Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Whew...what a week!
Since moving to the sunny paradise of Gainesville in mid-2007 - and not having a gig following the always buzzing Gators sports program down here - I'd found myself somewhat removed from the 24-hour adrenaline drip that covering sports full-time can provide.
Not that I'm complaining, mind you. I love it here and wish I'd moved 10 years earlier.
And it's funny, but there's something about feeling chilly on a 70-degree day in January that only a transplanted Western New Yorker-turned-Philadelphian can really appreciate.
But I'll admit, as the days drew closer to the Roy Jones Jr. card in New York - as cold and blustery as I know it can be in Manhattan in mid-January - I was getting pretty excited.
In fact, the more I thought about the 36-hour gauntlet I'd set up for myself in my dual role as weekly FitzHitz columnist and freelancing daily reporter for the Pensacola News Journal - Roy's hometown paper on Florida's northern Gulf Coast - the more the adrenaline flowed.
To document the sleep-deprived adventure, I took along my trusty steno notebook and souvenir Satchel's Pizza pen and recorded various thoughts and mental snippets as I maneuvered via plane, train and automobile from FLA to NYC and back.
Roy Jones Jr. beat Trinidad by a unanimous decision.
What follows here, in stream-of-consciousness format, are the fruits of those labors.
Friday, Jan. 18 - One day before fight
9:15 p.m. - Courtesy of the Center Ice TV package, I get to watch my beloved Edmonton Oilers slog through an ugly performance in Raleigh, N.C., site of their morale-sapping Game 7 championship loss in June 2006...which I attended. Lucky me.
When the third-period deficit reaches 4-1 this time around, I bail out.
9:47 p.m. - Switching to ESPN, I find my boxing fix, from, of all places...Key West, Fla., site of much happier events in my life. I check in for a bit, see the Jones-Trinidad weigh-in highlights, at which Roy looks impossibly in shape for a 39-year-old guy, and, to me anyway, Felix looks a bit puffy at 170 pounds.
Later, when Kelvin Davis is whacked in 55 seconds by Eric Fields, a new prospect hits the radar.
10:18 p.m. - Searching for a program that'll allow me to turn my mind off and get drowsy in advance of tomorrow's marathon, I turn to "Family Feud" re-runs on Game Show Network.
Richard Karn & Co. - including a cute little blonde from the winning family - have precisely the desired effect - putting me down for the count in no time flat.
10:50 p.m. - Night night.
Saturday, Jan. 19 - Day of the fight
4:42 a.m. - Having set the alarm for 5:30, which is bad enough considering it's an hour before I usually rise, I'm certifiably angry when I find myself wide awake another 45 minutes ahead of schedule.
Undaunted, I decide to hold out, flipping over one more time in the hopes that I'll drift away for another 20 winks.
4:56 a.m. - Having spent the last 14 minutes fully conscious and staring at the insides of my eyelids, I surrender, get vertical, pet the dog and trudge to the shower.
Why, I ask myself not so silently, do I sign up for this sort of nonsense?
5:21 a.m. - Trying desperately to make up for poor travel-agenting, I dial up Southwest Airlines in a last-ditch effort to avoid having to drive to Jacksonville to catch a plane that'll take me to Tampa and then to Philadelphia.
Subsequently, I take to a friendly, albeit clueless guy named Jerry, who ultimately tells me no changes are allowed.
5:22 a.m. - Ugh.
7:23 a.m. - One last rainy spin around the yard with beagle hound Rusty and I'm off to the Malibu and the gas station, then Jacksonville-bound.
9:15 a.m. - 86.7 miles later, it's the Jacksonville International Airport. And one shuttle bus removed from the overnight parking lot, it's Gate E6, 45 minutes before boarding.
9:30 a.m. - A clearly frustrated gate attendant announces, for the fourth time at least, that the door is about to close on a flight to Fort Lauderdale.
Then and only then, a clearly self-absorbed guy sitting 10 feet from the microphone snaps shut his cell phone, walks toward the desk and says, "I knew you wouldn't leave without me."
9:31 a.m. - If gate attendants carried guns, and if cold stares are indicative, we'd have a DOA.
10 a.m. - After somehow solving Southwest's new numerical pre-boarding scheme, the flight to Tampa fills up and eventually goes wheels-up 10 minutes ahead of schedule.
10:41 a.m. - Welcome to Tampa.
11:55 a.m. - Another hour, another departure. Two hours to Philly.
12:10 p.m. - The one time I check a seat-back pocket on a flight and it brings a reward. Cover girl for a "Spirit Magazine" feature story, only the world's hottest athlete...ice dancer Tanith Belbin.
12:11 p.m. - I join the mile-high club...if only in my mind.
12:45 p.m. - Basking in the afterglow, I enjoy a treat undiscovered in my first 38 years..a peanut butter & jelly sandwich stashed in my computer bag, at 15,000 feet.
1 p.m. - Trying to stay ahead of what'll be a tight deadline, I start pre- writing my fight story for the News Journal, anticipating a decisive Jones win.
1:21 p.m. - I'm not the world's best flyer...but hearing an announcement about turbulence and seeing the flight attendants ordered to their seats. Yikes.
1:23 p.m. - I suck it up after looking two rows up and seeing an adorable little girl - maybe 4 or so - playing with her mom as if she's having the time of her life.
1:25 p.m. - Another PB & J and all is well.
2:05 p.m. - Touch down in Philadelphia...two days short of eight months since I moved.
3 p.m. - My first tactical error of the day. Rather than waiting for a SEPTA train to my 30th Street Station connection to Amtrak, I drop $25 on a cab. Upon realizing at the station, I discover I'd misread the departure time to New York by 30 minutes, meaning I could have taken SEPTA and saved 20 bucks.
3:01 p.m. - Ugh.
3:15 p.m. - Bored while walking up and down alongside Track 6, I dial up former newspaper colleague Jeff Saukaitis and text ex-magazine crush Annie Marcelino...two of the few people I miss back in PA.
3:30 p.m. - The train arrives and the next stage begins. I wave hello to the polar bears as we pass the Philadelphia Zoo and settle in for an 86-minute ride up the Northeast Corridor.
4 p.m. - Hello, Treh-innnnnnnnnnnn.
4:25 p.m. - Cruising through Rahway, my first catnap of the day is interrupted by the train's distinct side-to-side swaying, and an accompanying shriek from an adjacent passenger. For one second, while drowsily forgetting I'm on the ground and not in the air, my heart leaps to my throat.
4:50 p.m. - My arrival in Newark corresponds with the exact moment I've run out of crackers. Naturally.
5:15 p.m. - Who'da thunk it? The overflow media interest in the fight has prompted a backup at the Garden's credential distribution table. The unlucky of us have to stand outside waiting as five people at a time are brought in and issued their passes.
5:45 p.m. - The fun never stops. The ringside media pass around my neck says "Lyle Fitzsimmons," but upon checking the list for my seat assignment, I'm nowhere to be found.
5:50 p.m. - Sent back to the John F.X. Condon Press Room, it turns out the mix-up is fairly simple. Listed in Seat E-& and representing the News Journal is "Lyle Santiago."
Meanwhile, seated elsewhere, one "Luis De Los Fitzsimmons" assumedly encounters a similar problem.
5:55 p.m. - I find my seat, about 10 feet behind HBO's Jim Lampley and comfortably in between Martin Rogers of Yahoo Sports and Bernard Fernandez of the Philadelphia Daily News.
5:56 p.m. - Home sweet home.
6:21 p.m. - First bout hits the ring. Fellow former Western New Yorker Paul Marinaccio takes on Pensacola's Gabe "Big G" Brown in an eight-round heavyweight bout.
7:15 p.m. - Two seats away from mine, I encounter Reuters writer Kieran Mulvaney, whose stuff I used to edit remotely while we worked for another Internet site, but had never met. Small world.
9:43 p.m. - As the first bout of the show's pay-per-view portion heads into the 10th of 12 rounds, it becomes apparent that the career of veteran 140- pounder DeMarcus Corley is coming to an end as he falls further behind unbeaten prospect Devon Alexander.
9:47 p.m. - "Tito, Tito, Tito" cheers erupt from the nearly 13,000 on hand, as the scoreboard's display shows Trinidad's arrival at the Garden, where he hangs a Puerto Rican flag in his dressing room and kisses it.
9:51 p.m. - Boos erupt just as loudly as Jones arrives.
10:07 p.m. - Alex Bunema and Roman Karmazin hit the ring, with the Zaire-born Bunema getting one up with the crowd by wearing a No. 10 Eli Manning jersey.
10:50 p.m. - Upset! Bunema pummels Karmazin into a corner and drops him for the second time, completing his rally with a 10th-round stoppage of the former world champion.
11:30 p.m. - My preliminary deadline for the News Journal arrives, with the main event nowhere in sight.
11:35 p.m. - An e-mail discussion with Sports Editor Bill Vilona tells me that the paper will be "held" for my story, which I'm asked to file within 15 minutes of the final bell.
Suddenly, my 1 p.m. pre-work looks a touch more wise.
11:45 p.m. - Who'da thunk it, part II. Andrew Golota and Mike Mollo engage in an entertaining 12-round brawl, smashing the over/under of 6 1/2 rounds established ESPN.com?s Dan Rafael and Showtime's Steve Farhood. I'd have bet a week's pay on the under.
Golota wins, in spite of a grotesque swelling injury to his left eye.
11:58 p.m. - Well, whaddya know, there's going to be a main event after all.
Jones and Trinidad reach the ring.
11:59 p.m. - Let me guess, Buffer's going to say "Let?s get ready to rumble."
Sunday, Jan. 20 - Fight night continues
12 a.m. - Man, do I ever miss Chuck Hull.
12:04 a.m. - The principals touch gloves. The fight begins.
12:57 a.m. - Winner by unanimous decision...Roy Jones Jr.
Time to go to work.
1:08 a.m. - I file 711 words on the fight, four minutes before my deadline.
1:20 a.m. - Don King starts his post-fight circus in the makeshift media conference area, regaling a room packed with 20 percent media and 80 percent hangers-on with his usual wordy harangue.
1:33 a.m. - Jones arrives, wearing a blue warm-up jacket, and sits at the dais alongside King.
1:58 a.m. - King finally turns over the microphone, leaving Jones to say a few words about the win and his future goals, which include a plan to fly to Wales to challenge Joe Calzaghe face to face.
2:33 a.m. - Fighting my way through dozens of wanna-bes brandishing cameras and autograph pens, I get Jones for a few one-on-one questions for my Monday story.
2:40 a.m. - Glancing at the clock, I realize I have 20 minutes to exit the Garden, head downstairs and make the platform for my 3 a.m. Amtrak ride back to Philly.
2:53 a.m. - While relaxing against a column in Penn Station, I watch as DeMarcus Corley walks by, pulling his own luggage on a cart and munching on a snack from a street vendor. Great guy.
2:55 a.m. - One place in the station is open 24 hours, Primo Capuccino, and I quickly grab myself a sandwich and an oatmeal raisin cookie for the ride.
3 a.m. - All aboard.
3:52 a.m. - Sandwich done, not impressed.
3:55 a.m. - Cookie done, very impressed.
4 a.m. - Another nap...the only way to see New Jersey.
4:31 a.m. - Back to 30th Street Station, missing SEPTA connection to the airport by two minutes.
4:42 a.m. - 24 hours in.
4:45 a.m. - Wandering up to the SEPTA platform, I note with chagrin that the automated ticket machines are out of service, leaving me to buy a ticket on the train.
4:46 a.m. - No cash on hand, I hit the nearest Wachovia ATM for a burst of traveling money.
5:02 a.m. - Dressed in a US Airways outfit, a guy walks to the top of the platform stairs and past, loudly rapping.
5:04 a.m. - Headed to the airport.
5:34 a.m. - At the airport, I reach the security gate nearly three hours before my flight is scheduled to leave.
Cross-eyed stares from the officers notwithstanding, I make it through without incident.
5:50 a.m. - I reach Gate E-6 and, to my happy surprise, find that the chairs in the area do not have individual rails separating them. Seizing the quiet opportunity, I use the computer bag as a pillow and grab another nap.
7:03 a.m. - Good morning, Philadelphia.
I wake, stretch and notice that the seating area is now filling up with travelers bound for announced flights to Aruba, Cancun, Punta Cana and San Juan.
7:41 a.m. - Finally to the counter after a seven-deep line, I grab a cinnamon- raisin bagel and an orange juice and prepare for the trip's penultimate leg.
8:10 a.m. - Wheels up from Philly, heading for Jacksonville.
8:17 a.m. - Struck by a sudden burst of creativity, I begin working on my Monday story, which I finish in only 23 minutes, providing a chance for one more cat nap.
10:15 a.m. - Final descent to Jacksonville, where the local temperature is, gasp!...36 degrees?!?!?
10:28 a.m. - Another safe landing, though it's this time followed by a Southwest song from flight attendant Jess, to the tune of "You are my sunshine, my only sunshine..." Instead, her version goes, "We are your airline, your Southwest airline."
10:50 a.m. - Shuttle bus drops me at my car.
10:52 a.m. - Reset the odometer, 86.7 miles from paradise.
12:27 p.m. - Home sweet home. When do we do it again?
Until next week...if you can't be good, be careful.
Lyle Fitzsimmons has been a professional sports journalist since 1988. He is a periodic contributor to the Dave Smith Show on Sporting News Radio (radio.sportingnews.com), provides 'In The Ring' boxing commentary for Speeding Bullet Network (speedingbulletnetwork.com) and is available for free- lance print, radio or TV assignments at firstname.lastname@example.org.