On the Road, iPhone Comes Through in the Clutch

When I booked a train home from Fresno last weekend, I never thought it would mean missing the almost best-game-ever, between Duke and Butler. After watching Butler shoot a pathetic 30.6 percent against Sparty, and Duke trounce a very good West Virginia team on April 3, I thought for sure the Bulldogs would get pitchforked by the Blue Devils in the national championship game on Tuesday.

My ill-advised confidence guided me to choose a late train home. Hey, I thought, it’s not like I’ll be missing anything more than a repeat 20-point championship blowout.

Good thing I’m not a betting man. As my train-seat rumbled beneath my stupid assuming ass and a crowd of people began clustering around my seat, all I could think was: Thank god for my iPhone.

Ten years ago, I used to carry around a portable TV. I would sit in class with the TV under my desk and the antennae perfectly angled to run along the bottom of the desk so I wouldn’t miss a second of action. But the TV wouldn’t have done much good bouncing from train station to train station like a hot potato.

Had last Tuesday fallen 10 years before, I would’ve been screwed. But it wasn’t, and I was fortunate enough to have my cracked, yet faithful, iPhone in tow — equipped with a divine 3G network. Let me first say that if AT&T truly is the fastest 3G network on the market, I’d rather carry around a hamster running on a wheel to power my phone. I mean, come on; if an offensive lineman can run a 40-yard dash in under five seconds, a multibillion dollar company like AT&T ought to be able to do it in half the time. But, in the end, the slower-than-molasses-in-winter blue bar running across my Safari Web page only added to the angst and excitement on the train.

As the game wound down to a close, I found myself sharing my elation with strangers I was quite certain I’d never see again. Fans in Indianapolis, Ind. got to breathe the tension with some 70,000 others. Fans at home got to sit on the edge of their comfortable La-Z-Boy with their closest buddies. What did I get? I got some guy who hadn’t brushed his teeth in at least three days, a hardcore Blue Devils fan that yelled in my ear every time an update appeared on my phone and some helpless lady who probably would’ve rather been standing before a firing squad than sitting near us.

In a game that I never expected to come down to the final minutes, much less the opening tipoff, I’m just glad that I had my handy-dandy 3G with me. Here’s a breakdown of my experience in the last few minutes of the game.

5:06 minutes left: ESPN.com’s GameCast takes forever to load. Blue Devils fan keeps asking if there’s any update on my phone. He asks more times than a five-year-old would ask “Are we there yet?” on a long family road trip. I start getting annoyed, and pray Blue Devils fan will shut up. Unfortunately, there isn’t an app for that. I decide to switch to ESPN’s ScoreCenter app. We finally discover that the score is 56-55 Duke, and I think to myself: “FML for missing this game.”

3:16 minutes left: I watch the little white sundial go round and round, but there aren’t any updates. Blue Devils fan continues to ask if there’s an update, while bad-breath guy talks about the business he supposedly runs. I think he’s lying, so I use my phone to verify his story, and it checks out. I contemplate which company has the best waiting icon. Apple’s pinwheel makes me dizzy, and the Windows hour glass of death actually makes me feel like I’m aging more quickly than usual.

I decide the iPhone sundial is the best and wish I had a real-life one to gauge if Blue Devils fan has ever actually thought before speaking. An update finally pops up: The score is 60-55 for Duke after two Nolan Smith free throws. Blue Devils fan throws out high-fives to anyone willing.

1:42 minutes left: After almost 10 minutes of real time, we finally get an update. I am deathly sick of Blue Devils fan. I begin thinking I should challenge him to hold his breath between updates.

54 seconds left: Butler scores and makes it a one-point game at 60-59. This sends Blue Devils fan into a rampage. He paces up and down the aisle of the train and almost knocks over a lady carrying two bottles of wine from the dining cart. I think I just found my after-game refuge.

13 seconds left: It’s still a one-point game, and Butler has the ball. I try to hide the info from Blue Devils fan so I won’t have to deal with him. I also want to slap bad-breath guy so he doesn’t breath down my neck any longer. God he smells. The anticipation is starting to get to me.

Three seconds left: Game over. Zoubek makes a free throw, and Butler’s only hope is half-court prayer. I update Blue Devils fan and he jumps with joy, nearly breaking a leg when he lands. He lets out a yelp of pleasure and goes back to his seat. Bad-breath guy sighs heavily, which makes me immediately wish I had a gas mask. Fortunately, he leaves my personal space and returns to his seat. The poor lady who was stuck in the same proximity as us glances at me and nods her head in approval. Apparently, she was a fan, too.

God bless technology. Without it, I would’ve missed the almost best-game-ever.

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