I Missed The Toronto Raptors Make History

If my journey to Game 6 of the 2019 Eastern Conference Finals was in a boxscore, it would read: Tas Melas (DNP – stuck at airport).

When the Raptors won Game 4 against the Bucks and Game 6 became a reality, I looked into flights to Toronto from Atlanta and quickly realized the dollars requested were quite high. Over a thousand of them, in fact. What was usually around $400 was close to $1100. Could I afford it? Yes, but I have trouble paying amounts far higher than normal, plus, we had just been laid off NBATV, and hell, I’d find a way to outsmart the airlines. By the next afternoon, I felt the need to book something, so I bought a ticket to Buffalo (which came with a 2-hour drive). The following morning, I remembered I had a friend who worked for an airline who could hook me up with a standby buddy pass. A buddy pass did not come with a confirmed seat assignment but he told me there were plenty of unsold seats on flights to Toronto, and that he would feel comfortable trying his luck because there were backup options with other airlines— in a worst-case scenario, I could just buy a regular ticket for a flight the day of. I canceled my ticket to Buffalo and bought a standby to Toronto. Sounds like a foolproof idea– what could go wrong?

Game day. Saturday, 7:30am: I get to security at the Atlanta airport for my 9am flight. Only 90 minutes to spare. That’s how good I felt. I breezed through security but I was not in a good spot when it came to actually flying. Every seat to Toronto had been snatched up over the previous two days. I needed no-shows. I hang with J.E. Skeets until he boards and says, “I know I’ll see you strutting on there.” It got close– I started in standby spot number six, dropped to nine, and got all the way up to three, but the only people strutting were those getting to the gate late in the 4th quarter: a family of four with 20 minutes to departure, a couple with 15:00 on the clock, a single person moseying like he’s two hours early but with only ten minutes till takeoff. Missing that first flight was both exhilarating, because it came down to the wire, and fascinating because of the people watching.

10:00am: Flight #2 was at 12:30pm. In the meantime, I did some more people watching (and judging) at a bar. A man drinking a breakfast pint of Bud Light asked me for a micro-USB when he saw me charging my phone. Noise-canceling headphones are important on a plane. I get it. He then quickly ordered another beer, pounded both, and left. Another man with an Irish coffee. And another guy with a double Maker’s Mark? And a beer to chase it down? At 10:30am? Things on this flight looked worse. It was sold out and they were giving away vouchers of six hundred, eight hundred, and eventually a thousand dollars to get people off the plane. It was about then my friend texted to inform me flights had been canceled due to weather and mechanical issues the previous day, leading to people’s travel plans rolling over to Saturday. The 12:30 came and went, but there was a 2:00 to Buffalo, and if not, I could buy a full-fare ticket to Toronto with a 3:30 departure. I’d come this far.

1:00pm: 60 minutes until Buffalo— the backup to the backup which was supposed to be a lock. There were dozens of available tickets 48 hours earlier but Friday’s airport issues changed that. I noticed a worrisome sign— the same people I had seen for the 9:00 and 12:30 to Toronto were waiting to get to Buffalo. Uh oh. I started the process of paying for the 3:30 Toronto flight when it looked like Buffalo was standing me up. I paid for it at 2:05, got the confirmation email, and was at the gate by 2:15.

2:15pm: 75 minutes before the 3:30 takeoff. There were no gate agents. Well, I’ve got a seat on this one, so I’m gonna go grab some Pei Wei fried rice. I’m confident, bordering on cocky with my newfound ticket power, but this had not been a seamless day, so I ordered it to go. That Pei Wei is made fresh to order (not sponsored) so it took a few minutes. When I got back to the gate, people were lined up at the podium. I sit down to eat and let the line dwindle. With about 50 minutes before takeoff, I head to the counter. I ask to check-in. The gate agent looks at me like I’ve got a chicken ball on my nose and tells me, “You can’t just check-in. You have to check-in at least 60 minutes before the flight.” “But I have a full-fare ticket!” After some disagreement, it starts to seep in that this ticket was with a totally different airline than my buddy pass and the new airline had no idea I was at the airport. I didn’t scan my documents at one of their kiosks because I was already in the airport, I didn’t go to their counters upon entering the airport (because I was already in the airport!), and I didn’t think to check-in online after purchasing the seat (no way they were sending me an ‘It’s time to check-in’ email an hour before the flight). The agent informed me that if the airline doesn’t know the passenger is there 60 minutes prior to departure, that seat is automatically assigned to someone else. But to whom?! I paid for a ticket! She waved the boarding passes in front of my face: “What about these people who have their tickets?” Those sweet, sweet boarding passes. The flight, just like every flight I tried to get on Saturday, was oversold, which is a whole other air travel issue. The agent told me she could get me on the flight later that night, which would literally be during the game. Could I have gone around and asked someone to take the next flight in exchange for their seat on the 3:30? In hindsight, I suppose that was an option, but there was no clear thinking happening at this point. Plus, I was having a pretty heated discussion with the agent— some kind soul should have just offered it to me after overhearing my dispute, obviously. Also, in hindsight, everything flying to that part of North America was a hot ticket that day. Some people on this flight had had to stay in Atlanta overnight.

The agent said I could either call customer service or head to the airline’s counter which was on the other side of security. I headed to the information desk and that person gave me the same info. Feeling desperate, I left the cleared area and ran past security toward the airline’s counter in the concourse. I’m booking it. I ducked under some of those retractable lineup belts and poles and knock a few over. No time to pick them up because I have to get to a counter WHERE THERE WAS ABSOLUTELY NO ONE! Everyone from this airline was at the gate. Did that agent know that and send me there anyway? I’d say the likelihood of that was somewhere between 99.99% and 100% percent. I tried to get someone to the desk, while at the same time calling customer service, while at the same time telling my story to anyone who would listen. I couldn’t get anyone there so I went back toward security and realized I didn’t even have a boarding pass for this flight. I don’t even have a boarding pass! All I had was an email receipt. What about a kiosk? Not one for that airline in this terminal. Online check-in? Yeah, right. Things were getting bleak. There was a 5:00 flight with the “my buddy pass airline” but that one was oversold so I couldn’t buy a seat. I could go back on standby for that flight but I was feeling pretty helpless, especially with now being on the outside.

It’s over. I headed back to my car that I parked nine-plus hours earlier.

And, that’s how I missed Toronto Raptors history. Four flights missed, but also, four Eastern Conference Finals games won.


Raptors Are In The Finals… Finally

This is for Raptors fans who supported Carlos Rogers, Milt Palacio, Loren Woods, Marcus Camby, Derrick Dial, Lamond Murray, Roko Ukic, Doug Christie, Nate Huffman, Robert Archibald, Dion Glover, Eric Montross, Jose Calderon, Voshon Lenard, Oliver Miller, Antonio Davis, Mengke Bateer, Jason Kapono, Rafael Araujo, Ed Pinckney, Rick Brunson, Matt Bonner, Mamadou N’Diaye, Steve Novak, Amir Johnson, DeMarre Carroll, Primoz Brezec, Kris Humphries, Alvin Robertson, John Salmons, John Salley, Kornel David, Donyell Marshall, P.J.Tucker, Juan Dixon, Terrence Ross, Nando de Colo, Gary Trent, Darrick Martin, Quincy Acy, Acie Earl, Jorge Garbajosa, Jamario Moon, Sundiata Gaines, Reggie Evans, Jelani McCoy, Maceo Baston, Joey Graham, Marcus Banks, Tyler Hansbrough, Jermaine O’Neal, Morris Peterson, Benoit Benjamin, Lindsey Hunter, Charlie Villanueva, Hubert Davis, Clifford Rozier, Keon Clark, Anthony Parker, Jerome Moiso, Carlos Arroyo, Hassan Adams, Tracy Murray, Rudy Gay, Leandro Barbosa, Chuck Hayes, Charles Oakley, Bruno Caboclo, Carlos Delfino, Zan Tabak, Sean Marks, Shawn Marion, Jimmy King, Mickael Pietrus, Lonny Baxter, Landry Fields, Solomon Alabi, T.J. Ford, Bismack Biyombo, Austin Daye, Roger Mason Jr, Rod Strickland, Jalen Rose, Pape Sow, Dee Brown, Anthony Carter, Willie Anderson, Dell Curry, Michael Curry, Aleksandar Radojevic, Michael Bradley, Linas Kleiza, Fred Jones, Aaron Gray, Tony Massenburg, Andrea Bargnani, Muggsy Bogues, Jannero Pargo, Dwight Buycks, Jamaal Magloire, Greg Foster, Pops Mensah-Bonsu, Rasho Nesterovic, Chris Childs, Luis Scola, Vincenzo Esposito, Quincy Douby, Rafer Alston.

Vince Carter Got Me Good

With the premiere of Vince Carter’s Raptors-centric doc at TIFF this weekend, I needed to share my own VC-Raptors story, mainly, how Vince Carter cost me thousands of Canadian dollars.

Like the rest of the basketball world, I was in awe of his high-flying dunks in those hideous, yet endearing, dino jerseys, but it was the winning that got me to buy-in, literally. The climb was clear. Year 1: A near .500 team that missed the postseason. Year 2: A Slam Dunk contest spectacular and a postseason appearance that ended in a 3-game sweep at the hands of Latrell Sprewell, Larry Johnson, and the Knicks. Year 3? Growing up near Toronto during a franchise-record 47-win season, there was no way I was watching the show from home.

The organization had a deal for their young team– put down a $500 deposit for season seats in the fall, and get access to 2001 playoff tickets before the general public.

I was making that mad shoe money, selling footwear at a Sport Chek in the suburb of Mississauga, and figured Vincent Lamar Carter was worth the investment. Most importantly, it was a tiny investment, which was good because I wasn’t the best shoe seller. My buds and I got a pair of season seats for about $2K. We split the pair four ways, and I split that quarter of a pair with my good friend, Dave Setton. $250 got me in to the building for 10 games.

We saw the dinos’ run in to the second round (the only series win in their first 20 seasons). They lost at the buzzer of Game 7 when Carter missed that jumper from the wing in Philadelphia, and although I was angry Vince took a flight to North Carolina that morning for his graduation, he had sucked me in.

I shared those season seats for 12 mostly dark years. Only reason I stopped was because I moved to Atlanta, but there were many years I was ready to give them up. When the buzzer went off after Game 82 each April, on several occasions, I told myself I was done. But I just couldn’t. It was all Vince’s fault.

Vince Carter cost me thousands of dollars. I don’t regret a thing.

Daddy Tassie Saves the Day

My wife, Danielle Oron, is so proud of “My daddy initiation”. I tried to play it off like it was nothing. Here’s what went down:

I was sitting in the rear seat of our newly purchased family vehicle with our 6-week-old daughter while Danielle was at the doctor. All was going smoothly for about 20 minutes as our happy baby was being her happy self. She started to get a little fussy so I went to checkbox one: hunger. I began feeding her and felt a little dampness on her butt. I thought, “Must just be a warm baby after being out in this hot Atlanta weather.” Another 15 seconds passed and I couldn’t lie to myself any longer, so I wrenched my head around the front of little Zoe’s body, and saw a patch of wetness on her hip/thigh area.

It can wait til we get home. A diaper change in a car? That’s for seasoned, confident parents – I am neither. Looked for wipes, couldn’t find any. I am not cleaning a soak-through without wipes! I just can’t! Some would call it impossible. But the call I got at that moment – my wife checking in on me – saved the day. She told me the location of said wipes, I got out of the vehicle, laid out the diaper change mat on the back seat, cracked my neck, and kicked some major baby butt.

Those plastic bags came in handy: one for the dirty clothes, and one for the poop-infested trashables. It was getting warm as I cleaned my daughter haphazardly (I may have used a wipe on my forehead). I surprised myself when I went for the full change, and although I had real trouble getting on that one-piece with the seemingly endless amount of clasps, moments later, father and daughter were holding each other’s sweaty bodies, ready to get the next call from mama.

La Croix Boy

Latest addiction has me thinking about traveling far and wide for more flavors.

Weekend Rituals

The Starters 2015 NBA Playoff Predictions

The Starters 2015 NBA Playoffs Predictions

Birkenstock Love


Gonna miss these guys.

L.A. Reid of X-Factor

The Basketball Jones tour is complete

34 days, 10 cities (9 for the tour, 1 for a wedding), 13 flights, and countless fantastic fans, The Basketball Jones “No Season Required” tour is complete.