Our Day at Reagan National Airport

FEVER UPDATE: The Indiana Fever at Connecticut Sun game, originally scheduled for July 18, has been rescheduled for Tuesday, July 28, at 7:00 p.m. ET at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn.

We awoke at 6:00 a.m., bruised and weary from a 68-50 defeat a few hours earlier at Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. The Indiana Fever team bus departed our DuPont Circle hotel at 6:30. Our 8:30 flight from Washington to Connecticut was listed as on-time. To that point all was normal.

Reagan National Airport was surely crowded this morning, but people and flights were moving. The Fever team steadily made its way through ticketing, through security and all the way to Gate 35-X for our morning departure.

Eighteen members of our travel party crowded onto the small utility bus from the terminal to our small plane carrying no more than 50 passengers in all. We boarded the plane. To that point all was normal.

Then, however, remnants of the same storms that wreaked havoc in Indianapolis last night, chose to begin their path of inconvenience through the Fever’s travel day. Four hours later, I began writing this blog from the food court inside the airport concourse.

Two hours later after that, it was announced that tonight’s game at Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut has been postponed. The team has returned to the same hotel at which it departed some 8 ½ hours ago. Rescheduling details will be announced at a later time.

At roughly 8:30 a.m., the U.S. Airways plane pulled away from its gate and, from my aisle seat in 9D, I heard our pilot inform passengers that we might have a slight delay while airport authorities allowed a small weather front to pass. No worries. Twenty minutes, we thought. While coaches reviewed game film from last night’s loss to the Mystics, a good number of the Fever travel party (myself included), napped while the plane taxied, without concern or any cares greater than extra moments of sleep.

After all, we were expecting a flight, a 1 ½-hour bus ride and an approximate 1:00 p.m. arrival to the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, and probably a 4:30 walk from our hotel rooms to the arena on the same property. Sleep was a premium. Get it while you can. Especially the players.

I awoke at 10:15 a.m., only to find out that we hadn’t moved. According to schedule, we should have nearly arrived by then. It had rained outside and the young lady beside me confirmed that it had rained throughout the hour or more I had slept.

The rain had stopped, but we were still being held. Evidently there was a mechanical concern. At one point, the pilot apologized for pulling us back to the gate to fix what he called a “fuel imbalance.” My thought? Don’t apologize … thank you for fixing it, whatever it is.

We had sat on the plane for two hours. Passengers had grown restless.

Back at the gate, the obvious question was whether we could deplane for any period of time. As yet there was still no departure plan, though we were assured we were still scheduled for takeoff.

Citing the “Passenger Bill of Rights,” the pilot did announce the airlines would allow passengers to deplane only if they wished to cancel their own booking. While nice to have the option, you know things aren’t good when the passenger bill of rights comes into play.

We had a game to play. Nobody from the Fever deplaned, but Tamika Catchings, in Row 8 just ahead of me, scored a tiny victory at that moment when a woman across the aisle chose to leave our flight. Tamika and the gentleman beside her each got a row to themselves.

That would be the last Fever victory for a couple hours.

Our Day at Regan National Airport

By 11:00, players and coaches awaited resolution to the aforementioned fuel imbalance and began to calculate when we might arrive at Mohegan Sun. Given that we hadn’t yet left D.C., best timing had the Fever checking into hotel rooms sometime mid-afternoon … barely before needing to stretch and get ready to play the Sun.

Trainer and “travel coordinator” Todd Champlin began conversations with Head Coach Stephanie White abouty emergency contingencies – the dreaded “what if” scenarios involving available flights, nearby airports, bus transportation and collection of the team equipment bags.

While players walked the aisles and tried to keep comfortable two-and-a-half hours after entering the jet, it happened:

“Ladies and gentlemen, we are canceled,” came the words from the pilot.

The Fever team returned to Gate 35, and White and Champlin went to work. Players mingled and scattered briefly; staff found empty seats to pass the time … and eventually players gathered in a nearby restaurant to discuss the dozens of questions surrounding their day of travel.

By noon, a new flight had been booked. The Fever would depart for Boston at 2:30 p.m., arriving at 3:55. Given an approximate two-hour bus ride, speculation was that we might arrive to Mohegan Sun as early as 6 or 6:30 for a 7:00 tip.

Would the game be played at all? At what time? How much time would players be allocated for treatment with a trainer, or any on-court warmup? As those questions circled among our group, I sought food and a table to begin writing this blog near Gate 43, with Washington Monument and the U.S. Capitol both visible on the distant horizon.

A salad-and-bottle-of-water later, and about four paragraphs into the first draft of this blog, we received notification that departure for the Boston flight was delayed until 3:10. Shortly after, White notified team personnel – now scattered at various restaurants and seating areas – that the game was canceled.

OFFICIAL RELEASE: WNBA Announces Postponement »»

The team returned to the same DuPont Circle hotel and front office staff in Indianapolis re-arranged flights to resume the road trip Sunday morning to San Antonio.

No matter when the Fever may have arrived in Connecticut – at 6:00, 7:00 or after – the decision by the WNBA was certainly the best thing to do, in the interest of health, safety and competition. The travel circumstances were unfortunate. The postponement of any professional sporting event is unfortunate for the fans.

Air and bus travel into Hartford and Mohegan Sun have often been challenging, but during back-to-back scheduling, the impact of flight delays and cancelations is amplified. What can you do when the first flight of the day results in cancelation and subsequent flights get delayed? Short-notice booking for a group of 18 is never easy.

Ironically, the Fever and Sun still may meet this evening. Sort of.

With tonight’s cancelation, the Sun changed their travel schedule as part of their own back-to-back meeting with the Mystics. Washington hosts Connecticut on Sunday. The Sun made a late train reservation for Saturday evening.

The Sun and Fever will share the same hotel this evening in D.C. Perhaps they should schedule a Sunday matinee at Verizon Center as part of a WNBA doubleheader in the nation’s capital?

Just kidding … on to San Antonio.