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At least I made it

I'd like to thank the fine folks at AirTran for making sure I missed my flight this morning by having it leave the gate three minutes early, as I was running through the airport like my hair was on fire. And with all this gel, that's always a possibility, especially when I stand under hot lights.

The plane was slowly backing away as I stood there, watching it through the window and breathlessly pleading with a female employee to let me board. I didn't want my luggage to get lonely without me.

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No dice. She explained that I had to be at the gate 10 minutes before departure time, and pointed out that the policy was clearly stated on the bottom of my boarding pass.

Forget that the airport was packed with hyperactive travelers because of all the rescheduled flights. Forget that it took more than an hour to reach the ticket counter and check my luggage. Forget that I had been awake since 4:30 a.m. for a 7:10 a.m. flight.

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Rather than go on stand-by for a 2:56 p.m. flight that was over-booked, I hastily made arrangements to grab an 8:50 a.m. Southwest fight that connected in Tampa. Not exactly a convenient back-up plan when the terminals are so far apart, but I went for it anyway. I even squeezed into the B group on very short notice.

Naturally, I got stuck in Tampa because one of the engines failed, leaving open the possibility that we'd have to change plans if the problem couldn't be corrected. And then air traffic control wouldn't allow flights into Fort Lauderdale, for reasons that were never made clear. One of the attendants could only speculate.

At least the engine was working again. We just weren't moving.

Anyway, instead of getting here by 9:30 a.m., I touched down at 3:10 p.m.. And once again, I was forced to hustle from Terminal 1 to Terminal 3 to see whether AirTran had my luggage.

In the most shocking development of the day, they did, making it possible for me to drag two heavy bags and a laptop onto a shuttle bus for the rental car counter, sweat pouring off me like Tim Hardaway at a Melissa Etheridge concert.

So now I'm at camp, having listened to Steve Trachsel's conference call and chugged a Coke so my stomach wouldn't be filled only with a small bag of airline peanuts.

Trachsel clearly believes there's no competition for the open rotation spot. If he's here, the job belongs to him.

"I don't know what else I would do," he said.

Trachsel doesn't sound relieved to be out of New York and the intense glare of the media spotlight.

"Actually, I loved playing in New York. It was great," he said. "I think there's distractions no matter where you play. The key is to manage them and not to let them affect was goes on on the field and do whatever you have to do to make them not be distractions. I don't listen to the sports radio shows or read the newspapers. So much of it is not close to what is really going on, it's not even worth paying attention to."

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