Spending some quality time together

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:40 AM ET

My boss has ordered me to begin writing a weekly column about the trials and tribulations of my life as a sports writer/single dad/funny guy/bull.... artist/friend of all peoples, you know, all that crap.

As far as I remember, he held a gun to my head. Or, I think he offered me this gig to get on my good side, so I wouldn't snap, like I have in the past with various other bosses.

So, I've decided to begin with my trip to Phoenix last Monday to join the Raptors for the start of a five-day, four-game West Coast swing.

Nothing really exciting to report there, other than the fact that Raptors coach Sam Mitchell didn't make kissy-poo noises at the Canadian reporters like he did last year when we were interviewing our boy Steve Nash.

Flew on to Los Angeles. Again, no big whoop, other than T.J. Ford scoring the game-winning basket at the buzzer. Great for the fans. Lousy for the writers, who have exactly 3.7 seconds to write all pertinent details and file it to the office. After that, I check in with the desk editors, whose bored demeanour tells me they've received the story and can hardly wait for my final edition piece with all the exciting quotes.

Yeah, the desk guys sit around until all hours of the night, waiting to receive my Raptors story so they can edit it and shove it in the paper. And when they're done, they string a rope in the rafters and hang themselves.

Back in L.A., Mitchell, probably because he was getting a cold, had turned sour. At the morning shootaround, he declared that one of my questions was the "dumbest question he had ever heard." Ever.

A few minutes after that, as I tried to take the battery out of my dying cellphone, he stopped, looked at me and said: "Wasn't that phone broken a couple of months ago Stumpy?"

"Yeah," I replied. "I'm still trying to fix it."

"You might be the dumbest guy on the face of the Earth," he said, walking away.

That's debatable. I have brothers.

Later that night -- after the big win against the Clippers -- Mitchell stopped at Chris Bosh's stall and noticed that his injured all-star was chowing down on a big taco. I happened to be standing there, wishing I had a big taco.

"That's it, Chris," he said. "Keep eating. You gotta gain some weight."

"Coach," the personable Bosh replied. "I am gaining weight. Too much. I'm getting fat."

"You're not fat," Mitchell replied, walking over to me and pointing to my gut. "That's fat. Keep it in perspective."

That's okay. Whenever Mitchell mentions his hometown of Columbus, Ga., I ask him if they have electricity yet.

The next morning, I arrive at LAX, only to find out that my flight to Portland has been cancelled for reasons unknown. I later learn, from calling people on my dying cellphone, that it's because the plane originated in Denver and nothing was moving in Denver because of a snow storm.

Anyway, after an hour of waiting in line I get to the counter where the United Airlines lady is wearing a Santa Claus hat, and I ask her when I can get to Portland.

Working her big phone, she tells that there's a flight at nine that night and she can put me on standby. Fantastic.

Meanwhile, people all around are freaking out and yelling at other United counter people, who are all wearing Santa hats.

I figure, if they weren't wearing Santa hats, there would be a riot. But because they have Santa hats, well, everything is going to be allllllllll right.

Get to Portland, go out boozing with my boy Dougie from the Star and Raptors broadcaster Jack Armstrong at an Irish Bar. Three hours later, I'm thinking to myself, 'Those United people are great guys. What a great airline. Great hats, they give you peanuts, and, they're great and, yeah ... Can I have another Stella? Smitty, you want another Stella? Jack, you're slowing down, ya old bas ... I don't like the looks of that guy ...'

The next day we're in Seattle and I'm tired and feel lousy and I just want to get home to my kid and wife and ... oh yeah, it's ex-wife, and they're in California, where she's getting remarried next week. La-di-da.

So now it's Christmas and I'm watching The Nutcracker on Cable 10. Too much dancing, not enough prancing.

Yeah, I know, The Simpsons. So sue me.


Videos

Photos