Monday, June 17, 2013

Traveling Man

You know how you know you got up early?

When you've been to the Philadelphia airport and back, and it's not even 6 am, that's how.

TigerBlog Jr. had to go to Alabama yesterday morning, and he left Philly on a 6 am flight. So let's do the math: flight at 6 - getting there at least 90 minutes before the flight - 45 minute drive to airport = getting up very, very early.

TBJ is competing in NFL playoffs this week, and if you guessed "NFL" stands for "National Forensics League," then you would be correct.

Oh, and it's forensics as in speech and debate, not as in "CSI."

TBJ competes in the speech part, in various events. At the national championships this week, he's in a duo event. In other competitions, he's done a solo event, including one where he had to memorize a famous speech and recite it.

In that case, his speech was Jim Valvano's inspirational speech at the ESPY's, the "don't ever give up" speech. It's more than eight minutes long.

The NFL - TB isn't sure how it gets away with calling itself the NFL - has drawn students from all 50 states to the national championships.

Obviously, most had to get there by airplane.

Because of a scheduling conflict, TBJ had to travel separately from the other competitors from his school, who all left on Saturday. Instead, he had to go by himself, for his first solo flying experience, complete with having to change planes in Orlando.

So what do you tell a 15-year-old about flying by himself?

TB gave him all the usual rules - don't carry anything for anyone, be careful with your money, get on the right plane - in the days leading up to the trip.

Then it was off to Philly. At 3:42 a.m. On Fathers' Day, no less.

By the time the car was parked in the short term lot and his bag was checked, it was 4:50. And time for him to get on the security line.

When TB saw how many people were lined up, he thought he'd entered into another dimension, one where time didn't exist. It was a flood of people, all getting on extraordinarily early flights. TB wanted to get a bullhorn and yell "does anyone here realize it's not even 5 in the morning yet?"

TB of course couldn't go through security, so he had to say goodbye there. He asked TBJ if he was nervous, and TBJ replied "about what?"

TB told him to text him when he got through security (which turned out to be at 5:30) and then from Orlando (he received a text that said "have made land in Florida.") and ultimately Birmingham (this time it was "all I've seen of Birmingham so far is baggage claim, which is taking forever.").

TB tried to remember the first time he flew by himself, and he's pretty sure it was while he was doing college radio and Penn played at the Far West Classic in Portland.

Little did TB know that it would start a lifetime of flying to watch Ivy League basketball. And little did he know that it would be even more about flying to watch the Orange and Black team, not the Red and Blue one.

TB has been to 35 states in his life, and by his count he's been to 16 of them simply to see Ivy League basketball - 14 for Princeton and two for Penn. He's flown 21 times to other states for Ivy basketball.

For awhile he wasn't sure if he should count Kentucky, because he'd been in the airport there when Princeton played at Xavier, which is in Cincinnati. If you've ever been to that city, you know everyone says the airport is in Kentucky.

Fortunately, Princeton played at Louisville in the 2002 NIT, leaving that dilemma resolved.

He's been to Birmingham, where his son is currently competing. That was back on Dec. 15, 1998, when Princeton played at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, in a game the Tigers won 69-57.

TB's biggest memory of that game is the media food, which was more like a fine dining experience.

Oh, and Princeton played great, shooting nearly 50% as a team for the game (22 for 45, including 10 for 18 in the second half) with four players in double figures. TB will now give you a few paragraphs to guess which four players.

As an aside, when he does this, he often forgets to remember to go back and give the answer, so he'll try not to do that again.

Anyway, here are the 16 states that TB has been to simply to see Ivy basketball:

Alabama, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon (Penn), Tennessee (Penn), Texas, Wisconsin.

Here are the other states he's had to fly to to see Princeton basketball, in addition to something else in that state at some other point of his life:
California, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina.

Oh, and the answer: Brian Earl (18), Gabe Lewullis (13), Mason Rocca (12) and Chris Krug (10).

TBJ gets back Friday.

His flight gets into Philly at 5:30.

Traffic figures to be worse than it was getting there yesterday.

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