SOMEWHERE OVER THE NORTHERN ATLANTIC OCEAN — There is no better time to write a blog about someone’s fear of flying than when you’re 10,000 feet above a frigid, stormy, mammoth body of water, capable of engulfing the airplane carrying you as if it and you never existed.
If you say it, it can’t happen, right?
As we fly toward Frankfurt, Germany, I can’t help but think of what Michigan State center Derrick Nix went through taking this same flight a day earlier, on Tuesday.
Nine hours of horrible thoughts bouncing inside his head, unless someone delivered the right dose of Tylenol PM.
Nix, a 6-foot-9, 270-pound bear of a man, is terrified of flying.
“I don’t believe in being that far in the air,” Nix said this week. “If it crashes, I always think, what am I going to do if I’m just in the air falling out?”
It doesn’t help that the Spartans’ last long flight — a much shorter jaunt to Phoenix for the NCAA tournament’s second weekend — didn’t go so smoothly.
As the players tell it, MSU’s airplane encountered serious turbulence, with the plane dropping 700 feet over 2 seconds.
“I think that’s ridiculous. You can’t be doing that,” Nix said of the plan’s brief free fall, hardly uncommon. “I’m asleep and the next think I know, my headphones fall off, my phone slides to the back of the plane.
“It just makes you nervous, the whole plane ride when you’ve got to worry about that.”
“It was really scary,” added Russell Byrd, MSU’s other captain. “The food went everywhere and Nix didn’t let go of the (handle above him) for two hours. This is really early in the flight and he didn’t let go for two hours. So I feel for him. I know he’s been thinking about it.”
Byrd usually sits next to Nix. Neither likes to fly. Byrd described the nine-hour flight to Germany as “a lot of opportunity for things to go wrong. ”
Somehow, though, Nix makes Byrd feel safer.
“He’s such a big dude,” Byrd said. “It’s almost like you feel more comfortable next to a big, old guy like that.”
Nix only learned of the team’s planned Thursday ride in a military cargo plane from reporters on Monday. It was not welcomed news.
“What is that?” Nix said, looking concerned. “I probably won’t participate in that, honestly. Because I just don’t feel safe.”
Look for more tales from Germany over the next few days here on the blog.