ROMULUS Mich. - Yes, you read that right.
A not-so-funny thing happened on my way to the Penn State-Illinois game, landing me right here, in the shadow of Detroit Metropolitan Airport.
We always travel to cover Penn State games on Fridays, in the event of some occasional and perhaps inevitable delays.
But I made a rare exception since I don't want to miss any of my son Adam's games during his senior season with the Hollidaysburg Area High School football team.
Most suspected the Illinois game would be on the Big Ten Network, which meant a noon start, so I thought I probably couldn't get there. But when ABC announced it for 3:30 two weeks ago, and I found a good rate out of State College, it appeared doable.
I awoke at 4 a.m. Saturday, feeling a little bit like Rocky Balboa (minus the yoke), crawled in the car and arrived at the University Park Airport at 5:30 for a 6:15 flight.
It was an ambitious day, I knew, because I had to fly to Detroit, connect to Indianapolis and then drive two hours to Champaign. Without delays, though, I would have landed in Indy at 10:10 a.m. and been in the Illinois press box 90 minutes before kickoff.
No such luck.
I was greeted in State College with a sign that said "crew delay" on the Delta flight. The new departure time was 7:40 - my original Detroit arrival time.
The counter attendant said if I didn't make the 9 a.m., I'd be "backed up" on the 10:35 a.m. from Detroit to Indy - which still should have gotten me there.
So I caught a few winks until one of my snores woke me around 7, just in time to go through security and board.
A friendly woman appeared to be in my seat. My mistake: It was her seat, and, thankfully, I got the window. After futilely attempting to sleep a little more, we struck up a conversation. Turns out she's a manager at the Altoona Holiday Inn Express, also a resident of Duncansville and a parent of three.
Though we were now on the runway, our 7:40 liftoff was delayed by fog. That seemed strange since a flight to Philadelphia took off at 6:30.
When 7:40 became 8:10 and the captain had no definite departure time, it was clear I wasn't making the 9 a.m. connection, and when 8:10 became 8:50, the 10:35 was in jeopardy, too.
If this flight doesn't depart soon, I suggested to the flight attendant, I might as well get off now and watch the game at home. Is that possible? She took my boarding pass and approached the cockpit for an answer.
I figured it was a longshot, that even though State College is a small airport and this was a small plane (40ish seater), we had inched a few hundred yards away from the terminal, and they weren't going to just drop the steps and let me jump out.
That, unfortunately, was one thing I was right about.
We took off at 9:20, and the flight attendant, who was wearing some Ohio State gear, finally came back and said they were thinking about going back to the gate for me but then the pilot got orders to roll.
We cut through the fog and, seemingly within seconds, were in blue skies. When we didn't land until 10:30, I had missed that connection, too, and was up the creek - you know which one - without a paddle.
There were no connections, even directly into Champaign, that could get me there for the game (kickoff or even the second half).
The earliest flight back to State College was 6 p.m., but that didn't work because my primary mission was to see the game - if not at Illinois then, dammit, somewhere.
I called Penn State Sports Information Director Jeff Nelson to assure that the game would be televised here. He said it was, that Michigan vs. Michigan State was at noon.
I called usual travel partner Cory Giger, who was already on site, to alert him.
"Oh, man," he said. "I'd trade positions with you in a heartbeat. That's an award-winning column."
I reminded him not many columns written by writers who awoke at 4 a.m. win awards.
We both laughed, and I told Cory that I'd do the highs and lows from my hotel room at the Best Western, Romulus.
I can hardly wait for today's return flight home.
Rudel can be reached at 946-7527 or firstname.lastname@example.org.