Sunday, December 2, 2012

Efforts of the Traveling Fan Pay Off

By Wally Mersereau

It isn’t easy being a traveling fan of Stanford women’s basketball. Yesterday’s weather and its effects on air travel required those heading for Spokane that day to endure a few hours in some nether world of SFO called Gate 71A that I previously had never known to exist. Gate 71A sounded innocent enough when I was confusingly told that I should go to Gate 71A to get the shuttle bus to Gate 37.

After clearing security I spotted Gate 71 and when I arrived there I saw a door marked A and concluded I was in the right place. Not so! After reading my newspaper there for a considerable time it began to dawn on me that there was nothing at that place suggesting it was the way to Spokane. When I inquired I was condescendingly told that I was at Gate 71 when I should be at Gate 71A which was vaguely indicated as being on the other side of a newsstand. Sure enough, beyond the newsstand was a temporary-looking sign in among a network of crowd-control stanchions showing “71A” in red. This was in a main passageway of the airport a few hundred feet away from Gate 71.

Arriving at the red sign and asking if this was the way to Gate 37, I was waved toward a stairway leading down to the baggage-handling level of the airport, waved onto a small bus marked United Shuttle and driven into a long, narrow, poorly lighted and wet tunnel and then back into daylight, following a twisting route among parked aircraft. Eventually arriving somewhere, I was waved off the bus and into a third-world-country sort of room populated with many third-class travelers such as I. This was the holding pen for Gates 37 and 38.

The departure boards I had seen when I first arrived at the airport showed the Spokane flight was on time. Gate 37, however, showed it to be delayed and “awaiting aircraft”. About 2 hours after its scheduled departure time the door to the tarmac opened and the boarding process began for the small United Express plane to Spokane. Soon I was strapped into a seat that seemed to have been designed for an elementary-school child, the kind who sit at those little desks. But the plane and crew did their jobs and the 50-some passengers arrived, after some air turbulence, in surprisingly dry and not-too-cold Spokane.

So, was this long, somewhat discouraging and depressing experience worth enduring to get to Spokane just to watch a college basketball game? You betcha!

First off, McCarthey Athletic Center was sold out to its 6,000-seat capacity and that gave an immediate excitement to the game and some loud moments, although not as many as Gonzaga fans would have liked. Second, there were some very fine Stanford performances. Third, Stanford won, advancing its season record to 8 – 0. Fourth, the Tinkle sisters met as opponents for the first time. And fifth, the Star-Spangled Banner was played as a saxophone solo by Charlie Butts, a well-known blues musician in Eastern Washington, producing a mellow and unique version of the anthem. I was pleased to be present for all of this.

It was a nice, dry Sunday in Spokane with a brisk crispness in the air that added a pleasant seasonal touch. I watched the team board its bus at noon in front of the Christmas-decorated Davenport hotel and departed myself an hour later after a short walk to see the Falls on the Spokane River.

The crowd was in good spirits from start to finish. The band played well. Ben & Jerry’s ice cream was sold at a reasonable price, generous portions being available in a cup or in a waffle cone.

As for the game, it was Stanford all the way. Highlights were: 6 of 8 3-point shooting by Taylor; 57% 3-point shooting by the team (8 of 14); 100% free-throw shooting by the team (Chiney was 3 of 3 and Mikaela, Jos and Toni were 2 of 2); Chiney with a great double-double of 21 points and 11 rebounds and Gonzaga held to 25% shooting by Stanford’s stout and effective defensive efforts.

Earlier this week in TV interviews Gonzaga head coach Kelly Graves and Zag players expressed their intent to limit Chiney’s rebounding, specifically by boxing her out. This didn’t happen. Chiney was not limited in scoring or rebounding. Gonzaga’s second major objective of the game was to score well. This didn’t happen either. As Coach Graves said after the game “25% shooting is not going to win games, especially against the #1 team in the country”.

Jos easily won the Battle of the Sisters, topping Elle in every statistical category, which, of course, was just as it should have been.

Bonnie was suited up and fully participated in all team drills. She did not show any ankle weakness, but she did not play as Tara decided to rest the ankle that was injured two days before at Davis. With Taylor’s hot hand from beyond the arc, Bonnie was not missed.

December 2 was a good day to be a Stanford fan, especially if you were fortunate enough to be present for the Gonzaga game. The ordeal of getting to Spokane was very much worth enduring.


  1. The thing about that Gate 37? It is used by United subsidiary (United Express) so you have to go to United's counters in Terminal 3 to check in. But the gate is actually at the tip-end of Terminal 1! So United puts you in a bus across the backside of the airport.

    But if you knew, and had a pre-printed boarding pass, you could just go to Terminal 1 and walk to the end. When we came back Sunday night we got off at Gate 37 again and just walked on out through Terminal 1.

  2. Wally Mersereau12/04/2012 4:09 PM

    Some people have all the luck. My pre-printed boarding pass read "gate not yet assigned".