Sunday, March 11, 2012

Guest Post: Andrew and Michael Go to the Twilight Zone

Hello, Andrea’s blog readers, this is Andrew. Every year my buddy Michael and I go to a Charlotte Bobcats game and it is one of the most enjoyable evenings of the year for me. We’ve also gone to a couple of Carolina Panthers games, and every time we do things like this, crazy stuff invariably ensues. (Don’t believe me? Read this post from my old blog of when Michael and I went to the Panthers-Cardinals playoff game). We went on Friday and once again, crazy stuff happened and I felt the compulsive urge to do a 2,500-word blog post about it. 

The Drive to Charlotte
Michael and I have a lot in common. We both grew up in the church, served missions, and met our respective wives at BYU. We both have MBA’s and work for Fortune 500 companies. We both have three kids consisting of two daughters and a son. Both of our wives competed professionally on the World’s Strongest Man circuit from 2003-2006. Michael was Ward Mission Leader for several years in our ward since I have been Bishop and he now serves on the High Council. And, finally, we are quite possibly the two biggest fantasy sports dorks in the universe.

So, naturally, our conversation for the hour-and-a-half drive to Charlotte consisted of work, church, family, and mostly fantasy basketball. Our level of detail and dorkiness about fantasy hoops knew no bounds. Our conversations about the value of fringe NBA players like Ekpe Udoh, Bismack Biyombo, Ersan Ilyasova, and Rodrigue Beaubois flowed from our lips as through we were Einstein and Stephen Hawking pondering the complexity of the universe, or Bill Clinton and Chris Christie debating the genius of the new Taco Bell Doritos Taco Loco (the taco shell is made of Doritos!!!)

Let’s just say that if Michael and I had picked up a hitchhiker in Greensboro who turned out to be an unmarried atheist who hates the NBA, our non-stop conversation would have forced our passenger to light himself on fire and fling himself from the car by the time we reached Archdale.

Dinner in the Twilight Zone
We got to Charlotte at 6:00 p.m., plenty of time to get a quick bite to eat prior to the 7:00 tipoff. My new GPS and I are still leery of one another and have a rocky relationship, but I pulled up the list of nearby restaurants on my GPS and it said there was a Subway 0.4 miles away. My route updated to take us to Subway and I had to make a quick decision at an intersection – and, being me, chose the wrong street. 

My error put us back on a highway. My GPS adjusted itself in light of my mistake and told me to exit right, but I think my GPS is always lying to me so I willfully disobeyed and exited left. And, being me, this smooth move put us back on the freeway going the wrong direction.

We finally got turned around and my GPS led us back to Subway. Or it was supposed to, anyway. The GPS’s feelings must have been hurt and it was in a vindictive mood because when it said, “Arriving at Subway, on left,” we only saw laundormats, tattoo parlors, and H&R Block and such. Then, my petulant GPS said, “Hah hah, arrogant suckers! You’re on your own, jerks! You mess with the bull, you get the horns!” I was a little suspicious when the file name for my last Garmin software update was listed as “GPS-Update-Garmin-02182012-JerkMode”, but whatever.

Since the Subway did not really exist, I pulled up the GPS for other nearby restaurants and we found a Quiznos just around the corner in downtown Charlotte. We found parking on the street just around the corner from where Quizons should be and the parking was metered, but rather than feeding your individual meter, you have to pay at a centralized, high-tech pay station. The process was about as user-friendly as NASA’s pre-flight launch process for the Space Shuttle.

I inserted my two quarters and the LCD meter display flashed up, “You do not have to pay for parking after 6:00 on Friday.” Cool, I thought, and pushed the coin return button. Only it refused to return my coins. I stood there befuddled for a moment and pushed the button again, only my coins never came, so we left. I think if I would have stood there long enough a follow-up message would have flashed up which read, “Ah, you foolish dopes known as  ‘tax payers’, you are such chumps. Sincerely, the Gubmint.”

Since this is downtown Charlotte, restaurants like Quizons are on the ground level of larger buildings, so we never truly got a visual of the Quiznos restaurant itself, but we rounded the corner to where my GPS said the Quiznos would be, saw a sandwich shop, and opened the door.

As we entered Quiznos, time suddenly stood still for about fifteen seconds. Our surroundings seemed to be a little off. The time-space continuum shifted for a moment. After getting our bearings we looked at each other and said, “This isn’t Quiznos. This is Subway!” In that moment it was like we had entered the movie Inception and we would not have been surprised to see a runaway freight train barreling down Trade Street.

From my car I heard my GPS laugh and say, “Ah, you foolish men are such chumps. Sincerely, Garmin Jerk Mode.”

So, just to recap, our first Subway didn’t even exist so we went to Quiznos, which was actually a Subway that did not exist. Michael and I then eerily ordered the exact same sandwich – footlong Steak and Cheese, toasted, mayo and extra Twilight Zone sauce. Instead of chips we each ordered a side of cursed monkey paws. We then sat down and scarfed our dinner as the space-time continuum unraveled around us. 

I thought as we left the restaurant the woman who made our sandwiches was going to say something like, “When you tell people about your dinner, tell ‘em Large Marge served ya,” then cackle and disappear into the ether. This may or may not have happened. I was too scared to look.

The “Professional” “Basketball” “Game”
We entered Time Warner We-Gouge-Our-Customers Cable Arena still reeling from having dinner in the Twilight Zone. But the Twilight Zone was not done with us. As we entered the arena we were informed that tonight we were not watching the Charlotte Bobcats versus the New Jersey Nets. The Twilight Zone informed us that tonight was throwback night and we were watching the Carolina Cougars versus the New York Nets. The Bobcats players wore uniforms that said “Cougars.” New Jersey wore unis that said “New York.” 

The PA announcer called the Bobcats the Cougars all night long. The cheerleaders started the “Let’s go Cougars” chants. Michael and I suddenly felt like The Twilight Zone had transported us back to the late nineties and we were cheering at a BYU Cougars basketball game. The whole thing was confusing.

Normally when you go to a professional sporting event you are packed shoulder-to-shoulder with twenty thousand drunk, profane, volatile people, kind of like flying US Air from Philly to Boston.

But when the 5-32 Charlotte Bobcats (worst in the NBA) tip off against the 13-27 New Jersey Nets, the feeling in the arena is more like that of Will Smith living in downtown NY in I Am Legend – there should be a lot of people here, but there just aren’t. (And, sadly, just like Will Smith, Michael and I had to shoot and kill the albino fans who sat in the dark recesses of the arena before they emerged in the fourth quarter to eat us. The investigation is still pending, and on advice from my lawyer I will now stop typing.)

At tipoff, most NBA arenas are electric. The crowd is buzzing and you get goose bumps. But for a Charlotte (Carolina?) versus New Jersey (New York?) game, this is what you get at the tip:

Shortly into the game Michael notices Michael Jordan, majority owner of the Bobcats (Cougars?) sitting at the end of the bench. I zoomed in with my camera to get a few MJ picks just as he started to taunt somebody on the court with a “choke” sign. And MJ was not messing around. He was serious. It was another odd, Twilight Zone moment watching MJ do that from the bench. He looked like he might punch somebody, and it might have been one of his own players.

 And in that MJ-doing-the-choke moment I just happened to snap my all-time favorite picture:

We ended up watching MJ as much as the terrible basketball we saw on the floor. We saw him totally blow off the water bottle guy:

Pretend like he cared about his team by reading fake stat sheets (I think it was really a list of ways to spend a billion dollars):

And, finally, coming to the sad realization that he is an owner of the most pathetic NBA franchise in existence:

The “Game”
The only player Michael and I were excited to watch was the Nets Deron Williams. He is one of the best players in the NBA and he is the best player on my fantasy team this year. So what happens with D-Will? He gets injured in the second quarter, leaves, and never comes back.

Watching a Bobcats-Nets game without Deron Williams is like watching Cast Away without Tom Hanks - you can try to convince yourself that Wison is a pretty good actor, but in your heart you know he is just a stupid volleyball.

After D-Will went down, Michael and I watched ten “volleyballs” play for the rest of the game. It was easily the most disorganized, sloppy, pathetic, poorly-played professional basketball games we have ever witnessed. It got to be so bad that we just sat there making fun of what we were watching, a la Mystery Science Theater 3000. Guys were throwing up 17-foot bricks, airballing reverse layups, dribbling the ball off their legs with no defender near, getting called for eight-seconds in the backcourt. I coached our ward's Young Women's basketball team a few weeks ago and their offense flowed better than the Bobcats did.

In fact, Andrea found a Yahoo Sports! article in their "Ball Don't Lie" blog calling a sequence in this game, "The Worst Twelve Seconds of Basketball, Ever." Most of the game looked like that video clip.

The score at halftime was a rip-roaring, barn-burning 39-35.

Then, at halftime, the Bobcats brought out their aerial dunking team, which literally caused the biggest applause from the crowd of the entire evening. But the terrible basketball extended to the halftime show as the Bobcats mascot, Rufus Lynx, started things with a horrendous rim check.

In the third quarter Michael and I assessed who the five best players in the arena were. Here is what we concluded, in order:

1. Michael Jordan (owner, Charlotte Bobcats and hilarious bench-taunter.)
2. Kris Humphries (Kim Kardashian’s ex-husband, reality TV star, PF New Jersey Nets)
3. Tie – Michael and Me
4. Edwardo Najera (All-hustle NBA journeyman)
5. The sassy, excitable grandma sitting right behind us.

As Michael and I LOL’d at the terrible play we were watching from Section 229 in the nosebleeds a timeout was called. The Bobcats cheerleaders brought out the T-shirt bazooka, pointed it right at us, and fired. Again, the space-time continuum began to unravel. The Twilight Zone took hold.

The t-shirt missile was coming right at my chest at about eighty miles per hour!

Michael and I both went for t-shirt and it ended up in my arms like a tip-drill interception in football. I caught it without it hitting the ground! Sure, the odds of catching a t-shirt at a sparsely attended Bobcats game is about 1-in-6, but it is still cool to get shot at by a cannon at a sporting event.

The Bobcats ended up losing and the game. Staying for an entire Bobcats-Nets game is like finishing the Book Old Yeller - it breaks your heart and makes you want to cry.

The Ride Home
Our tradition on the ride home is to stop at a gas station and get some snacks, so I took us to a Raceway gas station just outside of Charlotte. I also really needed to use the bathroom. We could tell immediately we were in the wrong part of town when we read the hand drawn sign on the outside of the Raceway door which read, “No entering store with hoodies covering your face.” That either means most of their customers are armed robbers, very ugly, or both. In fact, I think we saw Nick Nolte there.

We cautiously entered the store wishing we were carrying switchblades, only to find out they had no bathroom. We went back to the car and were relieved to find that my 2002 Honda Accord had not already been stripped down for parts. 

We drove down the road to a Circle K searching again for snacks and a bathroom. As we pulled in we noticed the store attendant jiggling with the lock to the front doors, but he let us come in. I walked back to the bathroom and found a hand-written sign on the door – “BATHROOM, OUT OF ORDER, PLEASE!”
I walked to the front of the store and told Michael about the bathroom. The clerk overheard me and said, “Nah, go ahead and use it. Bathroom’s fine.” I started to ask a follow-up question with a, “But, are your sure….” then I just shut myself up, credited all of this to our Twilight Zone evening, and used the bathroom that could not be used. 

We finally paid for our drinks and snacks and were getting ready to leave. But the store clerk beat us to the door and for some inexplicable reason started jiggling with the lock again and ended up locking the door, and the lock got stuck.. We stood at the now locked doors as the clerk fiddled unsuccessfully with the now jammed locks. The clerk was getting flustered, looked up, and said, “The doors are locked and won’t come unlocked. I'm sorry.” 

Great, we are now locked INSIDE a gas station in the worst part of Charlotte. I started scanning the store for customers wearing hoodies and once again wished I was concealing a switchblade. 

The Twilight Zone snickered at our plight. My GPS mocked us from the car. And the clerk worked for a full minute or two before finally unlocking the doors and letting us leave.  

The Twilight Zone must begin/end in Charlotte, because the rest of the trip back to Greensboro was rather uneventful. Just more discussions about nerdy Mormon and fantasy basketball stuff. 

I can’t want to do this again next year with Michael. It is always one of the highlights of my year. But next year I’ll be packing a switchblade.


  1. LOL andrew, you are a great storyteller! thanks for sharing your twilight zone adventures! also, you should think about selling that MJ choke hold picture to the entertainment magazines. : )

  2. You lost me at "Hello" --but it was fun to read.
    Gee--Nick Nolte! (With or without his white beard?)

  3. it's always fun to compare your version to michael's. they are usually about the same, but michael somehow omitted the part about "no hoodies" and needing a switchblade. i think he didn't want to freak me out. :)

    also, i love the picture of MJ denying the water guy. so classic MJ. "i'm still better than this guy, and i'll prove it. come on water guy! start trash talking! i'll just repeat it in the post game interview and use it to fuel my uber-competitve spirit for the rest of the game." maybe that's why he was signaling a choke hold - it was directed at the chump of a water guy.

  4. Hilarious! Somehow one of my favorite details was the "please" that was tacked on to the fictional "Bathroom, Out of Order!" sign. I miss your blogging, my bro!

  5. And is it just me, or are the passwords we're supposed to "read" in the captcha thingie getting more and more ridiculous? Snuffelfrump Hooligan bathwater! In cursive! Sideways! Maybe computers are taking over the world, moving from GPS systems to blog spam blockers, messing with our minds one step at a time.

  6. Hilarious!!!


  7. That was great! Thanks for the guest post. We'll look forward to your annual Bobcats game now too! That 12 seconds of video clip was hilarious.

  8. Oh Andrew - you are such a great writer. Thank you for being a guest. I've got to have dad come and look at the Michael Jordan pictures - they're classics.