their tournament run against the Eastern Conference’s top team, the Rawlins Outlaws. The fourth-ranked Panthers were technically underdogs, and were trying to avoid being the first team sent to the consolation bracket. A four-set victory sent Powell to the semifinals, and me on a search for a hotel room.

The hotel I stayed at during the boys’ state basketball tournament was more than nice enough. Clean rooms, close to the events center and front desk staffed with young women who seemed to know just exactly how to make me feel like an idiot.

Me: Hi, do you have any free rooms?

Her: Free rooms?

Me: Uh, um, I mean, like, available?

Her: (Unblinking stare.)

OK, not the smoothest start, but the weekend is young. Time to unpack and then go find a restaurant where I’m sure nothing I say will make me look like a little boy in the eyes of a bewildered woman.

A couple friends recommended a restaurant that I’ve decided not to name, but will describe. It’s a friendly chain for families but with a cool atmosphere if you just want to go with fellas (this is what I assume it says in every employee’s handbook), and no square inch of wall space is left uncovered by license plates, “vintage” signs, Looney Tunes memorabilia and other various forms of accepted trash.

I was surprised/thrilled by how dead it was at 6:30 p.m., and walked up to the seemingly bored hostess (another young woman).

Me: Hi, I’d like to order some food to go. Can I look at a menu?

Her: Sure. (Hands me menu slightly larger than an issue of the Tribune.)

Me: (opens menu, waits a beat) Excuse me, can I take a look at your bigger menu? (Assumes face that says, “Yup, NAILED that joke!”)

Her: (Long pause ... ) Bigger menu?

Me: Uh, um ... I’m just kidding. (Buries face in menu/road atlas.)

Dinner was fine. I ate a who cares and watched movies in my hotel room until I fell asleep at a reasonable hour.

Falling asleep early is normally a great triumph for me, but in this instant it was a huge mistake. A smart me would have stayed up until 4 a.m., slept until noon, and not have had eight hours to kill in Casper before the next game starts.

But I decided to look on the bright side. I’m rarely in Casper, and the weather was gorgeous, so I decided to make the most of it — by spending two hours in a dark movie theater.

I bought a ticket for the critically acclaimed “Gravity,” because the idea of contemplating certain death in the silent void of space made me feel less alone.

That evening the Panthers did away with Jackson, the West’s No. 2 seed and the Panthers’ strongest competition in the 3A Northwest Division, in a relatively easy four sets. Powell was cruising to a Saturday matchup with Douglas in the title game, which meant another night in Casper for me.

Well, I can handle one night locked in a hotel room, but not two. Time to see what downtown Casper has to offer!

NOTE: It offers a place to watch 15 minutes of a basketball game before heading right back to the hotel room.

Though Saturday was only my third, and final, day in Casper, I started to think that maybe I was living a weird version of “Groundhog Day,” in which I always think I’m about to leave, but never actually do.

This version of the movie would be like the 1993 original in that it stars a charming and irreverent leading man who has humorous interactions with wait staffs, but would lack two key elements of what made the original so good, namely a plot and a beautiful woman I always thought was Irish but turns out to be American and of Scottish descent.

Things turned around for me during my final lunch outing in Casper. After seating me, the waitress kindly told me about the menu, and explained to me that “Calzones are like pizzas but rolled up.”

Wyoming, you have really broadened my horizons.

I attempted to enter the events center for that final match just as I had the previous two days. I walked in the court-level entrance, flashed my media pass and ... was told to follow a security guard so we could talk with someone in charge.

Security guard to boss: I’ve never seen a pass like this.

I explained it was from the Powell Tribune.

Boss to security guard: Oh yeah, it’s fine, it’s just his school pass.

It’s not a school pass. And I am still not a high school student.

But the problem was resolved and I sat down, before soon being told to move because I was on the podium (first time in my life!).

Ten minutes later I heard this over the PA: “Dante Frattini, please report to the scorer’s table.”

Welp, it’s happening. I’m getting kicked out, but I’m jacked up on two Red Bulls and ready to cause a scene and scream “Nobody treats the Cody Enterprise like this!”

But it turns out I just dropped my debit card and the nice people at the CEC wanted to make sure I got it back.

Well, we all know how it ends from here. The Panthers go home winners and I go home with more dignity than I deserve. And I definitely didn’t leave out the most embarrassing Dante-waitress interaction. So don’t ask about it.

See you in Laramie for state football, restaurants!

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