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Automobiles: A sports writer’s most important tool

Published: Friday, Feb. 22, 2013 12:10 p.m. CST • Updated: Friday, Feb. 22, 2013 12:31 p.m. CST
(Shane Lucas/Daily News)
This 1999 Pontiac Grand Prix, which was also known as Ambiance, conquered multiple states and weather conditions in its loyal service, which came to an end on Jan. 30.

People skills. A strong knowledge of multiple sports. The ability to function on little sleep. Generally good looks.

These are things sports writers are either encouraged to have or are blessed with at birth that allow us to do the work we do. While this skill set certainly is important and 100 percent unofficial, there is one thing more important than all of the others — a car.

A little more than two weeks ago now, I had to make the tough decision to trade in my old car in exchange for one that would allow me to continue to do my job effectively. Sure, it’s nice to get a new car, but trading in my old one flooded me with on-the-job memories that reminded me that a car really is a sports writer’s most important tool.

My former car, nicknamed Ambiance for the reddish hue it produced when it was unlocked (yes, I’m aware it’s weird to name everything), came into my possession my sophomore year of college and lasted me up until the end of last month. I way more than doubled the mileage and went through numerous repair struggles with it, but the fact remains it gave me, and the sports journalism industry, nearly eight years of loyal service.

For those unaware, sports writers do a LOT of driving. I have covered Jasper County with north-south and east-west trips more times than I can count, and when the postseason rolls around for just about any sport, we never know where we’re going to end up. The only thing we can really depend on is that our cars will get us to those places safe and sound _ which makes a few stories come to mind.

One of my first days of my first job in Kentucky was a volleyball match at one of the local high schools. I got to the school way to early and decided to kill some time by going to a gas station, but when I got back to my car, the battery had died. After realizing I didn’t have jumper cables or any of the other necessities, a friendly custodian helped me disconnect the battery and take it a local shop. 

I bought a new battery, the custodian helped me put it in, and I still barely had time to make it to the volleyball match. What a great day that was. Southern hospitality at its finest, I guess.

After a fresh set of tires a few months later, Ambiance was ready to conquer the rolling hills of Kentucky. It took about three-and-a-half hours to get to the Louisville-Lexington area from the town I was working in, and I made that drive on more than one occasion. I was also able to return to Iowa twice in my year-long stay there, including one 12-hour one-way trip to Manning for a wedding. So, needless to say, I was getting plenty of quality time with my car.

The strain on my car didn’t get much easier when I started in Newton, especially with baseball and softball season in full swing. However, Ambiance just kept on rolling. I had one setback last winter when I got a flat tire on my way up to Baxter on what seemed like one of the coldest days of the year. After nearly freezing while putting on my spare tire, the spare went flat immediately after I started driving on it. Great.

I even felt like my car went through some kind of inititiation after some Newton Senior High students wroted “2012” on my back windshield during a volleyball match last year. For those of you reading this, you know who you are...

Although I knew my car wasn’t in the best shape by then, I started noticing signs like increasingly bad gas mileage suddenly-disfunctional power windows as a sign that Ambiance might soon have to go out to pasture. So, last month, I ran it through the car wash, vacuumed out the year’s worth of crumbs, old french fries and other remnants from quick, late-night meals under the driver’s seat, and took it in for a trade-in.

Now I’ve seen and heard stories about people sobbing when they trade in their old cars because they had such a connection, but I was well past the fond memories stage with my car at that point. Still, it was a little strange to think the car I spent nearly all of my college years and the entirety of my professional career in wasn’t going to be around anymore. 

It was a lot like saying goodbye to an old player or coach that had been with a team for years. Even if that player/coach had overstayed their welcome, you still remember the good times when they’re gone.

So, this is my way of wishing happy trails to Ambiance and all of its years of quality service. However, with a fresh set of wheels, I can be confident that my car won’t break down on the way back from Pleasantville or Brooklyn or somewhere in between.

Although I guess I don’t have control of high school students writing on it though, do I? 

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