written: January 12, 2013
There is nothing like capping off a 9 day, 4 game, 3 city, 5 layover road trip with a turbulence laden departure out Reno. A bucking 737 that leaves you paralyzed wondering whether or not you would have the courage to exchange your armrest death grip for the barf bag. You know the flight. The one where Mr. 20C—innocent fear beading on his forehead—nervously scans across the aisle for some mutual concern. “Shoulda uh brought my spurs,” he manages to chuckle. No translation necessary, sir; I am scared shitless as well. I smile back. Temporary discomfort and cancelled beverage service aside, we landed without incident in the real Las Vegas.
The road trip featured plenty of turbulence of its own. Coming off just our second win of the season, the journey began with a tumultuous travel day from Boise to Austin. There we would face a team that had beat us handily in 4 out of 4 attempts. A poorly timed foul and even worse defensive rebounding forced us into a chair gripping final 49 seconds featuring two missed free throws and three consecutive defensive stands. Facing the prospects of 0-5, not to mention an 8 hour bus ride immediately after the game, we scrapped and clawed our way to a last second 2 point victory.
With a win to sleep on, the bus ride to Tulsa was kind to most of us—not all. A midnight arrival on the morning of a back-to-back has an odd way of showing its true colors. This time around, they were the pale grey of our teammate’s face buried neck deep in a trashcan and whatever hue breakfast (and dinner?) he regurgitated. Right around the time our team cornered the hotel’s Emergen-C market, we also learned that that evening’s opponent had three of their most talented draft picks assigned from the NBA heavens. (Any recent Hollywood film featuring greek mythology or demi-gods might give a bit more insight into this “assignment” phenomenon.) Challenge accepted. We played our best basketball of this young season and ran away with the game in the fourth.
Our aggressive market share move on immune system fortifying supplements proved too late. By time we arrived in Reno (after layovers in Houston and Las Vegas), I had succumbed to sinus pressure, nausea, and an asthma-like wheeze. And when I looked in the mirror the next morning, I too was a mucus dripping zombie that only took DayQuil and fluids. As for the team, we took two NBA assignments of our own.
To be frank, we lost both games of the back-to-back in uninspiring fashion. Just when a smoother ride appeared imminent, we produced two cookie-cut games where we traded baskets through three, then simply imploded in the fourth. No rhythm. No flow. No wins. Just as quickly as we strung together a hard fought three game winning streak, we were handed two cabin rocking losses. No way to end such a marathon road trip.
So Instead the trip ends with a revelation courtesy of the updrafts rolling over the Sierra Nevada mountains. As we are climbing to 10,000 feet, electronics freedom, and beyond, there is not much you can do about turbulence; however smooth or violent, it is always there. Sometimes we hit disruptive pockets of rising warm air. Sometimes opponents surprise you with three new players. And just as the pilot cannot always avoid the storm clouds, the game must go on when there is an unexpected (zombie)virus outbreak. In this game, we control what we can control. For everything else, we pay attention to the illuminated signs and make sure our seatbelt is strapped low and tight on our waist. The trip did not end the way any of us wanted, but in the midst of the in-(flight) season turbulence, I am confident because I know we are still ascending.