Jeff Nelson: Hitting the Summertime Road


The call to the bullpen goes out this week.

High school sports is finished. Heck, even hockey is done at the NHL level.

We need content!

We need a Nelson column!

Greetings as we head towards the start of the second half of the year (already!)

There is one fall sport that has carried over into the spring and early summer, and of course I have my paws in it.

Spring football!

You football purists will remember the USFL. There was a league with the same name about 20 years ago.

It has surfaced again, after some legal gymnastics over names and logos, etc.

You folks that read my column won’t care that it’s a football or tiddlywinks league, because I have to travel to cover games, and that means exercises in futility.

Let’s try five canceled flights a couple weekends ago.

Yes, I know, canceled flights nowadays are like orange cones on the interstates, but five in a three day span impressed even this grizzled travel vet.

Covering the USFL for Fox Sports started with a long drive to Birmingham, Alabama, for the first weekend of games.

The trip was longer because of said orange cones, and a long delay for an accident at the entrance to a bridge in Alabama. There was also a very genuine thunderstorm that postponed the last game of the weekend, and adding a 24-hour delay to things.

Eight of the next nine weekends saw me heading to Los Angeles to cover the rest of the regular season games, still being played in Birmingham, but having our television work being done in LA. One weekend was tied up with the 500...

There were Friday, Saturday or Sunday flights, depending on which day our game or games were on the air. There was a trip or two home on a Monday.

The capper was two weekends ago, the last weekend of the regular season.

My Friday direct flight from Indy to LA was seemingly on time. We loaded on the plane, and they were ready to close the door, when someone noticed there weren’t any pilots in the front of the darn thing!

Well, this won’t work.

Turns out the flight crew was still in North Carolina.

How did nobody in charge notice the lack of pilots?

American promptly canceled the flight, and with fancy apps and social media, about 100 people on the plane all got the same alert on their phones with the cancellation announcement before the flight attendants or even the gate agents knew about it.

So it was re-book time.

I had one option for Friday. It was fly four hours later to Phoenix and then fly to the Los Angeles area. I wasn’t even going to land at the original airport, but out east of the city, in the desert.

But it was better than waiting for the crew from North Carolina to get into town.

And my LA Uber driver was quite happy with the long fare.

The next morning it was off to the Fox studios where we did the game broadcast, and before we even kicked off, I got another text, informing me that one of my two Sunday morning flights back home had been canceled. Which I knew would mean the second one would eventually get called off.

American started gyrating flights and I was able to get on the Saturday night red-eye, flying all night, but getting to Indy at a preferred time and day.

The game started.

Another text - that red-eye was canceled, and now they put me on the Sunday night red-eye.

It was time to call my help.

All of the networks have emergency travel help systems. They are usually called in because of weather (or canceled games). I just decided to see if they could get me out of LA any faster. With over a thousand canceled flights around the nation, I had my doubts.

But, they were able to get something done.

Kind of anyway.

There was a Sunday morning flight, and I got booked on it.

I also kept the Sunday night option, just in case...

Next were the issues with getting my boarding pass. It seems the original Sunday flight (which was canceled a couple paragraphs back) had not come off the system yet, so I was trying to board a third flight on the same day, and the system kicked me out.

So that meant going to LAX two hours early on Sunday morning because there was going to be a long line to stand in.

Oh yes, that LA traffic. Even on Sunday morning. Another column for another day.

The lady at the counter was impressed that I was somehow able to get myself booked on three flights in one day, but she was most helpful. The original canceled flight went off my schedule, she did wipe out my backup flight, but did tell me that with my status, if the noon flight got canceled, I w0uld immediately get back on the Sunday night flight.

Not very reassuring, but my only choice.

So, it was through security and to the gate.

To wait for four more hours - not because of a missing crew (they were standing around the gate with all of us) but for a maintenance issue. You try and get a plane fixed on a Sunday morning!!!

But, eventually we got on, got going and I got back.

These last two weekends have me off the flying books, as the USFL playoffs are in Canton, Ohio.

I have opted to rent a car and drive the five-plus hours.

First, it is way easier and quicker. Second, if you want an adventure, try getting a flight from Indianapolis to the Canton/Akron area. Most of my guys ended up flying in and out of Cleveland, which is about an hour from Canton.

I think I would have ended up in Phoenix again...

With the championship game this weekend, my football season ends.

For about 10 minutes.

I have already booked travel for the first Colts preseason game, and I have my game assignment for the first NFL preseason game in August. Actually, I know several of my first assignments when the season gets started.

There is a softball all-star game in Kokomo for another network in a couple weeks, a weekend at the Speedway with NASCAR and Indy Car in July, and we are hosting a state softball tournament at the end of the month.

And I have promised Mom a trip to South Dakota to see her.

The dance card is a bit full.

I hope everyone has had a great early start to their summer, and that everyone has a fantastic July 4 holiday.

Be flexible with your flying, and have deep pockets when you drive.

Safe travels.


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