Even getting to World Cup South Africa = chaos

Journalists doing what we do best ... drinking beer while we sit around and wait, in this case for our delayed flight into South Africa. Cheers!

PRETORIA, South Africa -- A World Cup experience that promises to be riven with logistical challenges and outright organization chaos started appropriately with, well … organizational chaos.

Two words for the 16-hour flight into Johannesburg: Bru. Tal.

And it didn’t help that Delta had some challenges in getting the big bird out of Atlanta’s airport. Almost three hours after scheduled departure time, Delta staff issued a rather strange announcement that said, essentially, “Yeah, yeah, safety first, as always. But check it out: for reasons we don’t have time to ‘splain, everyone has to get on this plane and we have to pull away in 30 minutes, or you’re all stuck at the airport motor lodge for the night.”

And with that, the chaos commenced – complicated by Delta’s announcement that all non-South Africa passport holders needed a stamp before boarding. Now, why this couldn’t have been dealt with during three hours of sitting around at the gate, I couldn’t say. They are the experts.

I must say, our boat load of folk shuffled right along like a good row of rushing ducks. Bags were crammed and jammed with a purposeful haste into overhead space and off we flew – accompanied in the end by a rousing round of applause for crew and passengers.

During the abbreviated gettin’-settled process, a few of us who spent our flight-delay meal vouchers at the bar offered some friendly encouragement to any who dawdled. Ahem. I may have been one of them – along with a few other intrepid journos, honoring intrepid journo tradition by tossing back a couple at every opportunity. ESPN’s Jeff Bradley, the Big Apple Soccer writer Michael Lewis and ESPN.com’s Leander Schaerlaeckens were among the posse pushing around $8 domestics. Airport prices. What a racket.

At least half the passengers aboard Flt. 2010 into Jo-burg were en route to World Cup splendor. The only snag in the loading process was a trash talking Brazilian flight attendant, who wondered aloud to anybody who would listen why we were all going in the first place. “Brazil is going to win. You all know that.”

It was all in good fun. Plus, she was a little hot, and that always counts for a lot in trash talking.

As the plane rolled back, some of the great Mexican fans began the inevitable chants: “Ole … Ole, Ole, Ole … ” So, we beat the chaos for this round, but something tells me that’s a battle that will rage again.

For now, I'm in my little B&B, just down the street from the U.S. team hotel.  More tomorrow.

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