Jeff Pearlman

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American Airlines, Flight 2283 and Miami’s airport

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The scene at D5.

I’m writing this from gate D5 inside the American Airlines terminal at Miami’s airport.

It’s been a c-r-a-z-y flying day. And we haven’t flown an inch.

Flight was scheduled for 2:25, so son and I arrived, oh, noonish to return the car, check our bag, etc. At some point I got notice the flight was pushed back to 3. OK, three o’clock. Big deal. Then it was pushed back again. And again. And again. We’ve actually had a pretty terrific time. Played cards (Emmett taught me Casino), ate Chinese food and Nathan’s fries, competed at some pretty intense games of slither.io. Really, I can’t complain about a bunch of hours solo with my best little buddy.

Well, wait.

Our flight was finally scheduled to depart at 7:10. Emmett and I set down at a table 20 gates away from D15—the listed departure point. At about 6:15, I said to the boy, “OK, let’s head over.” So we’re walking, walking, walking. He’s got a hot cocoa, I’ve got a hot coffee. We’re casually cruising through the terminal, and I catch a quick glance at the enormous digital schedule.

FIGHT 2283

DEPARTURE TIME: 6:14

Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit …

Shit!

“Emmett!” I say. “It’s leaving—now!”

He bolts. I bolt. We’re doing O.J. through the airport (look it up, millennials), cutting left, cutting right. I have a fat backpack strapped to my shoulders, he’s pulling a wheelie. I chuck my beverage in a can. Emmett is whimpering. I look and his hand—gripping a cup—is coated in hot chocolate. “Give me the cup!” I yell.

He hands it to me, I launch it toward the next can.

It’s an insanely long and tiring sprint. The surface is hard. My back is aching. I’m figuring out what happened when we inevitably miss the plane. Where do we stay? Hotel? Airport floor? The kid is only 11. I’ve gotta handle this well.

We reach the gate. Dad huffing and puffing, son huffing and puffing. There’s no one else walking through the boarding zone. I assume we’re either too late, or barely on time. We walk toward the door.

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“What flight are you on?” an employee asks.

“Los Angeles!” I say.

“No,” he says. “Stop. This is San Francisco.”

I look around. A bunch of other LA passengers are wearing exasperation across their faces. One tells me he, too, ran here. But there’s no plane. Not yet. “We’ll be boarding soon,” the agent says.

Moments later, an announcement: “ATTENTION IN THE TERMINAL. IF YOU’RE ON FLIGHT 2283, YOU ARE NOW AT GATE D5! I REPEAT! GATE D5!”

Everyone runs to gate D5.

We got here 20 minutes ago.

Nothing seems to be happening.

PS: Just checked—it’s now a 7:45 departure. Was talking to a guy going on a vacation with his family. He’s missing his connection to Anchorage. He’s rightly furious. “This isn’t weather!” he said.

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Once again, Jeff Pearlman has produced an exhaustively researched, elegantly written book that re-creates one of the most colorful and memorable teams of the modern era. No basketball fan's bookshelf will be complete without it.

— Seth Davis, author of Wooden: A Coach's Life