I apologize for the brief hiatus since I had to travel to London for work last week. While this might sound glamorous on paper (and certainly compared to my first job out of law school where I was sent to exotic locales such as Danville and Flint, it’s a significant step-up), I didn’t have time to do any sort of sightseeing because I was working over 13 hours a day (which would have killed me if it wasn’t for the fact that I had visited all of the major touristy items in London on a previous occasion). Of course, the one thing about much of Europe is that they pay as much attention to American news as their own news, which is root of their insistence that we aren’t worldly since we don’t reciprocate. The fantastic Rod Blagojevich story was front-page news in the London tabloids and at the top of the hour on the BBC all week long with the tie to Barack Obama’s Senate seat (everyone over there LOVES our President-elect, if you hadn’t figured that out already – he’s seriously just behind The Beatles in the U.K. exultation power rankings). Also, thanks to Sky Sports 2 (the Deuce!), I was able to watch the start of the Bears-Saints game at 1 a.m.London time last Thursday evening/Friday morning (Minneapolis Red Sox aptly pointed out that the British have greater access to NFL Network games than Americans) prior to falling asleep. Interestingly enough, former Bear Shaun Gayle provides studio commentary for NFL games in the U.K. – apparently, there is enough of a cult following for American football (along with the presence of ex-pats) over there that the NFL gets pretty good coverage. (It’s better than, say, coverage of the English Premier League over here. Speaking of which, my only disappointment from the trip was that my work schedule prevented me from seeing Chelsea play a Champions League game in the middle of the week, knowing full well that Chelsea fans brought soccer hooliganism to new heights during the 1980s.) As far as British television was concerned, it felt as if though I never left Chicago.
Anyway, I fell asleep in the middle of the second quarter of the Bears game and when I woke up the next morning, I got to embark on a parents-from-Home-Alone-esque path to get home to Chicago. When I arrived at the airport, I found out that my Virgin Atlantic flight from Heathrow to O’Hare was canceled due to “technical problems” (AKA the company wanted to consolidate a couple of less-than-full trans-Atlantic flights to save some money), which meant that I would need to have a stop-over in the Seventh Airport Gateway to Hell (AKA Dulles Airport outside of Washington, DC, which is not to be confused with the Airport Taxi Line to Hell at Las Vegas International) to transfer to a United flight to Chicago. (Note that while I’m a cost-conscious consumer in general, I will ALWAYS pay for a direct flight when it’s my own money- I don’t have any tolerance for that transfer bullshit. When it’s a company-paid flight on an expense account, as in this case, a direct flight is my God-given fucking right. My indignation at Virgin Atlantic’s callousness in trying to tell me that having a transfer would “only” result in me getting home a couple of hours later than expected was only tempered by the fact that any rash action would likely be characterized as an “international incident”.) At that point, I was in “whatever” mode and simply relieved that I wouldn’t be stranded overseas.
After having a pretty productive flight from a personal enrichment perspective (I finished up Malcolm Gladwell’s new book “Outliers”, who also currently has a great piece in the New Yorker comparing the difficulties in evaluating who will become successful NFL quarterbacks and schoolteachers, and watched both “Wall-E” and “Tropic Thunder” for the first time – all are highly recommended), I arrived at the Seventh Airport Gateway to Hell. Since I was coming off of an international flight, I got to go through the glorious process of having to sit in line at customs, exit the secured area, pick up my luggage, check-in to my connecting flight and drop off my luggage, and then enter through the security checkpoint again. Luckily, I had a whole twenty minutes to do all of this before my flight back to Chicago left. As I sprinted across the corridors of the Seventh Airport Gateway to Hell and got to the front of the security line, the lovely TSA guard (AKA a Jawa without a brown robe) informed me with almost a certain sense of glee that my flight had been selected for provisional screening. So, as my connecting flight was making a last call for boarding, I got to be pulled off to the side to patted down and have my bags thoroughly checked. (I very politely informed another TSA guard who was a complete dead-ringer for Scott Van Pelt that I completely understood that this was a “necessary procedure” and just wanted him to be aware that my flight was about to leave. He checked my ticket and responded, “Oooh. I guess you’re right. I guess we’ll try our best to do this quickly so that you can possibly make your flight.” Mr. Van Pelt then proceeded to sit down in his chair for another five minutes before he realized that there were no other guards available and finally decided to start checking my bags. My indignation was only tempered by the fact that any rash action would likely be characterized as a “domestic incident”.) After finally getting through security, I would have run to my terminal, but the Seventh Airport Gateway to Hell is set up where you need to take a “bus” (AKA double-wide with a couple of wheels attached) between terminals. Fortunately, I was able to jump onto a double-wide as it was leaving. As you can see, this traveling day to end all traveling days, so it figured that when I finally arrived to Terminal D, I realized that my gate was the VERY LAST FUCKING ONE AT THE END – and this was a LONG FUCKING TERMINAL. I did my best Usain Bolt impression while weighed down by a full laptop bag and literally ran as fast I could to reach my gate. Amazingly, the plane was still there and I was able to get on. Unfortunately, a number of my passenger-mates from London didn’t make it and, to my knowledge, no one has heard from them again.
In the only smooth part of the day (and at which point, I was pushing close to being awake for 24 hours straight), my flight from the Seventh Airport Gateway to Hell to O’Hare landed almost 45 minutes early. The traveling gods had to throw in one last “we’re completely fucking with you today”, though, as I gave all of that early landing time back and then some waiting for my luggage to arrive… which never came. It was, of course, still sitting at the Seventh Airport Gateway to Hell along with everyone else’s luggage from the original London flight. At that point, it was just meant to be. I got back to my house over 8 hours after I was scheduled to get home (with my luggage arriving the next morning).
The moral of the story: take a boat the next time that you go to England.
Thank you all for allowing me to vent – here are this week’s picks (home teams in CAPS where applicable):
COLLEGE FOOTBALL PARLAY
(1) EagleBank Bowl: Navy Midshipmen (+3) over Wake Forest Demon Demons
(2) Las Vegas Bowl: BYU Cougars (+3) over Arizona Wildcats
(3) Hawaii Bowl: Notre Dame Fighting Irish (-1.5) over Hawaii Warriors
Frank the Tank’s College Football Parlay Record
Last Week: 1-2
Illini Games for the Season: 5-6
Overall Season: 19-22-1
NFL FOOTBALL PARLAY
(1) Atlanta Falcons (+3.5) over MINNESOTA VIKINGS
(2) Carolina Panthers (+3) over NEW YORK GIANTS
(3) CHICAGO BEARS (-4) over Green Bay Packers
Frank the Tank’s NFL Football Parlay Record
Last Week: 1-2
Bears Games for the Season: 3-8-1
Overall Season: 18-18-3
Alright, so the NFL picks this week just happen to align with exactly what the Bears need in order to keep their playoff hopes alive. It honestly wasn’t planned that way – I just thought they were pretty reasonable spreads. (In the case of the Panthers-Giants game, if the Giants lose, then they would go into Minnesota in Week 17 needing to win just get any type of home game in playoffs, but if they win this week, then they lock up home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and likely would sit everyone against the Vikings. As a result, Bears fans need to root for Carolina all the way this weekend.)
Also, it’s very unfortunate that I won’t be able to spend the day after Christmas checking out the Illini in the Motor City Bowl (instead, it’s a whopper of a game with Central Michigan vs. Florida Atlantic). Still, there’s a return of a holiday tradition that used to rank right up there with the Lions ruining the Thanksgivings of everyone in Detroit: Bulls basketball! That’s right – it’s a Rose vs. Beasley matchup next Friday night. It makes me reminisce of the golden days around Christmas:
I can’t help you if you’re not pumped up after watching that. My BCS bowl and NFL week 17 picks) will come at some point next week. Merry Christmas, everyone!
(Image from Study Languages)