March 19, 2008

Traveling With Royalty

Print More

Editor’s Note: Sun Senior Writers Josh Perlin and Harrison D. Sanford are traveling with the men’s basketball team to Anaheim. This is their story:
9:58 a.m. — We Better Hurry
After picking up Harrison in my car, we park at my house, forget to lock the car doors (or at least I don’t recall doing it), and speedily drag our luggage to Bartels. This is a microcosm of how the last 24 hours have been: disorganized and rushed. Only 15 hours ago, Harrison and I learned we would be seated on the plane to Anaheim with the team, at which time I made a four-hour drive to Ithaca to cut my Spring Break short. Harrison was already in Ithaca, lucky him.
10:10 a.m. — March Madness
We arrive at Bartels to see an empty bus parked out front. We drop our things and come in from the desolate, cold Ithaca air to a packed Bartels Hall. Talk about March Madness: half the cheerleaders (at least), members of the band, a dozen TV/print media, coaches, numerous administrators and even women’s basketball head coach Dayna Smith are packed around the main entrance to Bartels.
The TV crews are working with Jeremy Hartigan, the director of Cornell Athletic Communications and the team’s media liaison, to interview players along the wall. Everyone else is just talking, pretty much sticking to their group. Of course, that means Harrison heads straight for the players, and I’m left to walk around with the camera … did I get some good shots? Not really.

[img_assist|nid=28890|title=A Bartels Bash|desc=Members of the men’s basketball team (in black warmups) talk in Bartels Hall before departing for Anaheim on Tues.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]

10:20 a.m. — " We’re Missing A Bus "
Basically, this whole thing is a circus right now … a closed environment where lots of entropy is occurring, but potentially in a controlled kind of way. For example, I just walked to my bag to put the camera back, and I hear an administrator talking on the phone, saying, “we’re missing a bus.” Apparently, if it doesn’t show up, we’re going to just shuttle people over to the plane, as they fit. Actually, that’s another point: where is this plane? Nobody waiting around seems to know when we’re leaving, let alone where we’re going to leave from.
One of the members of the band going on the trip tells me they just found out they could make the trip yesterday afternoon, and I concur. According to Jeremy, the size of the plane was in question until early evening yesterday, so they couldn’t confirm our seats. And you know … I definitely shouldn’t complain: better late than never.
Everyone seems in good spirits, and a picture of the team with the cheerleaders breaks out. It’s nice to see some kind of bonding between the two squads.

[img_assist|nid=28889|title=Show Some Love|desc=The Cornell cheerleaders pose with the men’s basketball team in Bartels Hall before departing for the airport on Tues morning.|link=node|align=right|width=|height=0]

10:29 a.m. — I’m Glad I’m Not in the Media … Oh Wait …
A second coach bus has showed up, so we’re ready to go. At the request of the TV crews, the band is going to be playing a song while we load our luggage and board. This is going to be interesting …
10:30 a.m. — Absurdity: " This Isn’t Embarrassing "
Change of plans: the band has to be packed up, so instead of music, the cheerleaders are lining up between the entrance and the bus to cheer for the players as they come out. Harrison sets up the video camera and I grab my camera, as we prepare for potentially the most absurd moment of the day.
The players come out of Bartels and are showered with “Let’s go Red” cheers and rhythmic clapping. A number of them can be heard saying things like “this isn’t embarrassing” and “this is ridiculous.” Many of them are laughing, and so am I. If this is what it’s like at big-time programs because of the media … I just have no words to describe how silly this is. See it for yourself:

[img_assist|nid=28891|title=Let’s Go Red!|desc=This was possibly the funniest moment of the entire trip.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]

10:41 a.m. — All That … to Travel 5 Mins?
We’re on the bus and on our way. Harrison and I get on the bus with the players, who take up the back. There are a bunch of administrators and media on this bus, and we’re all anxious to see where we’re going. The person next to me, Director of Athletic Alumni Affairs and Development John Webster, thinks we’re probably going to Taughannock airport. I figure Syracuse.
10:45 a.m. — Checkpoint
We arrive at Tompkins county airport, using a back entrance. Legend. We go through a security checkpoint, and while we’re there, a bunch of the players are surprised to see a woman helping out at our hanger: it is their landlord. “This is my real job,” she says, “but don’t tell anyone.” As Harrison so aptly describes it: “that’s crazy.”
One poor kid in the band is on every single list EXCEPT the one for the plane. A clerical error, apparently. I don’t know if he ever made it on.
11:15 a.m. — WHOA …
We’ve boarded now, and let me tell you, this plane is BIG. It’s a 737. I’ve got an entire row of seats to myself. Thank you Jeremy et al. As I’m boarding, I find a bunch of people who weren’t at the original meeting point in Bartels. Head coach Steve Donahue is sitting in the front with his family. Jeff Hall, director of Cornell sports marketing is here too. As an aside, Jeff has done an amazing job with marketing Cornell athletics the last two years. Actually, he’s the one who we’ll have to talk to about the cost of this flight … thanks for the seats Jeff!

[img_assist|nid=28893|title=That’s the Plane|desc=Our plane seemed rather large for Tompkins County Airport. Somehow, the 737 landed and took off without a problem: very impressive.|link=node|align=right|width=|height=0]

There are name cards on the seats, but beyond the administrators and staff at the front, people largely ignore them. The players are seated in the middle, and everyone else is in the back. Harrison and I are sitting at the edge of the players section closer in front … actually Harrison is sitting with the players. The team seems relaxed, very upbeat, a little curious about what lies ahead, and certainly fatigued.
The pilot says we’re stopping for food and fuel about halfway, and that it’s 75 and sunny in LBC. Nice.
12:29 p.m. — This is the Good Life
Three-quarters of the plane is listening to music and/or sleeping. Some things being done by players right now include:

  • Watching movies on laptops (Family Guy, for instance)
  • Listening to music
  • Reading … it may be Spring Break, but there’s still school work to be done
  • Sleeping
  • Zoning out to music
  • Playing games on the computer, like Donkey Kong (I think) and chess (sophomore Alex Tyler)

One cool article of Cornell apparel I’ve noticed already (and I’m sure there will be more on this trip): a “Cornell vs. BU Men’s Hockey, Madison Square Garden” hat.
The flight crew just served us chips and drinks, which is great because we’re hungry. Even though our stopover and food are only two hours away, at least one of the players is in the same boat as me: we haven’t eaten yet today. Those Cool Ranch chips were a tantalizing tease.
1:38 p.m. — The New York Times
The NY Times is letting Jon Jaques blog for them throughout the tournament. Here’s the link to his posts. We’ll see how it goes … hopefully, there are some good insights. Yeah, I’m looking at you right now, Jon.
2:04 p.m. — News Only I Appreciate
I was just informed by members of the band that they have no idea where they are staying for this trip. That’s good to know, because although Harrison and I requested a room from the NCAA, we still haven’t heard about where it is or if it even was approved. We also don’t know when or where the return flight will be.
In other news, we’ll be landing soon. The excitement is palpable from everyone (read: everyone turns of their electronic devices), except the cheerleaders, who are still fast asleep across one another or on their tray tables. That’s not safe for landing.
Also unsafe: Exit signs on the ceiling. Normally, people are fine with these, but not the basketball team. Seven-foot junior center Jeff Foote almost took one out just now.
2:51 p.m. — Kansas, They Say, Is the Name of a Star
We’ve landed in Salina, Kansas. (What time zone are we in now?) I took a straw poll and two of the players claim to have been to Kansas before. Only one has been to Anaheim. (I won’t give their names.) Shout out to the NCAA for broadening our horizons.
It seems like everyone — especially the team — wants food, and bags of chips are flying all over the cabin. As soon as we get back in the air, we’re getting it.

[img_assist|nid=28894|title=Limted Edition|desc=I like this hat.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]

3:30 p.m. — Actual March Madness
We’re back in the air now, on our way to Long Beach. Everyone’s just minding their own business as lunch is served. A small discussion has broken out next to me between Harrison, junior Conor Mullen and classmate Brian Kreefer, about Cornell’s chances on Thursday. The consensus is that Cornell can score with Stanford — or given the statistics, with Cornell being the only school in the country in the top-10 in free throw, field goal and 3-point percentage, Stanford can score with Cornell — but it’s matter of playing better defense, especially in the post.
The discussion has moved on to how difficult it has been to predict games in this year’s bracket, with a number of mid-majors playing other mid-majors. Some favorites of the past come up, like Gonzaga and Dan Dickau.
Everyone is pretty wiped right now … we need food I think. Food, food, food. Come onnnn food.
Update on hotel status: Harrison and myself are supposed to be in a different hotel from the team, but we were never given any information on it. We’re trying to figure it all out.
4:04 p.m. — " It’s Hard to Mess Up a Turkey Sandwich "
At least that’s the consensus. So, that’s what gets ordered by players near me.
Update: Consensus: apparently, it wasn’t hard enough. At least people are waking up from their hunger comas now.
4:21 p.m. — Stump The Schwab: Cornell NCAA Edition
NBA Trivia: NCAA Tourney edition has broken out amongst a bunch of players, spurned on by Harrison’s insistence of a number of rules. The objective of the game is to name what college the player went to. You get 3 Lifelines … school colors, conference and NBA alumni.
Sam Cassell? Harrison needs TWO lifelines: conference and school colors. “I’m going to be mad at myself,” he says.
Assistant coach Zach Spiker thinks Harrison should know the answer, and tells him so. … Harrison loses anyway. He loses again, and again, and again, even with help from half the team. His opponent, fellow blogger Jon Jaques, is a pro.
“Basketball cards,” he says with a smile and a shrug.
Nobody seems to be able to stump Jaques, not even any of Assistant coaches Nat Graham and Spiker. Actually, Graham is on occasion, but you get the point.
Next Game: name every NBA alumnus you can from a school, alternating turns. First person to miss is eliminated. Winner picks school. Harrison picks UNC to start … and loses to Jaques again. Soon, others join in … lots of “Oh Yeahhh’s” being said here.
4:37 p.m. — Sources: Preseason NIT, Indiana Slated for 2008-09 Season
Ah, the first real news break of the day: numerous sources with knowledge of the men’s basketball team’s schedule have confirmed the team is set to play in the Preseason NIT and against Indiana next season. More than one of the sources emphasized that the schedule has not been finalized yet, so there’s a chance this could still change, especially since it’s unclear if a contract has been signed for either event.
5:21 p.m. — To the Right, Everyone
The pilot announces that we’re passing over the Grand Canyon, prompting half the plane to lean right or get up to look out the window.
Meanwhile, Spiker is doing some scouting, watching game film of a Stanford–UCLA clash. Apparently, when Cornell clinched, Donahue started watching game film of a bunch of teams we might face, including Stanford.
6:02 p.m. — California: Here I Come!
The captain just announced we’re going to be landing soon.
We land. One person claps. [This blog is in Eastern Time, but we’re on Pacific Time now.]
“We would like to welcome you to Los Angeles … the home of Jon Jaques,” a voice says over the loudspeaker. Everyone cheers, and Jaques pumps his fist. The voice also congratulates Jeff Hall for turning 50 today. Happy Birthday Jeff!

[img_assist|nid=28892|title=Doing Our Job|desc=Harrison (left) strikes a pose in The Cornell Daily Sun, Anaheim Office (aka our hotel room). Our room includes everything we need to do our jobs: a nice view (right) and televised NCAA games (top). We’re enjoying our jobs a lot right now … for now.|link=node|align=center|width=|height=0]

8:02 p.m. — All Work and No Play
We arrived via coach bus at the team’s hotel, which is right across the streets from the media’s hotel. There are four or five hotels — hosting teams and media — in a short range of one another, and all close to the Honda Center, where the first round will be played.
Final room update: we’re at the Anaheim Marriott.
The room is excellent. Nice view and a balcony, lots of space … The NCAA treats us well.
But it’s back to work for Harrison and me: we’re not here to relax! Currently, we’re collapsed on our beds watching the play-in game … yeah, that’s right, it’s our job!
Being a member of the media isn’t always so stressful after all.