Boarding Group B and the 800 Free Relay


I love “remember where you were” moments in sports. They are the events that you watch from your living room, in a bar surrounded by complete strangers, or a stadium surrounded by even more strangers, when something so cool happens that it makes you look around and say, “I will remember this very moment for the rest of my life.” I had one of those moments on Tuesday August 9th, thousands of feet in the air somewhere over Arizona.

I was stuck at the Phoenix Airport for several hours as my flight was delayed a half-an-hour. Then another half-hour. Then another. Then another. You know, one of those layovers where you make peace with the fact that you’re going to have three Coronas with chips and salsa for dinner, and it will cost you $21.

The only thing that made this layover tolerable (minus the Coronas) was the Olympics. Boxing? I’m in. Let’s watch that. Rowing? Absolutely. But it was all an opening act for the swimming finals that were on tap for that night.

Katie Ledecky was going for gold in the 200 free, Michael Phelps was about to take on the human embodiment of a parking ticket Chad Le Clos in the 200 fly, and the men’s 4 x 200 freestyle relay just added Phelps.

The individual events mentioned above were awesome. I generally try to avoid making any loud noises while in an airport (probably a good rule of thumb for everyone) but it was hard not to for both of these! Phelps made good on the Kobe/Steph Curry/Undertaker stink face and won the 200 fly, while Ledecky won AGAIN. It’s absurd what she’s done at nineteen years-old. NINETEEN. I just googled her age twice to make sure Google wasn’t broken. I’m twenty-four and I own one plate and no silverware. Whenever I get take-out I grab extra plasticware. Katie banks gold medals, I bank sporks.

Watching those events at gate C14 is not the “remember” moment I was talking about. That happened shortly after I filed onto the plane that finally arrived with rest of boarding group B.

I lost the signal on my phone as soon as I sat down. I was bummed because the relay was about to start. That is when I realized that the woman sitting next to me (let’s call her Murphy) alongside her husband (let’s call him Stedson) were both watching on their respective Apple products (Murphy = iPad, Stedson = iPhone).

A few things here. I assume Murphy and Stedson were in boarding group A and decided to sit together (sweet). Murphy opted to forgo the aisle/window option to sit with her husband and watch a big night of Olympic action. I respect the dedication to the Games, their marriage, and the sacrifice to take a middle seat BY CHOICE on a full flight that will most likely land at 3AM. I’m #TeamAisle by the way. Need a bathroom break to be on my terms and no one else.

I think it’s also safe to assume that Murphy and Stedson shelled out the $8 ($16 collectively) for South West’s inflight WiFi option. A good deal if you ask me, but I have paid for it before and it didn’t work, so I’m on a South West WiFi boycott. After getting settled in as a #TeamAisle member, I hear Murphy say to Stedson, “Oh the good announcers are on!” She was referring to Gaines and Dan Hicks, who is not quite as rowdy as Rowdy but just rowdy enough to hang with Rowdy. I like Rowdy a lot. He seems like the kind of dude who would get PUMPED UP when a waiter brings food to a table he isn’t even sitting at. He’s just happy for you and your fajitas.

“Oh that’s cool they’re on,” I say to Murphy and Stedson. “Before I lost my live stream it was just crowd noise and no announcers.”

Here’s where I realized Murphy, Stedson, and I were not going to be a memorable trio.

They blankly stared at me, did not respond, and turned back to their respective Apple devices (Murphy = iPad, Stedson = iPhone).


No matter, the relay was about to start. Murphy and Stedson were clearly ignoring the rule to shut off all portable electronics during our ascent, which I thought was awesome because I was also able to take advantage of breaking the rules without actually breaking the rules. Bad Boy By Association, if you will.

You all know what happens next. The guys pull it off and win Gold. Jubilation! Joy! Mirth! Glee!  This is a “remember” moment! You turn to your friends and family on the couch in the living room and high five! You turn to a complete stranger at the bar who isn’t in your group but you got the bartenders attention at the same time and realized you both prefer a Diet Coke over Regular Coke, and high five! The stadium is electric and you turn to those sitting around you, decked out with pride in the same team colors, and you high five.

So I turned to Murphy and Stedson and offered a high five.

They blankly stared at me, did not respond, and turned back to their respective Apple devices. (Murphy = iPad, Stedson = iPhone).

My hand hung literally in the air and my jaw hit the armrest I shared with Murphy, and then the floor. I’m sure we’ve all been left hanging before, but have you ever been left hanging IN THE SKY?!?! I’m no aviation expert, but I think it’s safe to say I am now the world record holder for being left hanging at the highest altitude. The only way someone has me beat is if Buzz Aldrin offered up daps before Neil Armstrong hopped off the ship first.

What is the point of this you ask? I’m not sure if there really is one, but I wrote it, you read it, and now we’re here. Was I mooching off of their $8-16 WiFi purchase? Absolutely. When Murphy moved the iPad for Stedson to get a better look after his iPhone died, did I crane my neck so I could still see? Absolutely. Were the flight attendants mad that I got up to use the bathroom even though the fasten seatbelt sign was still clearly on? Absolutely. Should they have high fived me? Absolutely.

This is the Olympics we are talking about. A sporting event that literally brings people together. A very select few are there to compete, but there rest of us are watching to cheer, remember, and high five.

Leave a Reply

2 Comment threads
0 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
2 Comment authors
newest oldest most voted

Haha great article! I love the analogies about Rowdy


I LOL’d from start to finish. And yes, you deserved the high five. It’s the Olympics ( unless they weren’t team USA which is possible).

About Jesse Kubanet

Jesse Kubanet

Jesse currently lives in Los Angeles and works as an Associate Producer for Jimmy Kimmel Live. He frequently attempts to "get back in the water" and stops after about 1,000 yards. He performs improv weekly at the iO West Theater in Hollywood with the Harold Team "Dinner Jacket" and his …

Read More »

Want to take your swimfandom to the next level?

Subscribe to SwimSwam Magazine!