The running sports diary: a useful tool for conveying real in-game emotions in pseudo-real time. A running diary for the Super Bowl? Excellent choice. For the Wimbledon Final? Sure, why not. For an early-season NBA showdown between the 4-9 Sacramento Kings and the 6-6 Orlando Magic, two teams that are destined for mediocrity, or a plateau somewhere south of mediocrity? A horrendous idea. Add in a sleep-deprived, only intermittently attentive narrator (me!) and the concurrent events occurring in the “Man Cave” that is economy class on a transatlantic flight, and you have a record that carries no weight or significance whatsoever. I present this record… now.
12:00 1st Quarter: I’m watching live NBA action from window seat 20A on a 14-hour flight from Dubai to Washington DC. (I was traveling for pleasure, not for sports reporting.) Live TV in mid-air is a thing that will never get old for me, so despite the low quality of this matchup, I’m excited for the opportunity to check it out. Especially since one of my alternate entertainment options is Pixels.
To be honest, though, my main focus is that, as we’ve yet to take off, the vacant middle seat next to me doesn’t get filled. Like the Kings and Magic this season, I’m mostly focused on little victories.
9:20 1st Quarter: Both teams get off to a slow start, tied at just 2-2 almost three minutes in. The flight attendants come around with moist towelettes, which seems ominous, like I’m about to sully myself with this game, and the attendants are preemptively looking out for me.
8:00 1st Quarter: It’s worth noting that, since I’m flying Emirates, I’m watching a channel called Sport24. What is Sport24, you ask? I have no idea. It sounds like some weird, all-day sports network, which can’t have very high odds of success.
7:20 1st Quarter: The safety briefing comes on, and I lose visibility into the game. Given Orlando’s 2-9 start from the field, my eyes can use the breather.
4:30 1st Quarter: The safety video ends. Orlando, which was down by five when the video came on, is now up by three. Good for the Magic, but given their proficiency during the tutorial, I’m concerned Tobias Harris won’t know to secure his own oxygen mask before helping out Elfrid Payton.
Aside: Worth noting that I’m not listening to the audio of the broadcast. I’m a basketball purist who only wants turbines and the incessant crying of babies as the backdrop to Marco Belinelli free throws.
2:14 1st Quarter: Kings up 24-20. Apparently Sport24 doesn’t do commercials, so I’m watching old men dancing at half court in Magic jerseys during an official timeout. There is no context in which this is acceptable.
1:29 1st Quarter: I’m writing all of this at roughly 2:30 AM local time, so I may fall asleep very soon. Rajon Rondo is ahead of me, apparently, as he pretty much single-handedly picked up a shot clock violation.
Emirates has a free booze policy. Given this start, holy hell, am I grateful for that.
End 1st Quarter: Kings up five, despite an unhealthy offensive diet of DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins barreling to the basket without a Plan B. The flight’s about to take off; based on the sample of the game so far, it looks like the passengers are the only ones going places.
9:47 2nd Quarter: Helluva #StiffWhiteyShowdown between Jason Smith and Kosta Koufos. A lot of loose ball fouls on rebounds where neither gets 12 inches off the ground nor engages fast-twitch muscles.
8:56 2nd Quarter: New crying baby in the mix, which I can only assume was prompted by Omri Casspi’s latest careening drive to the basket. Unsurprisingly, he missed. Kings still up four.
Mid-2nd Quarter: Woman two seats down from me (sitting in the aisle) just commandeered the vacant middle seat and is resting her bare foot on it. There are bunions. I’m officially fighting a war of unwatchability on two fronts, folks. Meanwhile, the sports broadcast is overridden, and a lady on screen invites me to explore the entertainment offerings I was already engaged with. Didn’t know Kafka worked for Emirates.
6:36 2nd Quarter: On the edge of my seat as we return to the game. Vucevic bricks a free throw, Rondo oops it to no one, and we have four straight misses before a foul breaks the action.
Becoming very concerned that I won’t be able to survive four quarters of this. These are the times that try men’s souls.
4:28 2nd Quarter: The two teams are 3 for 12 and 4 for 16 from the field this quarter. I’m losing my ability to feel.
Aside: The Kings are actually pretty decent in NBA 2K16.
Possibly-Related Aside: The Golden State Warriors are only the tenth-best team overall in NBA2K16, so the veracity of those rankings may be questionable.
2:26 2nd Quarter: The Magic mascot just fell on his face, did rhythmic gymnastics, and began break-dancing. Either I’m hallucinating or the FCC should be contacted immediately regarding this inexplicable content.
1:46 2nd Quarter: Boogie Cousins fouled shooting a three. He’s always been a treat to watch, but with his added range this year, Jump-Shooting Boogie is a delight. Post-Up Boogie is also fun as hell. Face-Up, Dribble-Drive Boogie gives me an aneurysm. Related: we should ban Euro-steps for players weighing over 250, just to deter Cousins, Marreese Speights, and Boris Diaw from trying to do anything that could be classified as “graceful.”
0:01.9 2nd Quarter: Kings are up six, inbounding under their basket. I’m guessing they’ll draw up their disorganized play that features subpar execution and general distrust. It’s called “the Status Quo.” And yup, Boogie airballs a shot and we go to halftime. I’m in desperate need of a zen koan.
Halftime: Sport24 summarizes the first half with a compilation of Steven Gerrard’s greatest goals. To be fair, though, the NBA analysis generated from this soccer highlight package is still more useful than Shaq’s.
8:30 3rd Quarter: Elfrid Payton nearly decapitates a fan with a pass, although for the city of Orlando, generating the need for more plastic surgery is actually a pretty effective economic stimulus.
Payton is stingier with the handouts on the next trip down, hitting a three to give Orlando a one-point lead.
6:00 3rd Quarter: Evan Fournier has a modest burst, hitting back-to-back threes to put Orlando up four. I guess that’s good for him?
Editorial Aside: Around this time, dinner is served, and diary entries become less frequent.
End 3rd Quarter: The Kings are up 16, ending the quarter on a 24-4 run during a brief spell of competency. Maybe I was wrong before, too harsh on these teams that are, after all, composed of professionals trying their best.
If so, I sincerely don’t care.
6:33 4th Quarter: Orlando is back within seven, as Sacramento has only two field goals in the quarter so far. It’s not so much as an Orlando run as a slow trudge while the competition cruises backward.
4th Quarter, Time Unknown: My blood sugar is plummeting.
5:58 4th Quarter: Evan Fournier is called for an offensive foul that sends the broadcast to a TV timeout. The mascot returns. This is absolute nightmare fuel.
Aside: Seriously, what’s the mascot’s name? What’s his story–was he always like this? He seems depressed. Did he recently get divorced and have to learn new hobbies or something?
Secondary Aside: Mascot reality dating shows. That is all.
4:47 4th Quarter: Boogie is really good. He has 25 points, 11 boards, and six assists, even though he hasn’t really done anything “smart” all game. Just one of those players whose B-minus game fills up the stat sheet.
3:30 4th Quarter: Kings are only up seven. I’m concerned, because if this game gets any closer I may have to do actual journalism…
1:59 4th Quarter: …Which is bad, because I’m already falling asleep. I jolt upright to see that the Kings are up 11, and at the risk of a Heidi Bowl situation, I’m calling it. G’night.
Epilogue: The Kings ended up winning 97-91. I was worried when I’d look back on this game that it’d turn out I was overly critical, but I think I was in the right: the two teams combined to shoot just 39.9 percent from the field, and they “generated” 31 turnovers. Even bright spots yielded little excitement: Cousins, the best player on either team throughout the night, manufactured most of his damage from the foul line, going 13-15 at the charity stripe.
The point is: This was a bad, boring game of basketball. You should put as much stock in a serious analysis of this game as you do in my above analysis of this game. I highly recommend avoiding watching either of these two teams this year, unless you have a tendency for general sadism, in which case you’ll have a blast. If someone wants to do something about that Orlando mascot, though, that’d be fantastic.
Lucas Hubbard is a writer who frequently takes unexplained international flights. You should follow him on Twitter.