The Starters' show on June 22, 2018.

Tas Melas is a host of The Starters, both the podcast and NBA Network program. He’s also Canadian, and a longtime Raptors fan. So when the Raptors were on the verge of clinching a Finals berth in Toronto last week, Melas wanted to attend in person.

It didn’t work out that way.

Instead, Melas spent the better part of the day at the airport in Atlanta, trying and failing to get on various flights. It really is an incredible series of missed opportunities, as Melas first started out attempting to use a buddy standby pass from an airline worker friend. (As most people would, if they had a friend in the industry and were looking at a $1,000+ ticket as the alternative.)

I get to security at the Atlanta airport for my 9am flight. Only 90 minutes to spare. That’s how good I felt. I breezed through security but I was not in a good spot when it came to actually flying. Every seat to Toronto had been snatched up over the past couple days. I needed no-shows. I hang with J.E. Skeets until he boards and says, “I know I’ll see you strutting on there.” It got close– I started in standby spot number six, dropped to nine, and got all the way up to three, but the only people strutting were those getting to the gate in the 4th quarter. A family of four with 20 minutes to departure. A couple with 15 on the clock. A single guy moseying like he’s two hours early but with only ten minutes till takeoff. Missing that first flight was both exhilarating because it came down to the wire, as well as fascinating because of the people watching.

The standby option saw Melas wait through a few more flights before realizing that he wasn’t going to make it on that way, leading to a purchase of a full-price ticket on the last flight that would get him to Toronto in time for the game. Then, though, the biggest disaster of the whole story:

I paid for it at 2:05, got the confirmation email, and was at the gate at 2:15.

2:15pm: 75 minutes before the 3:30 takeoff. There were no gate agents. Well, I’ve got a seat on this one, so I’m gonna go grab some Pei Wei fried rice. I’m confident, bordering on cocky with my newfound ticket power, but this has not been a seamless day, so I order it to go.

Have you guessed the error here yet?

With about 50 minutes before takeoff, I head to the counter. I ask to check-in. The gate agent looks at me like I’ve got a chicken ball on my nose and tells me, “You can’t just check-in. You have to check-in at least 60 minutes before the flight.” “But I have a full-fare ticket!” After some disagreement, it starts to seep in that this ticket was with a totally different airline than my buddy pass and they had no idea I was at the airport. I didn’t scan my documents at one of their kiosks because I was already in the airport, I didn’t go to their counters upon entering the airport (because I was already in the airport!), and I didn’t think to check-in online after purchasing the seat (it was also too late to get the ‘It’s time to check-in’ email). The agent informs me that if the airline doesn’t know the passenger is there prior to 60 minutes before departure, that seat is automatically assigned to someone else.

One does have to feel for Melas here, because when was the last time anyone actually bought a ticket while already at the airport? 1985? The routine is much different. The rest of the story is entertaining in its tragicomedy, hitting all the beats of a standard “guy misses flight” sitcom episode. And while it is unfortunate that Melas couldn’t be at the arena to see the Raptors win live, they did still win, and they’ll take on Golden State in Game 1 on Thursday night.

In Toronto.

If Melas is going, he should consider getting to the airport at least 48 hours early this time.

[Tas Melas]

About Jay Rigdon

Jay is a writer and editor for The Comeback, and a contributor at Awful Announcing. He is not a strong swimmer.