POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. -- I'll tell you what holiday hell is.
Last Saturday, heading back home to Providence from another mid-major excursion, I was stuck at New York's Kennedy airport on a scheduled three-hour layover, which suddenly became a seven-hour layover when the schedule started backing up. Then, my flight to Providence from Gate 25 simply disappeared from the departure board -- and the good folks at Gate 25 had no idea that it was even there to begin with. So when I called the airline's hotline, the nice lady told me that the flight had already left out of Gate 22. When I informed her that there was no indication anywhere that the flight was either boarding, departed or at another gate, she rebooked me for free on the next flight which left jsut before dawn the next morning... it was the least (and most) they could do.
However, then I found out from a guy in a Providence College sweatshirt that the flight hadn't left at all ("You stuck here for the night too? Oh, you aren't?"), that it was because the crew was stuck in Columbus, and that we'd all be leaving in an hour at 10 pm. So I called the hotline back, pleaded for my original seat, then re-checked in after standing in line for an hour behinds hundreds of angry and sweaty people ahead of me loudly demanding travel justice. They nearly drowned out the boarding call to a Providence flight from Gate 25, the one that wasn't even on the departure board, as I turned the final Sensa-Barrier corner towards the desk. I was the last one on the plane.
But that was all nothing, simply par for the course these days. The worst part of the whole ordeal was that the one television in the terminal bar was showing the PapaJohns.Com Bowl instead of the Bucknell-Texas Tech game, and they wouldn't change it because it was football and people love football. Collegiate American-style football is ridiculous enough, using coaches and media polls in the mixture that determines teams' fates, but nothing beats its system of rewarding 6-5 teams with a final corporate-sponsored game that means little else than a neutral-site regular-season tilt that wasn't on the schedule at the season's start.
You see, in our game, we put our Comcast Lobo Invitationals and Dreyfus Holiday Classics and Sun Bowls at the beginning of the season, and none of us pretend that they mean anything more than a schedule date or three. And our polls? We just smile and nod, then watch the players settle things on the court.
Albany 59, at Utah 58 -- When you're an America East team far away from home, you don't expect to be sent to the line that much, thanks to the friendly refs. But just four foul shots in a game? Wow! Didn't matter, though, and netiher did being outshot or outrebounded. The Scoobies launched 24 3-balls, made 11 of them, and Jamar Wilson shook off a horrendous 4-for-14 shooting night to hit the winning layup. And Jason Siggers remains the best A-East player you don't know about yet. He had six of those long-bombs, and 22 points.
Belmont 87, Rice 85 -- Rice beat Utah last month, so using playground logic that means Albany can beat them too. Or so can another low-RPI league favorite, Belmont, which did so last night at the prestigious Shamrock Classic in Moraga, California. Last year's A-Sun title game hero Justin Hare continues to light it up for them Music City Bruins, going 9-for-13 for 22 points.
at Indiana State 89, Purdue 70 -- Yeah, there's some "wow" factor there... a big 10 team that was getting national pub and fighting Butler tooth and nail getting spanked on its Boiler behind by one of the presumptive Valley dregs. But keep in mind that the lowest MVC RPI right now belongs to these Sycamores (112), so the weak bottom end of previous years just doesn't exist anymore. And because non-conference play is virtually over, there won't be very much crazy movement on the scales from here on out. So where's all the "Five from the Valley" talk that seemed so preposterous last year, and so tantalizingly realistic this year?
Don't forget, you can come chat with me at ESPN.com SportsNation today at 3 p.m. EST. Stop on by! And don't fly Delta if you don't absolutely have to.
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