The Weekend Of Our Discontent, Part II

Friday, May 7th, 2004, 1:02 pm

When we left our hero (that’s me) I was about to enter the ESPN SportsZone in Times Square to watch the draft. If you want to know why I was going into an Eisner-controlled sports bar instead of the actual draft read the previous post, because it’s all too painful to bring up again.

My friend Mark and I had waited outside the SportsZone for about 4 1/2 hours, and as the day wore on and the line got longer people started looking at us and then, doubtless wondering why were were lined up at 8:30 in the morning, squinted up to see the sign above the door. It reminded me of stories you used to hear about the good ‘ol Soviet Union, when folks would join any long line because, hey, if there’s a line, there must be something good at the end of it. Many of the people staring us down had that touristy look about them (fanny packs, comfy shoes, glazed expressions) and once they discovered what we were waiting for they gave us looks that could only be called condescending. Their eyes said, “You pathetic scum, you’re going to spend this glorious Manhattan day inside a mass market sports bar? WE’RE going to the Empire State Building’s observation deck!”. My own eyes responded, “Oh yeah? Well, big friggin’ deal, Mr. Iowa Cornfed Motherfucker! Look at me like that again and I’m gonna punch you right in the goddam throat.”

Yes, I was in a New York State of Mind.

The doors opened. We were just a few moments away from getting inside, after what had already been a 7-hour odessey. The Gonzaga assholes were allowed in first (see previous post) and Mark looked like he was about to start biting himself. He rarely gets this worked up, and I couldn’t resist pushing his buttons a bit.

“Don’t worry,” I soothed. “We’ll probably get in.”

“Shut up,” he said.

I looked down the street. “Hey, afterwards let’s have dinner at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company. That way we can say we’ve had a real, authentic New York experience.”

“Shut up,” he said.

“Spend all day in the ESPN SportsZone, eat at Bubba Gumps, shop for some souvenirs at Old Navy…and then we can kill ourselves.”

“Shut up.”

At last, the line started to move. We started to move. We talked to the four guys we’d been in line with for four hours and decided we’d all sit together. We bobbed and weaved and elbowed our way to the door, and then, in a moment almost sexual in its intensity, I was Inside. I had a roof over my head, walls to my sides, carpet beneath my feet. Was that frying oil I smelled? I strode up to the absolutely beautiful girl at the head of the line and she smiled and asked, “How many are in your party?”

I said, “Sweet Jesus, there are six of us.”

She said, “Do you want to be in the main dining room?”

“Is that the one with the big TVs?”

She smiled again. “Yes.”

“Then yes, my dear child, that’s where we want to sit.”

We were escorted up, up, up the stairs. We of course weren’t allowed in the VIP area (a VIP area in a sports bar?) where white men in blazers and slacks stood around with drinks idly chatting, about what I can’t imagine. T-Bills? What private schools teach Mandarin? Who to talk to when you knock up your Swedish au pair? But I wasted no more time with them, as our host guided us to our booth. Uh, well, we tried a booth, but to be honest there was no way to fit six he-man sized he-men in a booth built for a family of four. So we moved down a level, right in front of the rightmost big screen, and got, for the first time all day, comfortable.

As we sports fans took our seats, the manager of the place, a patrician-looking gentleman with Kennedy-esqe hair and an immaculate suit looked at us with obvious distate. It did not bode well that this guy was our host. If you can imagine Gore Vidal as the manager of a huge sports bar, well, you have a nimbler imagination than myself.

But our waitress, an angel named Alice, more than made up for her boss’s lemony mien. “Can I get you all something to drink?” she asked. Oh, yes, we did. Mark ordered a Guinness, but I knew that this would be a multibeer event and I just decided to stick with the cheap stuff, Miller Lite. Which was still rather cheap–seven bucks for about a quart of suds, served in a mug so thick that a good forehand sweep would be enough to stave in someone’s skull. Pricier than you’d find at your typical Pittsburgh happy hour, but not outrageous. Another New York myth debunked–that prices are outrageous for food and/or drink. Dine at Daniel or Lutece and, sure, you’re gonna drop some coin. Eat at a sports bar and you can eat relatively cheap.

Cheap, but not well. We of course ordered wings, and the morsels that were delivered were just that–morsels. These were some tiny, tiny wings. Are all the chickens in New York hungry? Are they on the Atkins diet? One wing from J.D’s Pub near my house has more meat on it than a quartet of the minidrums this place proffered. But the sauce was spicy and tasty, and I took a sample of it home as a smudge on a page of my notebook.

With some food in my belly and the sweet fragrance of beer in the air, we were able to fully concentrate on the event that brought us to New York in the first place–the freakin’ Draft. We heard from Chris Mortensen that there was possibly a trade in the works between my Steelers and the Giants, the Black and Gold moving up from 11 to 4 so we could draft QB Philip Rivers. Mark and I weren’t sure we liked the sound of that, because it would certainly mean forfeiting our first-rounder next year and then some. And if the Steelers surrendered their first-rounder that would mean that next year the Steelers wouldn’t make their first pick for about 7 hours, and that would flat-out suck.

Not that waiting for a pick in the first round doesn’t suck. Because, even though we’d waited already for seven hours, all that meant is that we got to sit around and wait some more. Watching the NFL Draft is, in some small way, like playing poker (this is a poker blog and I need to get some reference to it in this post). If you want to watch the draft you need patience, because you’re team might not pick for 4 hours and it’s easy to drink yourself into a stupor by then. You need a leather ass, just as the great Texas road gamblers all developed after sitting in hundreds of 96-hour games. And when your team finally picks, you either have the euphoria of winning a big pot (when your team drafts that superstar-in-waiting) or the devastation of a bad-beat on the river (when your team picks a “physical speciman” who had a great “workout” but hasn’t shown that he can actually play “football”).

The room was packed solid. If you’ve never been in the SportsZone, they actually have a “luxury box” area above the main room, a big glassed-in area with leather couches and, for all I know, masseusses and laundry services. Its where “The Sports Reporters” show is filmed. I’m not a luxury-box kinda guy, and not just because I lack the cash to gain admittance. Well, that’s the biggest reason. But you can’t beat the energy and excitement among the masses, and after the long wait there was a nice sizzly buzz in the room. The Giant fans were anxious to see if they could land Eli Manning. The Jets fans were just anxious. We Steeler fans were probably the third biggest contingent and quite vocal. Everyone was in a good mood and getting along. Most of the folks there had no doubt gone to Madison Square Garden and gotten screwed, so we all felt a sense of solidarity. We’d all suffered. And, as our good friends the Nazis showed, nothing so unites different peoples with different ideals and beliefs than a common hatred. You had Giant and Redskins fans sitting side by side, Raider and Steeler fans bitching about their common mistreatment, even Cowboy fans walking freely without molestation. True, a few Red Sox fans had been lustily hooted down while we waited in line, but even that had a kind of beneficent good-humor to it.

On just about any other weekend, fans of opposing teams would gladly engage in fisticuffs with their opposite number. I went to the Steelers-Browns playoff game a few years back, and as the Browns raced out to a big lead the dozen or so Browns fans behind us were obnoxiously screaming and yelling, and I, with a perfectly clear conscience, thought about killing them with my bare hands. We were near the upper edge of the stadium, and had my fellow Steeler fans banded together and tossed them over the fence to fall 200 or so feet to their doom, I could easily have gone home afterwards and eaten a big dinner. But that was then. Now, sitting down, with a fresh beer delivered by the saintly Alice, I would have put my arm around those Brownies and called them Friends.

The general sense of camaraderie was deepened by the death of Pat Tillman. When the draft finally, FINALLY, got underway, NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue got up and spoke in his dry, nasal, lawyerly voice about Tillman and his selfless sacrifice and blah blah blah. I guess an expression of actual human emotion would have been a bit much to ask, but Tagliabue’s rote reading of a generic press-release type valedictory didn’t measure up the moment. Tags asked for a moment of silence, and the raucous bar crowd fell completely, and absolutely, silent. You couldn’t hear so much as a fork scraping a plate. And then, much, much too soon, Tagliabue said, “Thank you”. It was, indeed, a MOMENT of silence, and it wasn’t enough. How long a MOS should last is open to debate. George Carlin, memorably, said that we shouldn’t be silent in the first place–“Why a moment of silence? These people are dead–how about a moment of screaming? AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!” But a moment of silence should be longer than the length of a single breath. I was watching soccer (or, as I call it, “football lite) the other day and I think Leeds was playing Bolton and they had a moment of silence, for whom I know not. The players bowed their heads, the Reebok stadium fell silent…and stayed silent, enormously silent, for about a minute. You could feel the absence of noise, of sound, and it was very moving. The moment of silence for Tillman was a mere hiccup before the first pick, and he deserved far, far better. We fans did our best to make up the difference–there was a spontaneous ovation, everyone clapping loudly but not raucously. It was nice.

But then Tags said, “The San Diego Chargers are on the clock” and our baser instincts took over. The Giants fans, desperate to land Eli Manning, knew that if a trade was coming, it was coming soon. I figured a trade would be made before the Commish took the podium…but I was wrong. “With the first pick in the 2004 NFL Draft, the San Diego Chargers select…Eli Manning, quarterback…”

Much hooting and gnashing of teeth. Manning gets up with Mommy and Daddy in tow and mounts the stage. The stage WE should have been looking at from inside the theater. Instead we’re in a sports bar. Oh, how I longed to shout, “Hey, it’s Woody Allen!” when Archie stood up. If you’ve ever seen a shot of Archie in the stands with baseball cap and headphones watching his sons play, the guy is a dead ringer for Woody. Hard to imagine–the ultimate New York nebbish and a Southern football hero, separated at birth. Strange world.

Anyway, Eli looked about as happy holding up his Chargers jersey as I’d look if I was told I might need another rectal exam. The tight-lipped smile Eli bestowed on the media was one of those priceless moments that make being a sports fan worth it. Here’s a young man who has doubtless enjoyed a safe and comfortable life, born with enormous talent, has succeeded his whole life and lavished with fame and, soon, fortune, who should be enjoying one of the greatest moments of his life, and a moment that every would-be jock dreams about…and he was palpably miserable. And it was delicious, to see him squirm and suffer. Here was a guy with a chance to live and work in one of the most livable places on Earth, bathed in sunshine and distracted by literally thousands of beautiful women in bikinis–and he was miserable. His parents were miserable. It was great. I only wish I could have seen it in person, really savored the moment.

The Raiders had the next pick, and the question was whether they would take hirsuite OT Robert Gallery or the sleek WR Roy Williams. To me this wan’t even a no-brainer. Draft a guy who will be a perienniel All-Pro at a position crucial to both the running and passing game, or take a guy who might get his hands on the ball eight times a game and can be removed from the equasion by double-teaming. Even the Raiders couldn’t screw this up, and they didn’t. “Shit,” Mark said, “I hoped the Steelers would find a way to get him.”

“How?” I said.

“I don’t know,” Mark said. The particulars are never important so far s the draft goes. Yes, I too hoped the Steelers would end up with Gallery. ‘Twas not to be.

The third pick was Pitt superstar Larry Fitzgerald, heading out to the wasteland that is Sun Devil Stadium. It’s too bad that such a superlative talent will go to complete waste out there, but thems the breaks. The Cardinals spent their top two picks last year on WRs and their #1 this year as well, which is why they’re the Cardinals. Nothing at all against Fitzgerald, I don’t know how the Birds could have passed on him, but when Josh McCown is drinking his dinner through a tube midseason he’ll be wishing his team had acquired a few beefy types as well.

By pick four the rumors were flying that, yes, a trade was in the works. Eli was on the phone, and his smile was now wide and bright, and he no longer looked like he feared vomiting on his new suit. The Giants fans all seemed to coil, ready to go bonkers the second the deal was announced. ESPN then cut to Philip Rivers in his living room, surrounded by his family, and he too was on the phone. This kind of breathless coverage is what makes the draft so compelling–a bunch of huge guys standing around in suits talking on the phone. If only Shakespeare had access to cell phones, what poetry might he have made.

Rivers gets drafted by the Giants, breaking my heart, and then is traded to the Chargers in exchange for Eli. Everyone is happy, especially the Giants fans, who go totally bonkers. Then the trade is announced, and when they find out that they had to give up a first round pick next year and a second and a fifth their enthusiasm is somewhat muted. “They must be nuts,” Mark says. “Rivers might be just as good.”

“Would you have been happy if the Steelers had given up all that for Rivers?”

“No way.”

“Me neither.”

The draft is going about as badly as possible for the Steelers. Only 1 QB left on the board, and teams no doubt hungry to trade up and snag him. The Redskins draft safety Sean Taylor, who is considered by all and sundry to be the best safety prospect since Ronnie Lott. The ‘Skins fan we met in line was well-pleased, but Kellen Winslow Jr. probably was not, because Joe Gibbs promised, promised, that Washington would take him if he was available.

I feel bad for Kellen, really. Especially when Cleveland gives up their 2nd round pick to move up one spot to take him instead of, as I feared, Ben Roethlesberger. As Mark and I hoot with delight, I turned my mind to this jilted young man. Winslow is the sensitive type, he got himself in trouble after his Hurricanes got crushed by Tennessee on their home field by making all sorts of ridiculous statements like “I’m a soldier” and whatnot. Winslow also gave himself the nickname, “The Chosen One”. I’d love to be the reporter up on stage interviewing him.

“So, Kellen, who exactly chose you, and what did this person choose you for?”

“Well, I…”.

“Were you chosen to be the 2nd best tight end to come out of your school in the last 3 years, or the 2nd best tight end to have your name?”

I think Winslow will be a bust, just a feeling I have. A superlative athlete, sure, but he never dominated in college the way everyone (especially himself) expected, and I think this will carry over to the NFL. I look forward to years of watching Troy Polamalu blowing him up over the middle.

The Lions, flush with their extra second-rounder, draft Roy Williams. This may be a disasterous pick. Last year I read a draft preview story in Pro Football Weekly and the writer said that one reason Williams stayed in school was because he wanted to work on his flexibilty. He’s a remarkable athlete, but so tightly wound he can’t bend over and touch his knees.

This made my brows rise to my hairline. Can’t touch his KNEES? There was a comment section for the story (much like the comments for this blog) and I wrote, “He can’t touch his KNEES? How does he tie his shoelaces?”

Some brainiac commented, “So what if he can’t touch his knees, he runs a 4.3!”. To which I replied, “Who cares how fast he can run if he can’t touch his knees? What if a pass is thrown low, what’s he going to do, play hackey-sack? A leopard can run better than a 4.3, but you don’t see many getting drafted, do you?”

The writer himself emailed me and said, “Know what, I listened to the tape of the interview, and he did say he can’t touch his knees. I can only assume he meant his toes, but that’s what he said…”

So either Roy Williams is so brittle he can bend over, or so clueless about anatomy that he doesn’t know his knees from his toes. Neither behooves his career well.

About this time the SportsZone folks set up a couple of seats in front of the stage and start bringing up current and former Jets to speak about, well, the Jets. One thing I never figured out is what boundry lines there are for Jets and Giants fans. I mean, you live in the Bronx you’re probably a Yankees fan, and if you live in Queens you root for the Mets. Unless you don’t. But as both the G-men and the Jets play in New Jersey, I dunno how that works. The Giants used to play in Yankee Stadium, the Jets in Shea, so maybe the lines are drawn the same way. You’d be a Yankee-Giant fan or a Met-Jet fan. Makes sense to me.

Anyway, I didn’t really want to hear some Jets guys talking about the quality of their offensive line, even if one of the guy up there was former Nittany Lion Karim McKenzie. They’d get up there, chat a bit, and then go upstairs to the luxury box area to sign autographs. The fireman dude you see on TV doing the J-E-T-S JETS JETS JETS! cheer was there going his thing, signing autographs and glad-handing everyone in a green shirt. Joe Klecko was there, and as he strode by I was surprised that he didn’t look much bigger than me. Well, he was a bit more…solid than me. A bit. Joe Klecko, defensive end 20 years ago, would today be considered small for a strong safety. Jack Lambert, maybe the greatest middle linebacker of all time, would be a cornerback. Amazing what diet, exercise, and chemistry has accomplished.

It was about this time that the quality of my notes decreased. At one point I wrote, “Beer is good”, which not only isn’t especially astute nor important for this narrative. Even while boozy I don’t impress easy, but when I heard the emcee of introduced Joe Namath, and I looked away from the screen and saw a true football legend standing about 20 feet away, well, I was impressed. Joe Willie Namath, from Beaver Falls, PA, winner of the most important game in NFL history. He looked good, tan and fit, grinning ear to ear as he talked some mild trash with the Raider fans sitting at the table in front of him. He did the usual Jet boostertalk, said something along the lines of “We’re gonna get ’em this year”, and left the mike to head upstairs to sign autographs.

And that’s when I saw that appearances can be decieving. About a half-dozen staff surrounded Namath to keep the masses at bay, and as he walked across the floor he looked like he’d aged about 30 years. His bad knees are of course legend, but he walked like an 80-year-old man. He stared straight ahead as he walked, jaw furiously working a piece of gum, and he looked strikingly frail. The last we saw of Joe he was drunk as a skunk and telling ESPN’s Suzy Kolber that he wanted to kiss her. Wanting to kiss Suzy Kolber is a perfectly rational desire for a man to have, but one that should be kept to oneself if you’re drunk and/or on national TV. Joe ended up in rehab for alcohol abuse, and I hope he’s on the road to recovery. Up on stage he could still light up a big room, but up close and personal you saw the toll that football, booze and age can take. I looked down at my fifth monster beer and decided that I’d start eating better and exercising more. Tomorrow.

The Steelers pick approached with glacial rapidity. The Falcons draft DeAngelo Hall, yawn, the Jags take Reggie Williams, yawn with a slightly raised eyebrow. So far, so good for the Steelers. Mark and I both know Buffalo is angling for Roethelsberger, would leap ahead and grab him if the deal can be done. But with only Houston left we feel confident. No way the Texans pass on Dunta Robinson, since the Steelers would grab him otherwise, and when they indeed take the CB the Steelers are on the clock and Big Ben is available.

I look at Mark. “It’s gonna be Shawn Andrews,” I say, referring to the erstwhile 400-pound tackle from Arkansas. He was rumored to go to the Steelers, but only if they trade down. Mark said something unmentionable and we resumed staring at the big screen.

They didn’t make us wait long. “With the eleventh pick…blah blah blah.”, and the Steelers had themselves a new quarterback. Mark and I were elated, getting the quarterback with the most “upside”, which is draftnik speak for, “Could be the next Dan Marino, could be the next Heath Shuler. It’s a tossup”.

We exchanged shouted commiserations with a gaggle of Steeler fans across the room, clinked glasses, and settled down to…what? Wait for our 2nd round pick? That’d be about 4 hours from now. I’d drunk about 150 ounces of beer and while I wasn’t ready to get into a fistfight or randomly kiss strangers, I was pretty whupped. Mark looked tired too.

I think it was the Dolphins drafting Vernon Casey that did us in. One of the guys at our table was a Miami fan, and his team’s selection of an offensive guard after what was, for him, about a 9-hour wait was hardly the payoff he expected. Casey’s from the U of Miami, a local kid, fills a huge need for the Fish, and maybe will end up as a a periennial All-Pro. But when you’ve been watching and hoping and scheming for the better part of a day, when you’re beat from standing around doing nothing and adrenaline-fuzzed from getting screwed at MSG, ending up with a guard isn’t enough.

The energy level at the table dropped. Mark looked at me, and after all these years I recognized that look. “Well, why don’t we go back to the Garden and see if we can get in now?” It seemed like a good plan, so we settled up our part of the bill, wished our tablemates a good season, and headed for the exits. Drove 7 hours to New York, waited in line for nearly 5 hours, and watched about 5 hours of coverage. If you’re wondering if it was worth it, don’t expect any answers from me, ’cause hell if I know.

It was absolutely beautiful outside, sunny but still cool. New York didn’t seem at all threatening to me anymore, though that might have been the beer. The streets, which had been nearly empty at 6AM, teemed with all sorts of folks. We walked to MSG and were told by a downcast fan that, no, they still weren’t letting people in. A guy in a suit came up to us and asked the same question we just asked, could we get in, and we told him no. Another New York myth dismissed–every person we talked to in New York was, well, nice. Very nice. True, I’m sure there are a few unpleasant people around, but we didn’t meet any. No one told me to go fuck myself. Not one. No one offered to sell me crack–another of my preconceptions destroyed. Not that I was in the market for crack, but still, one likes to keep ones options open.

We headed back to our garage, retrieved our car, and now came the moment of really serious Truth–driving in Manhattan traffic. I’d always thought of automobile transport in Manhattan to be part Russian roulette, part death wish. Not a good idea. Then you add the fact that we really didn’t know how to get back to the FDR Expressway and the map we had was so detailed I couldn’t even find Madison Avenue on it because the type was about 1/2 point. Normally I’m an excellent navigator, but I didn’t have a clue where we were going.

And then a miracle happened, a miracle that, when I’m up for canonization, some scholar will point to and say, “Yea, verily, this man was truly blessed by God”. We were pulling out of the garage onto a busy street and, brace yourselves, a cabbie STOPPED AND WAVED US INTO TRAFFIC. And no, this was not some out-of-town cab driver just out sightseeing, his cab looked just like the other 896,000 in the city. A New York cab driver paused and let we out-of-towners get in line ahead of him. I crossed myself, said a quiet prayer, and went back to our map.

We did OK, after we figured out that we were going south when we should have been going north. Saw the Empire State Building–tall. It wasn’t the tall buildings that really impressed me about New York. We have tall buildings in Pittsburgh–not so many, of course, but walk down Grant Street and you’ll be in a concrete canyon. No, what really floored my about New York wasn’t its height but it’s WIDTH. Come to an interesection in Manhattan and you can look left, look right, and see buildings and traffic lights stretching off the the horizon. And it goes own like that for block after block after block. In Pittsburgh, which bounded by rivers and girdled with mountains, no street really goes on that long before it has to twist or turn or hook. The horizon is always a 9-iron away, it seems. But in New York, my God. Gotta go back there, because it became obvious to me that I was only seeing the tinest sliver of what is a horking big place.

We found the entrance to the FDR. Waiting for the light, I saw that gondola thing I’ve seen in movies taking people up…wherever it goes. We got on our road and knew we’d get home in one piece. We turned on the radio and learned the Steelers had traded up for Tusculum (Tusculum?) cornerback Ricardo Colclough. Another pick we both liked, as corner was a great whopping need. We were in traffic now, Mark called Ro and we planned to meet them at an Italian place for dinner, so we had plans and could take our time.

As we drove, I turned to my right and saw a big concrete structure that looked like it would be at home in downtown Minsk or Gdansk or any big city once in the Communist bloc, where poured cement was considered the height of style. Then I looked a bit higher and saw, in blue letters, the words “YANKEE STADIUM”. “THAT’S Yankee Stadium?” I said to Mark and pointing.

“It’s ugly,” Mark agreed.

“It looks like Paul Bunyan’s toilet.” I stared at it, aghast. Compared to Pittsburgh gorgeous new PNC Park (voted by ESPN as the best baseball park in the game) Yankee Stadium was an absolute eyesore. If this was the House That Ruth Built, then maybe the Bambino should have spent less time with hookers and more time with Frank Gehry.

How it must gall George Steinbrenner to see bozos like the Pirates’ Kevin McClatchy and the Brewers’ Bud Selig trick taxpayers into giving them hundreds of millions to build their poorly-run and chronically unsuccessful lucrative new stadiums, while he, owner of the most valuable sports franchise in the world, has to watch his team labor in a 100-year-old dump. A dump filled with history and legend, but a dump nonetheless. I can’t testify to the aesthetics on the inside, and if you’re a Yankee fan and think I’m committing sacriledge and that at least you have an actual major league team to watch and you want to start sticking pins in a Geno voodoo doll, you go right ahead.

The rest of the drive was fine, we arrived at the restaurant, had a tasty meal, and headed home to relax and watch a movie, which was exactly the pace I was looking for. I don’t think I would have been up for a night of clubbing and dancing, nor would the very pregnant Ro. We watched Snatch, a movie I’d never seen in its entirety, and learned why I’d never seen the character played by Benicio Del Toro, though he was listed prominently in the credits. And then it was time to hit the hay, and hit it hard I did.

We left early in the AM, hugs for Ro and the baby on the way, and then we headed back to the ‘Burgh. We stopped at a bagel shop for breakfast and a paper, and the one guy behind the counter could have been Antonio “The Magician” Esfandiari’s long-lost bagel-making brother. Mark drove, and I looked through the paper for the Steelers other picks.

“We took a tackle from Florida in the third round, Max Starks,” I said.

Mark nodded approval. “Mel Kiper said he’s a boom or bust guy. He’s supposed to be huge.”

Yes, I would call 6-7, 330 huge. Here’s an unusual thing I read about Starks when I got home–his natural father is former Bengal DL Ross Browner. Starks never knew this until he was being recruited out of high school and people kept mentioning over and over how much he looked like Browner, which must have been rather irritating, and his mother told him the truth.

The answer to the question, “Who did the Steelers take in the 4th round?” was easy–no one, since we traded that pick to move up for Colclough. So that was all the Steeler news to be had. But as Mark peppered me with questions about other players, I searched the paper for one name. “You’re not gonna believe this,” I said.

“What?”

I looked over. “Will Poole didn’t get drafted on the first day.”

If you recall, Poole’s father was in line with us all morning at the SportsZone and was telling all and sundry that his son was gonna be a first-round pick. About 20 people cut in line to join him inside, and one can only imagine their collective horror as the day wore on and on and on and he didn’t get picked. Mark, who was pissed at all the line-jumping, chorlted with mirth. I felt a pang of…well, not sadness, since Poole will still end up with a nice pile and lots of adulation and fame and whatnot, and for all I know he’s a total jerk. But I felt a pang nonetheless. He ended up going to Miami with one of the first few picks in the 4th round. Man, that must have been one happy bunch at the SportsZone when ESPN signed off for the night.

We made good time on the way home, and I arrived back at the homestead to find my wife doing mountains of laundry and my niece and nephew running amok. No rest for the very, very weary.

And so, my ridiculous odyssey comes to an end. Basically one big anticlimax, when you think about it, but I still had a good time. Will I go back and try to attend the Draft again? What, you outta you’re friggin’ MIND? No way. I made my pilgramage, and I found out that the idol I worshipped was not only a false idol, it also told me to go fuck myself for my troubles. I’d definitely go back to New York, maybe actually see more than 1/900th of it.

Some actual poker content will be coming in the next few days. Played a little here and there, tho I missed playing in my family game because I was laid up in the hospital, dammit. My swanky chips STILL haven’t been blooded in actual combat. Ah well, they’ll get a workout this summer. And so, dear readers, till then.

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