Wild day in the Valley of the Sun
Wednesday was one of the wildest days in my professional career. Sometimes people think sportswriters live glamorous lives, and I guess they are right. But sometimes that glamor comes at a cost of some grit and stress. Let me take you through Wednesday.
4:30 a.m.: Wakeup call to head to the airport. I got ready, then did one last weigh-in of my suitcase — 46 pounds, just under the 50-pound limit. I rarely check bags; I travel light. But eight days in the desert required not just a big big, but a honking big bag.
5:30 a.m.: Check bag at Will Rogers, hoping I could get some Southwest cooperation. We were headed to Phoenix via two tickets. OKC to Dallas, then Dallas to Phoenix through Austin. My hope? Southwest would check my bags all the way to Phoenix, although technically you’re supposed to get your bags in Dallas and re-check them on to Phoenix. The helpful woman at the Southwest counter helped me out. Southwest, as you know, is one of my all-time favorite companies. You can always count on friendly, helpful folks at Southwest.
6 a.m.: I make it through security and hook up with my comrades. Ebony Jackson was right in front of me through security. MKB (Mike Baldwin) was waiting for us at the gate. Chopper (John Helsley) joined us there soon, and Blueblood (Jake Trotter) was right behind him. Good start to the trip, getting everyone there in plenty of time for a 6:25 a.m. flight.
6:20 a.m.: I had checked us all in at 6:30 a.m. Christmas morning, so we got to board the plane relatively early; we had boarding passes 30-34. No. 30 got to board first, and that was MKB, and he got the best seat in the house, the seat with no seat in front of you on the exit row. Oh well; he’s 6-foot-5. He could use the leg room.
6:40 a.m.: As we took off, I sat with Ebony and discussed our multimedia plan for Arizona. We are doing a daily live show on the Internet, and I’ve got a part in a taped show Ebony is doing. It’s really quite interesting, all the various things we’re putting together for the web.
7:20 a.m.: We land in Dallas, and Chopper, MKB and Ebony head out, because in OKC they checked their bags curbside, and the skycaps don’t send the bags all the way to your final destination if you have two tickets. You can make 14 stops, and so long as it’s all on one ticket, you’ll be golden. But have two tickets, and they don’t budge. That meant me and Blueblood could remain inside security, but they had to exit and go through the baggage process again. They left us with most of their carry-ons, so between the two of us, we had four laptops and two video cameras. We were loaded down.
7:45 a.m.: Me and Blueblood had a little breakfast at Chili’s, which was remarkably empty, considering the Chili’s at Love Field almost always has a huge line, even in the morning. Over pancakes and French toast, me and Blueblood discussed OU football coverage in the desert and came up with a pretty good plan.
8:15 a.m.: Back at our gate, Blueblood gets a call from one of the guys. They are standing in a line described as 1,000-people long, waiting to check bags. No way they are going to make our 8:40 flight. Uh-oh. Missing your flight the day after Christmas is travel suicide. People all over the terminal were trying to reschedule flights. On our very flight, OSU’s Perrish Cox was trying to get on, because he had missed his flight to Phoenix. The Southwest employees were trying to be optimistic with people, but you could tell anyone left behind was headed for a long day in this or some other airport.
8:30 a.m.: We still have no airplane to take us to Austin, so for one of the few times in my life, I was cheering for a plane to be late. I kept thinking how me and Blueblood would get all the work done when we hit the ground Wednesday, and I kept thinking what a miserable day those guys were in for, unable to even work since we had their laptops.
8:35 a.m.: We have an airplane, and my heart sank.
8:40 a.m.: Ebony comes striding down the terminal, just as Flight 513 started loading. Chopper was right behind him, then MKB. They made it.
9:30 a.m.: After a delay in taking off, we fly to Austin, and I sit with Chopper, in the exit row, thanks be to God, and we discuss balancing OU, OSU, Indiana and West Virginia. The two of us will be covering all four teams, and we need to synchronize our schedules.
10 a.m.: We land in Austin but stay on the plane. Blueblood moves over to sit with us in the exit row, with MKB and Ebony on the other side. We’ve got total command of the passengers’ safety in case of crash. An actress from New York sits between MKB and Ebony; later we found out she told them she had been on One Life to Live, which is not good karma when you’re thinking about what to do in an airplane emergency situation. OSU center Andrew Lewis boards the plane. I wonder how much trouble Perrish Cox will be in.
11 a.m.: On the flight to Phoenix, we finish out our daily plan, then I start typing on my Page 2 items, a series of short bits and pieces. Anymore, I need the Internet for almost anything I write, so I’ve got a lot of holes. I also finish off reading the papers and nodding off and wondering why it’s not 11 p.m. already.
Noon Phoenix time: We land at Sky Harbor Airport and go find our bags at what seems to be the most crowded baggage claims in America. We chat with Lewis for awhile, and we notice Juaquin Iglesias’ bag keeps circling the carousel. We don’t know if he was on our plane or not — we didn’t see him — but Juaquin, if you’re missing your stuff, I’ll bet Southwest has it near Baggage Claim 2. We head out for the rental-car headquarters.
1:30 p.m.: After a long ordeal at E-Z Rental Car — no Southwest by any means — we get our two cars and head to our hotel, the Camelback Inn. Traffic in Phoenix is light, which is wonderful news. The Camelback is an old resort sitting next to Camelback Mountain; has a real 1940s look to it. We get checked in, but while some of the guys go grab some lunch, I get to work.
2 p.m.: I go to Fiesta Bowl media headquarters at the Camelback and gather up all the football brochures prepared for the bowl game and get my credentials prepared. It’s sort of a long process; they shoot photos on sight and put them on your press pass. I didn’t know there was a run on bogus press passes for the bowls Insight and Fiesta. They tried to give me the media gift — a pair of what I guess is designer sunglasses — but I don’t accept those media gifts. Seems a silly tradition to me. We shouldn’t be accepting gifts from the people we cover.
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