EXUMA, Bahamas — Aloha! Agh, damn. Wrong college basketball tournament. Sorry.
Hello, from the Bahamas!
The jig is up. For those of you that couldn’t solve the enigmatic riddle (and actually care), I am indeed in the Bahamas getting ready for the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament this week.
Definitely 100% not on a remote island preparing for a college basketball tournament next week. It would be cool if Syracuse would participate in something like that so I could go but if I’m being honest I’m just sitting in Syracuse. Certainly not doing something like that. pic.twitter.com/XigxFrR0kJ— James Szuba (@JamesSzuba) November 19, 2021
As a fickle fanboy who frequently covers Syracuse Orange men’s basketball road games and loves making everything about himself, I’m launching a new road trip series where I take you along with me from a first-person point of view, starting with the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament.
First, you might be asking yourself why I chose the lead photo that I did and why I’m wearing a shirt on the beach. If we’re being honest, this is a family-friendly website and I don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable or jealous of my washboard abs. It’s already been difficult saying no to all these date offers since the start of the pandemic. Trust me, you wouldn’t believe all the women after me when I tell them I write for Nunes Magician dot com.
Second, you might be asking yourself what kind of wherewithal TNIAAM is working with to be able to send writers to international road games. In what ended up as a long, deliberate meeting between our C-suite executives (John) and board of directors (Sean Keeley), TNIAAM decided to deploy the reserve account and empty our entire savings of Nunes bucks to make this happen, which is another way of saying I’m on a well-timed family vacation with my mom and my step-dad.
Now, nobody over 18 years of age thinks writing for this place especially or sports media in general is glamorous, but usually when people ask about media or access, everybody — and by everybody I mean like six people — has two common questions. The first is asking if I’ve ever gotten barked at by Jim Boeheim for asking a dumb question. The second is if I travel with the Syracuse basketball team to away games. I’ll address those quickly before segueing into the boots on the ground journalism we’re doing here in the Bahamas.
As for the first question, usually in post-game press conferences there are three types of people. There are the Big Js/smart folks (Syracuse.com), there are idiots who think that they’re smart folks (who will not be named for now but we may revisit this later) and there are idiots who know that they’re idiots. I like to think that because I fall into that last category, I have at least some degree of self-awareness to know what not to ask. Boeheim hates repeating himself, explaining basic basketball concepts and above all, perceived disrespect. I try to think of questions that I think nobody else will ask, which is usually a hard-hitting inquiry such as asking about players who chipped a tooth or walk-ons from Scranton. Sometimes I ask serious questions but let’s be honest about who we are here... My days are probably numbered, but I’ve yet to get hit with snarky Boeheim recoil. Maybe I’m not doing a good job.
As for the second question, the answer is yes. The Syracuse basketball team makes sure to pencil me in on every chartered flight to away games. I’ve been living back home in Syracuse since the pandemic started, so boarding the charter flights from Hancock have been much easier. Back when I was living in NYC though, Boeheim would be sure to text me when the charter would leave from Syracuse. He would send the black car to my apartment on the Upper East Side, the charter would land at LaGuardia in Queens, I would board the plane and high-five Jim on my way to the back of the plane. They’d be sure to order me a full pizza from Mario & Salvo’s and have it ready. Then we would fly to our destination.
If you believed any of that for a second, you might be a fool. The answer is no. I’m not an SU shill. I fly commercial to away games like the rest of the hoi polloi without exceptional skill or wealth.
Anyway, as for this trip to the Bahamas, I flew from Syracuse on a snowy Friday morning. Other than a layover in Charlotte, two babies crying and a woman next to me who was determined in Dwayne Johnson-ing her elbow into my ribcage for the entire first flight, it was mostly a pleasant experience. Covid tests were taken in advance and getting through customs upon landing was a breeze.
We landed in George Town, Exuma (not the island where the tournament is located — we’ll be traveling to Atlantis on Tuesday). This was easily the most welcoming and aesthetically pleasing Georgetown I’ve ever landed in. Usually that tends to be a miserable experience, unless you frequent the Penn Quarter or a hotel bar with Andy Pregler.
After getting through customs our first stop was the beach. On this particular beach, turtles swim by the shore and they’re not afraid of people in the slightest. They greet you as if they’re expecting to be fed lettuce.
We did not feed them lettuce.
We made friends with a couple, including the author of this book who happens to be a Mississippi State alumnus. Garrett Shrader was discussed because of course.
“Does he still have that beard?” He asked.
Indeed he does.
The water here is mesmerizing. It’s crystal clear and ranges in color from turquoise to deep blue to seafoam green. It’s without question the most magnificent water I’ve seen. Still, I can hear Boeheim now:
“Well the water we have at Green Lakes is just as good if not better than the water in the Bahamas. How many places have a meromictic lake in their own backyard? Not too many.”
On Saturday we visited an island with a tiki bar with excellent frozen drinks (are they ever not?) and a conch bar, which is not a thing you realize exists until you visit the Bahamas. They serve conch salad (actually not bad) and if you’re daring enough, you can feed conch to the stringrays. As one does.
After a lapse in judgment, I did said thing.
The stringray sucked up the conch from my hand like a vacuum. Just like every other childhood experience at Rosamond Gifford Zoo.
On Sunday we visited a pair of beaches. Beverage choices were Kalik, Sands or of the frozen variety. Nobody is in much of a hurry to do anything here. Service is slow. Jobs go undone. Problems go unfixed. Such is life in the islands. Perhaps we are spoiled in the U.S.
Speaking of, driving here is rather perplexing. Most vehicles have the driver’s side on the right. You drive on the left side of the road — which is really no different from an old country road — and it looks wide enough to fit one and a half cars with no shoulders on either side. We rented a car and the car rental company warns that if you get a flat tire (see where this is going?), it isn’t their problem. The dashboard on the rental is opaque as if salt water dried on the inside of the display so you’re best guessing your speed and gas. Tourists are encouraged to be off the road by dark. There are no streetlights.
Of course, we blew past that suggestion one night and drove back after dark. That proved to be an experience. If you thought watching Syracuse give up a c-note to Colgate on Saturday was nauseating, consider this: jobs that have gone undone include numerous and endless potholes all over the road. Dismantled cars with wheels unhinged decorate the roadside at night.
When driving there are scenarios where you must choose the lesser of two evils; steering into on oncoming vehicle or directly into an inevitable pothole. Doing this at night is equally parts harrowing and hilarious (once you make it through alive). The headlights on the rented vehicle also give about five feet of visibility.
My step-dad describes it best: “It’s like having a flashlight at a movie theatre.”
You’re deduced to driving with unfettered high-beams, which feel like low-beams until you realize you’re upsetting oncoming vehicles. We aren’t exactly making friends with the locals.
As for the potholes, these aren’t just any ordinary potholes. They’re special potholes. If you stand directly above them, you can see into the center of the earth.
Consider this on Sunday night:
We hit one of those special potholes on Sunday and got a flat tire on a desolate country road. Without a car jack or other tools at our disposal (because why would a car rental company equip you with a jack on an island with endless potholes?), we were unable to get the spare tire on. We were given a number to call in case a scenario like this unfolded only to realize they were closed on Sundays. After becoming resigned to spending the night in the vehicle, we found a stroke of good fortune.
A man named Thompson pulled over with a jack and helped us. We asked him if he gets flat tires often.
“All the time,” He said.
After a few minutes, we were able to get the spare on. We gave good samaritan Thompson some cash for his deed and parted ways. He saved us a lot of angst.
So, that’s been the gist of the experience thus far. I fly to Atlantis on Tuesday, we’ll resume our normal basketball coverage and I’ll have another one of these pieces on actual basketball next week once the Battle 4 Atlantis concludes.
In the meantime, I’ve gotta get back to these strawberry mango daiquiris before they melt. See ya.