As expected this is a strange high school football year.

We knew things wouldn’t be the same because of the pandemic. Spectators arrive in their masks and are reminded to use social distancing in the stands.

The officials and some of the coaches wear masks. The players don’t wear masks. One captain from each team is allowed to go to midfield for the pregame coin toss.

Yes, things are different. But one constant from years past is the likelihood that a sportswriter will get locked in an empty stadium while writing the story on deadline.

I know firsthand because I have been locked in stadiums and fields at least six times in my sportswriting career. I once got locked in the Von Braun Center parking garage after covering hockey.

This happened to me again in opening week of this season while covering a game for AL.com. I called 911 and the police dispatcher politely relayed my call so someone could unlock the gate to free me.

It’s an occupational hazard because sportswriters are usually the last to leave. We have to write our stories while everyone else goes home or to their favorite fastfood place. Duty calls whether or not we have to spend an extra 30 minutes to an hour behind a locked gate.

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