GUEST COLUMN: Andrew’s Dad Comes West (Plus Andrew’s Plays of the Day: 1/22/20)

RECORD: 13-7

Editor’s note: The reason I haven’t been posting daily blogs here is because my father’s been in town and we’ve been busy. I’d been posting on Twitter up until Tuesday, when I neglected to put forth a play. As a result, I’ll have two down below…but first, allow me to show you what turned me into the writer I became.

My dad flew west Friday, and the convergence of several horrible circumstances and lots of rotten luck hit him hard. Like a Champagne does, he wrote about it on Sunday, and I’m putting his chronicle here as a guest column. If you say he’s a better writer than I am, I won’t be offended!

“In late December I found some GREAT fares on Southwest to the west coast, so I scheduled an impromptu visit to my son for the long MLK Day weekend. I paid for the outgoing leg with points and thought that was great. Little did I know…

Departure on Friday was delayed. As the Southwest rep announced it, “We are waiting for one last passenger to exit the aircraft.” She neglected to mention that the guy was exiting on a stretcher after an apparent heart attack. Then we began to board – briefly. We were once again delayed with an announcement that they could not depart until the canister of oxygen the heart attack victim used up was replaced, and they had to wait for another aircraft to arrive to grab one. God forbid the maintenance people should have spares. So then we boarded and sat on the tarmac for another half hour (paperwork… BS, I was taking it personally by this point), blowing through the departure time for my initial connecting flight in Baltimore.

Now the fun starts. I got a text from Southwest telling me they’d re-booked me on a flight through Austin which would get me to the west coast about 5 hours later than my initial itinerary laid out. When we arrived in Baltimore they coasted us into the gate right next to the gate the Austin flight was leaving from – so we had a great view of MY flight pushing back.

Another text arrived immediately, informing me I had again been re-booked on a flight through Denver. The texts were coming fast and furious now, as I was told soon after that this flight had been delayed 3 hours.

And then it was cancelled.

There were no options to get out of Baltimore Friday on Southwest at this point since most of the Midwest connect points were socked in with the storm and all existing flights were sold out to people who’d been screwed before they got to me. The last text I got said they were re-booking me through Salt Lake City: 48 hours later. I don’t think so.

Enter my son, who found me a nonstop redeye on United Airlines that left late Friday evening (from Washington) and would get me to San Francisco an hour after midnight, so off I went to Southwest baggage claim to get my suitcase (such as it was, as I was to find out 2 days later). After an hour and a half, they told me they’d given up trying to find it, and off I went on a 60 mile Lyft ride to Dulles Airport. For those keeping score at home, the Lyft (with tip) cost $94. The flight (with $39 extra for a couple more inches of leg room) was $563. So off I went on a six hour nonstop flight headed west in the middle seat surrounded by screaming children – and at this point I was about ready to join them.

While I was flying, my son was shopping. A pair of dress pants, a polo shirt, and some toiletries later, we can add another $75 or so to the extra costs of this mess. But I DID get to where I was going.

So Saturday, off we went to the FABULOUS Golden Gate Fields with an eye toward recouping some of this money – broken up by several unfruitful calls to Southwest’s Oakland Airport baggage claim. They kept telling me that the last time my bag was scanned was in Baltimore and that it would eventually catch up with me – then, my last call produced a new tidbit, that the bag was now in Salt Lake City. This meant it got there more than 24 hours before I would have, had I kept the last re-book they set up for me.

After dinner the call from Southwest came. My bag was now in Oakland. Per the poor guy who had to call me, “It has some damage.” So Sunday morning brought another airport excursion. I dealt with a very nice lady who brought my bag out of their storage room IN A TRASH BAG – and told me the damage happened in freaking BALTIMORE. This meant I was intentionally not given what was left of my bag there.

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I ended up having to go through everything that was in the suitcase to identify specific damage. They gave me sort of a zip bag to move stuff into after telling me they usually replace suitcases but they didn’t have any of those (of course). Casualties were a pair of shoes, a pair of jeans, some socks, and a couple of golf shirts. Surprisingly, much of my stuff survived the trip – especially since the bag looked like it had been attacked by the tiger who says “Hello, Lunch!!” in the Dr. Doolittle ad.

So… a $175 travel voucher, refund of the points I paid for the trip with, refunded Early Bird boarding charges, and a check for $200 (they originally didn’t have any of those, either) later, I’m back in Concord…for now… the baggage lady at Oakland encouraged me keep bothering them… and after receiving ANOTHER text TODAY re-booking me for January 29, I am NOT in a forgiving mood.

The saga continues.”

– – – – –

WEDNESDAY’S PLAYS: Because I didn’t have anything Tuesday, I’m putting forth two plays for Wednesday. In SEC action, Alabama, a team that’s won three of its last four (including a victory over Auburn), goes to Vanderbilt, a squad that’s winless in conference play. The nine-point spread hits me as too small, and I think the Crimson Tide covers it with ease. Additionally, in small-college hoops, Navy travels to Boston University, and both teams can score. Because of that, I’m taking the over on the total, which is at 127.5 as of this writing.

Andrew’s Play of the Day: 1/17/20

RECORD: 11-5

Thursday was a very bad day for lots of people in baseball. The Astros saga somehow got weirder, as the team was accused of having buzzers on their shoulders (I’m no conspiracist, but I’ll admit that the Jose Altuve video where he protects his jersey looks very bad). Even Mike Trout wasn’t immune, as he was briefly the target of allegations issued by Scott Brosius’s son that he used HGH while hiding behind a medical exemption.

For once, it’s a sport other than horse racing doing everything possible to shoot itself in the foot. Note to higher-ups: This is how racing looks when changes are needed and people in power refuse to act. Our primary goal as a sport should be to avoid this at all times.

THURSDAY’S RESULT: The first losing streak of this exercise is upon us. I took Quinnipiac getting a few points at Manhattan, only for the Bobcats to force a mere six turnovers in a 69-57 defeat.

FRIDAY’S PLAY: We’ll head to the always-entertaining Southern Conference, where the Friday slate features a battle between perennial league powers Furman and Wofford. The Paladins come in 15-4 on the year, and I like them giving three points despite being on the road. Furman’s a solid 6-3 against the spread in road games, and while this won’t be an easy game, I think they’ll cover.

Andrew’s Play of the Day: 1/16/20

RECORD: 11-4

Like a lot of people, I dove into the new Netflix documentary series focusing on Aaron Hernandez as soon as I saw it was online. It’s heavy, it pulls few punches, and it’s not an easy watch. Having said that, it’s exceptionally well-done and covers the story from a variety of different angles.

If you’re into true crime stuff, take the time to watch and digest it. Chances are you’ll only see it once given how tragic the entire story is, but for all of us storytellers out there, it’s a tremendous example of directors, editors, producers, interviewers, and interview subjects coming together to create something moving.

WEDNESDAY’S RESULT: Well, if I’m going to be wrong, I’d prefer to be very wrong. I took Miami getting eight points at NC State, but the Wolfpack never looked like losers and won 80-63.

THURSDAY’S PLAY: More MAAC-tion? More MAAC-tion! Quinnipiac heads to Manhattan (which, by the way, isn’t actually in Manhattan), and the point spread puzzles me a bit. The Bobcats are 7-1 in their last eight games, including a 4-0 stretch in conference play, but it’s the homestanding Jaspers who are 2.5-point favorites. I think Quinnipiac wins outright, so I’ll take them getting the points.

Andrew’s Play of the Day: 1/15/20

RECORD: 11-3

It’s always fun to see baseball purists come out whenever there’s a scandal in the sport. I’m a baseball fan, and like anyone else, I want to see the game played cleanly. However, acting as though there’s a high and mighty moral code in the sport is naïve at best and flat wrong at worst.

The notion of a “character clause” in the game has been laughable since its inception. Between a color barrier, Hall of Famers doctoring the ball, and top players using banned substances in a league stewarded by a commissioner who turned a blind eye as long as it made him money and wound up in the Hall of Fame anyway, being outraged at sign-stealing seems outrageous in and of itself.

That isn’t saying what the Astros and Red Sox did was right. It isn’t. It was stupid, and hopefully it curtails obnoxious attempts at sign-stealing. However, saying sign-stealing robbed teams of titles is a step too far. Every team steals signs in some form or fashion, and that’s never going to change. If the actions taken by Major League Baseball end the more absurd processes, though, I suppose that’s a plus.

TUESDAY’S RESULT: Iowa visited Northwestern and powered away late to win 75-62. That meant the Hawkeyes easily covered the 5.5-point spread, which kept a good run in this section going.

WEDNESDAY’S PLAY: I’ll head to the ACC, and among that conference’s Wednesday slate is a tilt between NC State and Miami. Looking at these two teams, they appear quite similar in quality, which makes the eight-point spread a bit curious. NC State is home, so the Wolfpack being favored isn’t shocking, but this seems about double the spread it should be. Because of that, I’ll take the points with the Hurricanes.

Andrew’s Play of the Day: 1/14/20

RECORD: 10-3

Friday night is a special night in horse racing. It’s the annual Beemie Awards, a smorgasbord of smartassery for racing fans on social media, and it’s always a blast. It’s organized by Jason Beem and a trio of his friends (who take pride in going unidentified), and whether the Beemies are your thing or not, there are a few concepts they hit on that I think we can all agree with.

Sports, and the discussions they foster, are diversions. At their best, they provide an escape from all of the struggles real life brings to the table, ones that seem to grow more and more daunting every year (seriously, just turn on the news). Every once in a while, someone hits on something that works and is able to provide people moments of laughter and joy. Those moments come around far too infrequently, and I think they should be celebrated when they do.

Jason Beem (and, for that matter, at least one of his unidentified friends) probably didn’t like me a whole lot for a while, but I’ve always liked him. I’ve always appreciated his passion for horse racing and the drive he has to play a positive role in its future. He’s a darned good announcer, but an even better person. I’m grateful for the role the Beemies play in bringing everyone together for a few hours every year, and it’s why I’ll get suited up, hit the Beemie Awards red carpet, sit in my seat, get shut out of all of the awards, and entertain folks at the after-party.

(PS: As much as I like Jason, and as much as I’ll appreciate everything the Beemies do, I’ve never forgotten getting passed over for the 2017 Mike Joyce Award for Handicapping Bravery and Excellence. “Bet With Kevin” winning that award was a crime akin to “Crash” winning Best Picture.)

MONDAY’S RESULT: LSU didn’t get off to the best of starts against Clemson, but when the SEC champs turned it on, the ACC champs didn’t have answers. As an aside, not being able to use team mascots because both teams are the Tigers is a real problem.

TUESDAY’S PLAY: This section is going to be dominated by college basketball over the next few months. I’m headed to Big 10 country and focusing on Iowa’s trip to Northwestern. The Hawkeyes can be streaky, for sure, but the homestanding Wildcats are one of the lesser teams in the conference, and they’re only getting 5.5 points. I think Iowa’s got way too many weapons, and that they should win comfortably.