Vikings' Childress has emotional holiday; remembering my brother
Peter King returns briefly to catch up on all things NFL, soccer and more
Drew Brees and Sean Payton have a wager regarding their new books
Quotes of the Week, Aggravating/Enjoyable Travel Note and Ten Things I Think
A special holiday edition of MMQB! Print it out, take it to the beach, share it at the cookout, read it on the Blackberry on your way home.
A preamble, first:
Thanks to all for your Tweets, e-mails and notes of sympathy on the passing of my brother Bob, who died of a heart attack doing what he loved so much -- bike-riding on the backroads of northern Connecticut -- 15 days ago. Your words have been great comfort to me, and I won't soon forget the outpouring of condolences you've all sent my way. I'll have a few words on him later in this column.
I hadn't planned to write this weekend, but I wanted to talk about Bob a bit among some other things. Thanks, by the way, to Oakland cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha and Jacksonville running back Maurice Jones-Drew for their prescient columns while I was covering the World Cup, and to Texans tackle Eric Winston for doing such a great job filling in for me on short notice last Monday after Bob's death. I loved their columns.
I hope you like who will be pinch-writing the next two weeks while I'm on vacation: Matt Ryan, the Falcons quarterback, and then NFL Films czar Steve Sabol. I'll be back in this space on July 26, the week I begin my annual training-camp trip.
This holiday week's headlines:
Drew Brees and Sean Payton are at literary war. In a good way.
Brees has a relatively strong opinion on who the opening-night Vikings quarterback will be.
Brad Childress had the most emotional holiday weekend of any NFL person.
FIFA could learn something from the NFL -- quite a bit, actually.
The Steelers have suffered a bad, bad loss. And I don't mean the suspension of Ben Roethlisberger.
Michael Vick's in trouble. Surprise!
RIP Don Coryell. And I've got a message for my Hall of Fame-voting peers.
If you're in southern California on Monday, July 19, I've got a great event for you to attend.
Happy Independence Day, Brad Childress.
I was thrilled to read about the Minnesota coach's surprise reunion with his Marine son, Lance Cpl. Andrew Childress, at an Afghan military base on Friday. This is the second year that NFL coaches have visited the troops in Afghanistan (Andy Reid, Childress, John Fox and Marvin Lewis also spent two days in Germany visiting the wounded), and the Marines did a beautiful thing for Childress when he was greeting a line of troops just off the plane in Afghanistan. They put Andrew Childress in the line, and dad simply discovered him while shaking hands and greeting the men and women in uniform. Their bearhug, according to one eyewitness, lasted 60 seconds, a rocking hug that left each man emotional.
The next day, Saturday, is when I spoke with Childress. It was at the end of long day of visiting troops and then attending a Fallen Hero ceremony aboard a C-130 aircraft. I saw one of these on my visit to Afghanistan two years ago. The entire base lines up at attention while the casket of a fallen soldier goes past; the casket is loaded aboard an aircraft and flown to the United States for funeral and burial. So the coaches went aboard the aircraft while the fallen man's friends said their final goodbyes. It was a touching and emotional night for Brad Childress, obviously, because there but for the grace of God could be his son, and it hit home.
Then the two Childresses went to Brad's quarters and talked well into the night, and then the Vikings coach got on the phone with me. The connection -- cell from Afghanistan to cell in Boston -- kept cutting off, but we were on long enough for the message to come through: Father was incredibly proud of son.
"Andrew's had this on his mind for a long, long time -- to serve his country,'' Brad Childress said. "It goes against every instinct a parent has, obviously, to see your child go into harm's way. It's tough. But I am so proud of him and the man he has become.''
For those of you not too familiar with Childress' interests, he's a huge military buff. I recommended a book to him last winter -- "Tears in the Darkness,'' a riveting tale about the Bataan Death March by two close friends, Michael and Elizabeth Norman -- and when Childress saw me at the league meetings, he raved about the book for five minutes. There can't be another coach in the league who knows as much about military history. So I asked him: What's it like to, basically, take a field trip into a war?
"It's terrifying,'' he said. "Let's call it what it is -- war. It's real, it's palpable, you feel it everywhere here. It has its own heartbeat. I'm not sure what you felt when you were over here, but it seems from talking to the leaders here that the intensity has really picked up.''
NFL coaches don't get many weeks to spend away from football, and I applaud these four for taking a week of their lives to raise the spirits of the troops. "One of the things that humbles us, all of us, is how excited they are to see us,'' Fox told me.
"It's not a sacrifice to come here,'' Lewis said. "It's a privilege. This might be the best battery-recharger for the season ever.''
Fox and Lewis both said -- and they weren't kidding -- that the troops told them they wanted NFL Network on their Armed Forces Network TV feed. See what you can do about that, Rich Eisen.
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