StateofRutgers.com would travel down to provide coverage – there would be no other option. So when Alex (a.k.a. Umdnj) and I had decided that we would head south for the first week of June, it was only fitting that we'd make the excursion as painful for the both of as possible – at least the part that consisted of getting there. Our infinite wisdom (though we like to state that our personal schedules had more to do with it, and certainly that wouldn't be a complete fib) was put on full display when we decided to book our flights for June 1st. Alex would head down on American Airlines and I'd venture south on Continental (why anybody would fly anything else is beyond me). I'm sure we've both had worse ideas than actually take the same flight, at the same time, to the same destination. For crying out loud, it's Miami, and competing airlines must have similar flight times – right?
Certainly, they did. My flight would leave earlier and Alex would be on his way less than 90-minutes after my takeoff. I'd land at around 8 p.m., or slightly thereafter, and Alex would follow suit - I'd have to sit in the airport, my thinking was, for the first half of the Phoenix-Dallas game, roughly. Hardly punishment for someone who's best friend considers a trip to the airport as an opportunity to "go out" (and who's bizarre inspiration had become part of my own mental thought process).
That was the plan, of course. Safe to say things didn't follow accordingly. I got to the airport fine. The train was right on time, the AirTran experience was a bit nerve-wracking as its maximum forward speed made me realize I could crawl faster than it was moving, but I still happened to make it with a solid 20 minutes to spare, after the security check-in, and before boarding which was set to begin at 5 p.m. Immediately as I get to the gate, enthused about my perfectly planned arrival, I notice the jetway outside had a certain attachment missing from it – the airplane wasn't there.
And then the announcement came. The airplane was not to arrive for another 20 minutes. Boarding time had been pushed back an hour. Okay – still not awful, just as long as it's only one hour. Sure enough, within that hour we took our behinds and planted them in our respective seats, and it seemed we were on our way. Until the ensuing delay, of course.
"Ladies and gentlemen," began the voice you only want to hear when you're in the air, "it seems as if the concourse congestion we're experiencing is a little bit greater than what we typically see." Traffic control had instructed us to taxi in our current location, barely a few measly meters from our gate. So we wait, but once again, I consider myself lucky as within 30 minutes we were granted permission and were airborne.
We were scheduled to depart at 5 p.m. We had actually taken off at 6:30. Not too shabby when you do expect the worst – the expected three hour flight should have me in Miami at roughly the same time as Alex. I wouldn't get to put out the vibe in the airport, but worst things have happened.
Not much happened on the flight. Just as smooth as always – an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond, that loveable sitcom that I am beginning to appreciate since every husband can somehow relate to it (I'm not there yet but I'm preparing myself for the inevitable), was the highlight. A turkey sandwich about the size of a cell phone (how do they actually manage to stick any meat in a roll so small is beyond me) was the low-light. Yes, I was starved, and I had expected a bit more.
The pilot had put the pedal to the metal. In just under two and a half-hours we were already in Miami – it was now 8:30 p.m. As soon as we can I make the mandatory loved-one/safe arrival phone calls, and once I get off the plane I give Alex a call. I figure he won't answer, as he's probably just about to begin his initial descent into Miami. Otherwise, maybe he does answer, he's already here, and we can head off into the Miami nightlife.
The pleasant surprise turned sour abruptly. He answered, as I had hoped. "You're here already?" I inquired. "Not exactly," came Alex' reply. As it turned out, thunderstorms in the Newark area had delayed his plane's arrival into Newark, which inevitably meant his own departure would be delayed. But with Alex on top of things, and still two and a half hours away (only if his pilot enjoyed reaching as close to the sound barrier as mine had) from Miami, he gave me his buddy's number to get in touch with. His buddy (Lou) was to pick us up at around 9 p.m., just as soon as Alex arrived, and take us to see some of the south Florida hot spots. After I get off the phone with Alex I call Lou – no answer. I leave a voicemail. Not a problem – the pre-game show is going on and I'll just head in to this Chili's, have a warm meal and a nice cold one, put out the vibe and enjoy the game.
"Sorry, we closed at 8:30," was the attendant's greeting as he noticed me heading straight for the first available bar stool. "What's that?" came my gloomy reply. "We're closing sir, we closed for incoming patrons at 8:30 p.m. There is a Burger King and a couple of other places if you head to Concourse B." At this point, I was getting irritated. Hungry and now devoid of an opportunity to put out the vibe (Dumb and Dumber reference has hopefully caught on by now) I headed toward Concourse B, not having the slightest idea of where it actually was.
Cell phone rings. It's Lou. He was just about to leave his house, about 40 minutes away. I had to keep milling around for the duration – once he'd arrive, we'd decide what to do about Alex.
It's now 10 p.m. I found myself a nice Havana-something-or-other that had both a bar and TVs. No food though. Beer has plenty of calories so that will keep the tummy just as happy. It's about 10:15 now and Alex is still in Newark, his plane sitting on the runway waiting for the storms to pass. Within minutes, Lou makes it and we head out to enjoy the evening.
The Ale House was our first destination. It was a spacious place, with plenty of seating and plenty of open space. TVs were everywhere around the entire place leaving no seat in the house with a bad view. We sit down and Lou introduces me to a El Presidente, the import of his choice, which I had not had the pleasure of tasting before. I had initially sworn by Hoegaarden as my import of choice but Lou was convinced that his Pilsner specialty would outdo my Belgian Ale. Though a solid draught, I could hardly compare the two. Hoegaarden is on a pedestal so high I'm not sure George Muresan could reach it.
The scene is certainly vibrant and we're enjoying the game, the brews, some food (yes, I finally did get to eat) and the wonderful eye-candy. C'mon now, this is Miami folks. It's 11 p.m. and we decide to give Alex a call – yep, he was still sitting in Newark. We're looking at well past midnight at this point. Unfortunately, the Rutgers Camp at Palm Beach Gardens was set to begin at 9 a.m. the next morning. At least an hour's drive from where we were staying that night, the race was now on to see how little sleep we actually would get that night.
Lou decides to keep the tour going. We head on over to a Macaroni Grill where some of his friends were at. The scene wasn't quite as lively there, perhaps because unlike Miami bars which don't close until 5 a.m., this place was only about a half hour before closing its doors.
Meanwhile, about a thousand miles north, Alex is under the suspicion that he may be getting close to departure time. It was now 11:30.
With still much time to fritter away, we head on over to a couple of livelier places. Although I felt awful for Alex, whose three hour flight had now turned into a five and a half-hour Knightmare by this time, I was having a good time seeing places I hadn't had the opportunity to see earlier.
The clock kept ticking. It was now midnight.
We call Alex. Finally, there was no answer. This meant his notion of imminent departure may have been spot on. If he had left at 11:30, he could be in Miami as soon as 1:30 a.m. Sure enough, at about 1:45 a.m. we get his call. Poor guy sounds beat – who wouldn't after sitting in a plane for nearly 8 hours.
"I'm finally here guys." By two we were at the airport and given American Airline's propensity to starve their passengers while simultaneously turning three hour flights into eight hour flights, the poor man was obviously lacking of food as well. By this point, so were the rest of us.
Everybody, save for me, was plenty familiar with the local area, bar scene, and nightlife. So, as soon as it became evident that I had no clue about any of the hopping night scenes we decided that a trip to South Miami Beach would be the best option. At this point, we reasoned, what's the difference between four hours of sleep and practically no sleep. The heck with REM, we thought. We'll save that for another night.
By 3 a.m. we had found ourselves a pizza joint the guys swore by, where we had some of the more delicious slices I've had in years. Unfortunately, the thick layer of pizza grease topped with one-inch of feta cheese did not sit well with the dozen or so brewskis that had layered my stomach initially. Nevertheless, I manage to stuff a couple of slices down. Alex had no problem helping me out.
The next stop … honestly, I don't even recall the name. At four in the morning one doesn't remember much – especially considering that my typical bedtime is almost always before 11 p.m. Somewhat reminiscent to New Brunswick's very own Stuff Yer Face, but once again, much more spacious than what New Jerseyans are used to, this place reminded me a bit of the Garden State. The pool alongside the adjacent building was the interesting oddity, but apparently it was only for show. It was hot and muggy but I can't recall anyone actually making use of it.
It's now 4:30 a.m. We're clearly dragging by this point. Our tummies filled, we decide to call it a night. By 5, indeed as the roosters are awakening the entire neighborhood (thank goodness there weren't any) I was finally out. Unfortunately, we had stayed at Lou's house, which was located southwest of Miami-International, at least an hour away from the day's camp. So by 6, Alex manages to wake me up - I think conventional methods proved futile but the mention of "Rutgers just won the national championship" startled me enough to awaken the senses.
For the next several weeks, SOR.com subscribers should stay tuned for plenty of coverage, including individual prospect audio-visual interviews, player profiles, an introduction to some of the top prospects that participated, and much more.