For a reporter, sometimes the best thing that happens during a big game has nothing to do with what takes place on the court.
This was the case for me when I was working for The Ball State Daily News in 2008 and covering the Ball State men’s volleyball team. No. 6 Ball State was on an 11-match winning streak and playing a road match against No. 1 Penn State.
It was one of the biggest matches of the season, and I had decided earlier that week that I wanted to make the 10-hour drive from Muncie, Ind., to University Park, Pa., to cover the match.
The only problem was I did not have a car at the time. So I asked my girlfriend Ali if I could use her car and was pretty easily even able to talk her into traveling with me to Pennsylvania for the Saturday night match in late-March.
What happened in that match almost four years ago is a complete blur to me now. Penn State convincingly swept Ball State and the only remarkable feat that I can vividly recall was the Cardinals’ bus breaking down resulting the match start time being delayed two hours.
The thing for me that most stands out from that trip was my time with Ali. The 20 hours we spent during the round-trip car ride talking to each other and listening to her music. The rundown burger place we found in the Penn State village where we ate dinner prior to the start of the match. And the relief of getting back to Muncie after a long drive and her reminding me to make sure that the newspaper received the story I had filed.
It’s a good lesson for every guy. Any girl who is willing to spend an entire weekend in a car with you so you can attend and cover a sporting event is worth keeping.
I knew it before that weekend at Penn State. I knew it during that weekend. And I know it now. Ali was the perfect match for me.
Today after five years of dating, I finally proposed to Ali — and thankfully she said yes.
Ali and I started dating when we were journalism majors at Ball State, and I quickly began to realize that she was the best thing to ever happen to me.
She has helped make me a better individual and the type of person I’ve always wanted to become in my life. Ali also has been my biggest supporter throughout everything I’ve done the last five years — even when I didn’t think I could do it.
I knew on our first date in November 2006 that I was the luckiest person in the world to be with Ali, and since then my love for her has continued to grow every day. Five years into our relationship she continues to amaze me every day with her kindness, humbleness, generosity and the love she shows towards everyone in her life.
Many readers of Off the Block have never met Ali. However, her influence is felt all over this website.
After I left the Daily News and began my internship at the Indiana Statehouse in January, I thought I was done covering men’s volleyball. However, it was Ali who noticed how much I missed covering the sport and encouraged me to start this blog.
She was not only instrumentally in helping me come up with the website’s name Off the Block, but she even designed the logo and website — a benefit of her also being a talented graphics-designer.
Over the past year, Ali has been a sounding board for me and this website. Often I’ll call her to get her thoughts on a new idea I have for the site. And for the benefits of all the readers she is able to help rein in some of my crazier ideas before they ever get published.
Ali is not only a sounding board for this website, but a person I can talk to about anything in my life. She has been there for me in both good and bad times.
People always ask me why I cover men’s volleyball. I usually will tell them that I have a soft spot for college men’s volleyball in my heart. It was one of my first beats as a reporter and the sport grew on me. However, that spot in my heart for men’s volleyball isn’t even 1 percent as big as the spot for Ali.
Where Off the Block and I will be one, five, 10 or 20 years from now, I honestly do not know. One thing is certain though, the person who I want by my side for the rest of my life is Ali — and I’m the most blessed person in the world to have that.
Vinnie Lopes is the editor of Off the Block. He can be contacted via Twitter at @vinnielopes and at firstname.lastname@example.org.