Editor’s note: This is the second of a three-part series of stories told by Ronnie Carter, who was executive director of the TSSAA for 23 years before retiring in 2009. This installment of the series is written in screenplay format (INT. stands for interior camera shot; EXT. for exterior; V.O. is voice offscreen).
INT. DARK HOTEL ROOM — 5 A.M. — MAY 1994 — ESTABLISHING
A 48-year-old man is asleep in his bed. Suddenly a piercing ring shocks him awake.
RONNIE CARTER answers the phone. On the other end of the call is a reporter from a Chattanooga newspaper.
Ronnie, I apologize for bothering you, but I wanted you to know.
One of your coaches has been kidnapped.
Ronnie’s eyes fly open. Dramatic music plays. Fade to black.
INT. TSSAA OFFICES — DAY — SEVERAL MONTHS EARLIER
Ronnie sits at his desk, shuffling through papers. He holds the phone against his face with his shoulder.
This is the first year of the Spring Fling.
It is a huge change for the association.
We want everything to go right.
We need hotel space for everybody.
And these have to be nice hotel rooms.
Split screen. On the left is MERRILL ECKSTEIN of the Greater Chattanooga Sports Committee.
The wrestling tournament has been here for years.
We will have good rates for all of the schools.
We have to be sure these hotels are in the good part of town.
Whatever you do, don’t put anyone in any area of Chattanooga that is even close to scary.
We have it taken care of, Ronnie.
Great. That’s one box we can check.
INT. LAMPLIT HOTEL ROOM — 5 A.M. — MAY 1994
Ronnie puts his right hand against his forehead as he holds the phone to his ear with his left hand.
A tennis coach from University School of Nashville was kidnapped at 4 a.m.
I can tell by the tone of your voice, you aren’t joking.
I can hear the seriousness. What happened?
He couldn’t sleep.
He goes down to the front desk, and there are three guys with guns.
They’re robbing the desk clerk.
Yes, and they grabbed the coach.
They threw him in the back of their van, put a blanket over him, and drove off.
Ronnie’s mouth drops open.
But the police found the van.
At some point the kidnappers stopped and got out.
The coach sat in the van for 30 minutes or so. He was scared to leave.
He finally got out and noticed they had abandoned the van and left the keys in it.
He’s OK now.
INT. HOTEL ROOM — 8 A.M.
Ronnie is on the phone, talking to the headmaster at University School of Nashville.
I can’t get in touch with your coach.
I am so sorry this happened.
Do you know where he was staying?
Ronnie, you all are not to blame.
Our tennis coach decided he could outsmart the TSSAA and get a better rate.
He calls a hotel and goes for the best rate.
He winds up in a scary section of town.
EXT. BAYLOR HIGH SCHOOL TENNIS COURTS — LATE MORNING
Ronnie pulls his car into a parking spot at Baylor. He gets out and walks around the courts. He spots the USN tennis coach. Ronnie walks up to him and shakes his hand.
Man, are you OK?
I’m great. We’re fixing to play a match.
But it was scary last night.