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Game day blackouts and two close encounters

Florida had just narrowed Alabama's lead when night turned to day above our roof.

We ruled out lightning. Clear sky. But a thunderous crash did follow the flash — the sound of a computer subwoofer blowing up with the power surge.


I had waited all day for this football game — No. 1 vs. No. 2 for a chance at the national championship — and now we were scrambling in the dark to find candles and matches.

When it seemed the power wasn't likely to come back on, I decided to drive to a sports bar. But when I opened the front door to leave, a small bird that had been nesting in a Christmas wreath flew inside. It panicked and began crashing into sliding glass doors and mirrors while our granddog barked nonstop.

As much as I wanted to see the football game, I couldn't leave without setting the bird free. But I couldn't catch it. I coaxed it to the top of the front door a few times, but it didn't seem to understand that the idea was to go out, not in. It flew to the Christmas tree.

Eventually the exhausted bird dropped to the back of our couch and we dropped a dish towel over it. The ordeal ended with the bird flying outside. We took down the wreath.

By the time I got to the bar, the game was out of reach. Alabama had ended the longest winning streak in the nation.

The electricity came back on just in time for the game I really cared about — the 8 p.m. clash between Nebraska and my alma mater, Texas. I put on my burnt orange Longhorn shirt, opened a beer and assumed my position in front of the TV.

As the ball sailed on the opening kickoff, the lights went out — again. This never happens in my neighborhood. But now it seemed the only way to watch the game would be to return to the smoky bar.

Fortunately, just as I was about to leave, the power returned. Texas was struggling in a game it was supposed to win easily. First Florida, now Texas. Could I blame that unexplained explosion that stole our power? Is it bad luck when a bird flies in your house?

Texas survived by a point on a last-second field goal. Whatever cosmic forces were at work Saturday night in the Stevens house spared my Longhorns. Not that I'm superstitious, but those forces seemed to linger into Monday morning.

My neighbor across the street started his old Pontiac Fiero, a low-slung two-seater with a loud muffler, and let it warm up while he went inside for a minute. I'm used to hearing the car each morning, because Chuck, a retiree in his mid 70s, leaves early for golf. This time the muffler seemed especially loud and close. I opened the bathroom window and was shocked to see the black Fiero against the house, motor running.

I thought the worst as I ran outside to check on the car, figuring I'd see Chuck slumped behind the wheel.

The car sat empty.

I turned off the key, ran across the street and found Chuck on the phone with police, reporting his stolen car. We figured it had somehow slipped into gear and idled backward at an angle, narrowly missing the car in my driveway and my neighbor's camphor tree before stopping against the hedge on the side of my house. How the zigzagging car missed doing any damage is beyond me.

As I joked with Chuck to get his car off my lawn, the experience still left me chilled — and grateful he was okay. By comparison, those football games didn't seem so important.

Game day blackouts and two close encounters 12/08/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 8, 2009 8:57pm]
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