Four incredible minutes


I really don’t have a “bucket list.”

I’ve been blessed over the years to see and do some incredible things. I’ve had some awesome opportunities.

Some of those we could easily call “bucket-list” events, but I have not gone out of my way to make some of these things happen.

I would never have had a 200-mph ride in an Indy Car as a possibility, but I was in the right place at the right time and caught a ride with Mario Andretti.

Certainly a bucket-list thing.

But I don’t really want to climb Mt. Everest or get launched off an aircraft carrier, or go snorkeling with sharks.

This whole runup takes me back a week to four minutes that was never on a list of things to see or do, but because I was in the right place at the right time, I have a genuine lifetime memory.

And I know that lots of you were in the same spot.

It was the eclipse.

I made no plans to go anywhere to see the eclipse, except to get a set of the safety glasses (just in case).

For one thing, I wasn’t sure where I would be when the eclipse happened. With spring football and the travel involved, I could have easily been coming back from the East or even West coast and missed the whole thing. There were timing issues, and frankly, I wasn’t that terribly interested.

For one, totality was only going to be four minutes, and it seemed a lot of work to be somewhere for a four-minute event. Heck, timeouts in college football run four minutes, and it’s all I can do to get some stats ready and maybe get a drink of water.

As it happened, karma was on my side.

I was in New York. I had a noon flight that got me back to Indy at 2 pm. I was off the plane by 2:20 so I decided to pull up a spot on the grass outside the terminal. There were maybe 4/500 people doing the same thing – sitting in the warm sunshine, simply waiting.

Totality was set for Indy at 3:06, so I just waited and looked up some eclipse info on my phone.

Then it happened.

A minute or two after 3, it started getting a little darker and I started hearing the birds sing. A pair of rabbits ran across the lawn acting like they were heading home. I thought one of the little bunnies had his pajamas on…

A minute later, it was much darker, and all the parking lot lights came on.

At 3:06, right on schedule, it got dark as any night, and all I noticed was the incredible quiet. No one said anything, as we marveled in what we were observing.

I looked up then, and saw the entire rim of the sun around the moon, and the bright red spot at about 7 o’clock on the sun’s face. As it turned out, it was some incredible astrological extra because of the exact distance of the moon away and some solar ejections.

Whatever it was, it was incredibly awesome.

At 3:10, it started to get light quickly and by 3:20, I was in my car getting ready to head home.

Now, that turned out to be a lucky move also, as I heard later that the interstate going west as well as 136 toward Brownsburg were all jammed full later in the afternoon.

When my plane landed, we came in directly over the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and it looked like Carb Day down there!

I read that around 50,000 folks gathered at the track, and I was told that the traffic getting away was worse than any race day.

Some things never change,

But one thing did change, and that was my gratitude for being at the right place at the right time to see that four minutes of God’s wonder.

There were a couple fun moments at LaGuardia Airport, one connected to the eclipse and one kind of.

On Eclipse Day, as I waited for my flight, a reporter from the New York Post came up and started asking me questions.

The reason for that is because I was wearing a NASA hat that a friend gave me. The reporter had gotten a last-second change of venue because of weather, and was heading to Indy to see what he could see.

I gave him some places to stop and get something to eat or drink in downtown Indy, and just told him to “look up” when he got to Indy to see the eclipse,

Last Sunday, waiting for another flight home, and again wearing my NASA hat, an American Airlines flight attendant just plopped down in the seat next to me and started talking to me like I ran NASA. She asked all kinds of questions about the eclipse, and we had fun few minutes before she got on her plane headed for North Carolina.

There were a bunch of Montgomery County folks who found their way to Phoenix for the Final Four. I’m sure you have read some posts or seen some pictures.

I’m going west for football the next three weekends. It’s back to Los Angeles for this stats guy.

Where everything gets eclipsed sometimes.

Safe travels

Jeff Nelson is a frequent contributor to the Journal Review and works professionally for Fox Sports assisting with NFL broadcasts and the Indiana Pacers.