My European struggle to catch the NBA Finals

Last week I ventured to the continent of Europe with a couple of buddies.  As a dedicated basketball enthusiastic, this meant viewing the NBA Finals would take place at the less than ideal hour of 3 A.M.  Literally the middle of the night.  Despite the 6-hour time change, long blurry nights out, and multiple early travel arrangements, I managed to catch the majority of Games 1-3.  It was highly regrettable then and now; but it happened.  Here is a quick recap of the journey that was.

Game 1: Rome (Golden State 113 – 91 Cleveland)

Going into the evening I had a set plan in mind.  I’d go to bed early (hopefully by 11), get a handful of hours of sleep, and then rise with vengeance for Game 1.  I’d stream the proceedings on my iPhone through my trusty WatchESPN App, and enjoy the game from the comforts of my Rome Airbnb.  Directly following, we’d head to the train station for a three-hour ride to the coast.  I’d make up my lost sleep then.  It would be tough but manageable.  I wasn’t going to miss Game 1.

When my alarm sounded at 2:45 AM, I fired up WatchESPN only to realize what I already knew, but completely forgot.  The app doesn’t work outside the US.  Enter scramble mode!  Streaming live sporting events has become relatively painless in The States on a laptop, but overseas on a mobile device it is arduous.  Nothing works.  Tab after tab of sketchy webpages yielded nothing.

I was beginning to lose hope when an easy solution popped in my head.  FaceTime the loving parents!  Watching a game on a computer through another’s phone is tedious.  Any minor shift in angles can render the hoop invisible; the lighting has to be synchronized perfectly.  In fear of waking up my buddies, my whispers for minor screen adjustments to the parents back in Grand Rapids were unsuccessful.  I honestly couldn’t tell if shots went in until the scoreboard adjusted.  The audio carried me.  I hung up when LeBron exited at the four-minute mark.  The FaceTime call was over two hours…

Viewing Grade: C+


Game 2: Barcelona (Golden State 132 – 113 Cleveland)

It was a Sunday night.  In most American cities you’d be hard pressed to find bars/clubs that would be popping off at this interval, worthy of your presence past 2 A.M.  Barcelona is a different beast.  That city simply doesn’t sleep.

What I initially expected to be a semi-casual night out on the town quickly turned into a boisterous gathering of humanity.  We were in the heart of Las Ramblas, the central entertainment district of Barcelona.  It was like a weekend summer night in North Chicago on steroids.  All the stars were out.

Still focused on the game, I rallied the crew to depart the club by 3:30 AM, an hour and a half past tipoff (Sunday night games run an hour earlier).  When we arrived at our hostel at 4:15 AM, the game was 86-82, midway through the 3rd quarter.  We had a close one!  Luckily the hostel had an assortment of computers to utilize in the lobby, so I began firing up various live streams.  I quickly found an adequate site and watched the remainder of the game in silence.  Similar to Game 1, the Warriors pulled away in the last 15 minutes.  I slept off the defeat until 1 PM the next day.

Viewing Grade: D (missed a good chunk)


Game 3: Paris (Golden State 118 – Cleveland 113)

I knew the last night of the trip, in the lovely city of Paris, was going to a problem.  Game at 3 A.M., interrupted by a scheduled 5 A.M. Uber to the Charles De Gaulle Airport.  Plus it’s Paris: the dreamy abyss that alters ones ability to act rationally when the sun starts to set.  Sleep wasn’t on the radar.  It never came.

The dangerously cheap bottles of wine available in close proximity to the Eiffel Tower amplified the moment.  Starting at 10 PM, the Eiffel Tower starts to flicker uncontrollably for about five minutes.  It continues doing so for the next handful of hours.  It’s intoxicating grandiosity makes it brutally difficult to depart.

We headed at 2 A.M. towards the metro station that was closed, and settled for a costly Uber back towards our hostel in the distant 10th arrondissement.  Tip-off was still 30 minutes out, so my friend Danny and I decided to sleep on a bench until it was time to once again activate FaceTime.

From my top bunk I viewed the first three-quarters of Game 3.  This time my mother, halfway around the world, left her phone facing the computer while she went to bed.  Unable to effectively communicate in a timely manner the pressing need to adjust the angle of the laptop in order to generate an adequate display, I relied heavily on the audio for guidance.

I cut the feed at the end of the 3rd to catch the Uber to the airport.  Off of WiFi now, I proceeded to drain my buddies battery updating the play-by-play as the final quarter moved along.  This is the single most stressful way to follow a basketball game.

Arriving at the airport with the game’s result still uncertain, I hustled into a Cafe to fire up FaceTime one last time.  Cavaliers up 6.  Three minutes remaining.  It was going to be worth it!  My slightly hung over, dreadfully tired self would finally witness a Cavaliers victory on European soil!

Then it all fell apart.

The Warriors outscored the Cavaliers 11-0 in the last three minutes.  It was as heartbreaking of an ending to a basketball game in recent memory.  I didn’t see the Cavs score a single point.  The 26th consecutive hour of being awake was easily the worst.

Viewing Grade: F (only good picture was during the final three minutes, the worst three minutes in the history of basketball)

 

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