Aug. 4, 2013
Sydney, Aus.-- The 14-hour flight to Sydney is one of those things that can be anything you want it to be, it you are sort of at the mercy of your seat...and more so your seat-mates.
We flew on the largest Qantas jet they have, and it had two levels. The first class section (where none of us got to sit) has areas to lie down and sleep, and that alone was probably worth whatever the upgrade costs were. As it was, most of the players and travel party at least had aisle seats. Considering most of the seating areas were configured 3-4-3, it was helpful for the bigger guys traveling as they had plenty of aisle space for their rather long legs.
Fourteen hours is a long flight, and thankfully, most guys have iPods and music on their phones to pass the time, but just in case they didn't, every seat on the plane had a touchscreen television with movies, TV, documentaries, seat-to-seat messaging, and video games. Between the casino games, arcade games, and board games ... and sleep, it's actually hard to be bored.
The team had a directive to stay awake for the first portion of the trip and then sleep the second so that everyone's internal clock wouldn't be too far off. It looked like most folks did that.
With nearly 500 folks on the flight, it's almost like a little city. You end up chatting with seat-mates and checking folks out (there was an inordinate amount of UCLA shirts on the flight, which is kind of ironic).
What you honestly want out of a 14 hour plane ride (besides a decent dinner, which the roast chicken was) is no incidents. Sadly, it seems there was one. About an hour prior to landing, the call came over the speakers that you always see in movies, but never in real life. "If there is doctor on board, please ring your call button." v That announcement can go a myriad of ways. Five minutes later, everyone was standing up in the forward area and a defibrillator was brought up front. Generally speaking that can't ever be good.
Amazingly, a few years ago some member of the traveling party witnesses a man having a heart attack in one of the airline terminals near baggage claim.
Thankfully, it seems like everything was OK and just a precaution and the defibrillator was never used. Then the race was on to get to a bathroom to brush teeth before the seatbelt sign came on. Once we landed, we did have to wait for the medical personnel, but again it seemed like a precaution. Mall told for an official travel party of 23 with a bunch of family members in tow, things went remarkably smooth considering we switched hemispheres and skipped August 3rd (we left on the 2nd and landed on the 4th. No word if Qantas has a DeLorean in its fleet, but we easily did at least 88 miles an hour).
Our official first day in Australia will be a busy one, but the team had about as spirited a practice as you can get on little sleep and little leg room on a 14-hour flight. The practice was at Newington College, which ironically is neither new, nor a college. Our tour chaperone/guide/Mr. Australia is Michael, who gave us the rundown. When it says "college"in Australia, it really means that it is a high school. When you go somewhere and it says "university" ... that's a college.
This "college" or "high school" or "place with basketball courts" had something none of us had ever seen before...an artificial turf (Astroturf to be precise), outdoor basketball court, comlete with white turf for the lines. It was bizarre to say the least, but now that this has been published, some school in the states is going to do a green court, you watch.
After practice (and some American comfort food from McDonald's), the team got to rest before a trip around the Sydney Harbor on a quadruple decked boat. Just about all of us made it up to the observation deck (which got windy), but only Tim Myles got to enter the bridge and meet the captain. Pretty shrewd move by the freshman.
From there, dinner and lights out fairly early, since tonight is the night we hopefully catch up on our rest from the 14-hour travel day.
Two days to our game with Sydney. Remember you can get up at 3 a.m. in Albuquerque and listen to it live via www.sydneykings.com, and follow along on twitter @UNMHoops. Cheers to all our `mates back home rooting us on!