by Lang Whitaker

A few years ago, I figured out the secret to this travel business. I spend a lot of time, probably too much time, in airports and on airplanes. It’s not really tiring, because usually all you’re doing is just sitting around, but it is boring, and the boredom can wear on you. So what I finally divined was that whenever possible, travel when the sun isn’t up. Meaning if I have to fly from, say, L.A. to New York, or Atlanta to New York, or Paris to New York, or Hawaii to New York, or wherever, the worst thing to do is to do it during the middle of the day. Because when you’re flying you’re effectively cut off from the rest of the world. In the air, you can’t email, call, read the internet. The world is going on all around you, but you’re not allowed to participate. And when you finally re-enter civilization, you’ve got to play catch-up.

So what I always try to do is fly early, the first flight of the day (or even the red-eye overnight). There are usually no delays that early because the airports haven’t had time to get backed up, and then, when I land, I’m ready to hit the ground running. Maybe I’m a few hours behind on my sleep, but I can get those later. More importantly, I didn’t lose any real working time.

(ASIDE: Having the ability to sleep on planes is a key component of this strategy. This is almost certainly an acquired skill, and it’s one I am proud to say I have mastered. For me, the key is reserving a window seat, being tired when I get to the airport (which means either staying up all night before the flight or sleeping a few hours), peeing just before I board the plane, settling in, cranking up the iPod and then letting the world fly past. More than once I’ve fallen asleep on the ground before taking off and then woken up as the plane lands. My goal remains falling asleep before take-off and then waking up at the gate.)

I put my strategy to use this morning on my way out of LA. I tried to get a red-eye out of LA after Game Five but couldn’t book anything, so instead I got a seat on a 7:15 direct flight from LA to NYC. After last night’s game I hit the hospitality suite, then got to my room and did some work. Went to bed around 2 a.m., woke up at 5 a.m., got over to LAX (where I went through security with my main men Marc Spears and Mark Jackson), got on my flight, fell asleep before takeoff, woke up somewhere over Illinois, and landed at JFK around 3:30. By 5:00 I was at home returning emails and managed to not lose an entire day.

(ASIDE II: I planned to do some work on the plane, but the person in front of me reclined their seat as far back as it would go and left it in that position the entire flight. I could barely read the new Esquire, much less open up my iBook. What really pissed me off was that the person in front of me was about 5-2. I’m about a foot taller. I never put my seat all the way back because I feel there should be some sort of implied code of courtesy between air travelers. At the very least there should be a scale dictating the angle of recline related to the passenger’s height. This is something I will work on if elected president.)

All of this stuff is particularly relevant today because of the disastrous travel day the Boston Celtics had. Most NBA teams fly out of cities about an hour after a game ends. This might mean an early morning arrival in a city, but hey, they’re there, they can catch up on the sleep in the afternoon. For some reason, the Boston Celtics decided to fly back from LA to Boston this morning. Of course, their plane had mechanical problems and they ended up not even leaving LA until 5:30 p.m. Boston time, which means they probably are just now arriving in Boston as I write this.

For a team that’s banged up and worn down, the last thing they needed was a day sitting around on an airplane or in an airport, not able to break down game film, walk through sets, get treatment on injuries…basically all the things they needed to be doing. Instead they’ll end up arriving in Boston late tonight, maybe having a quick shootaround tomorrow, and then going out to play Game Six. When the Spurs got stuck on their plane after eliminating New Orleans, at least they still landed in LA around 8:30 a.m., which gave them an entire day to use. I don’t know who’s choice it was for the Celts to fly out so late, but it turned out to be a terrible decision, one that might even cost them Game Six.

(Anyone think Dick Bavetta was out there monkeying around with the plane? “It’s all ball bearings these days!”)

As for me, I got home, knocked out an hour of work, had a leisurely dinner out with Wifey, and now I’m posting this while watching my new go-to cable movie, Transformers. Tomorrow morning I’m back on the road to Boston, where we’ll see if the Celts can get if together in time to end this thing tomorrow night (where it looks like Ray Allen will be available). Or, with all eyes on Boston, will the Lake Show sneak in and take Game Six and force a Game Seven?

I have no idea. I’m a little frazzled from all the work and travel over the last two weeks (earlier today I asked someone if it was Thursday…turns out it’s Monday!), but I’ll be there in Boston tomorrow night, liveblogging the game…or at least, liveblogging as often as the FleetCenterBankingNorth’s spotty internet service allows me to blog.

See ya tomorrow…