Work in Sports
This one time, at Rams' camp ...
This is the seventh in a series of postcards Sports Illustrated's Peter King will e-mail from his annual NFL training-camp tour.
Thursday, July 27
TEAM: St. Louis Rams
SITE: A broiler known as Western Illinois University (Bryan Cox slept here) in Macomb, Ill., smack dab in the middle of cornfields aplenty. I'll never forget coming here in the first year of the Vermeil Era, walking through the locker room and getting introduced to Lawrence Phillips by Vermeil as "the next rushing champion of the National Football League." Ah, the way we were.
THE FOOD: Nice middle-American fare. The report card:
Some heavy heat from the kitchen soured the strawberries. But I plowed through everything else unbowed. It's nice to add sunflowers to a salad. Gives it a little crunchiness, and you need crunchiness when iceberg lettuce is involved. I would never complain about a free lunch, but some romaine would have been nice.
OPINION/FACTOID THAT MIGHT BE INTERESTING ONLY TO ME: Center Steve Everitt has a blond ponytail that ends eight inches above his waistband.
Dear NFL Junkie:
I am astounded at the crowds here. The lack of them, I mean. There might have been 300 people littering the bleachers for the morning practice, prior to the Titans arriving for three days of work that begin this afternoon. And I am not kidding you when I say I think Kurt Warner signed an autograph for every soul who showed up. I feel like getting a megaphone and saying: "HEY! THESE GUYS WON THE SUPER BOWL LAST YEAR! MAYBE YOU SHOULD COME AND WATCH THEM!"
I asked one of America's best beat men in any sport, Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, what he thought.
"It's Bear Country," Thomas said. "Last night I'm out at the Parkside Sports Bar, right on Macomb's town square. It's sort of the nerve center of town, I guess. I like to drink my beer in a glass, so they give me a glass. It has a Bears logo on it I say: 'Don't you have any Rams glasses?' And they didn't.
"Plus, it's a hard three-hour drive on a two-lane highway. You've got to really want to get here to get here. When Bill Bidwill had the Cardinals in St. Louis, he turned down the chance to come here for camp because he thought it was too isolated."
That's why coaches love camp. No distractions. Lots of team-bonding. It's wonderful here, obviously, with so few crowds to wade through. It's just very, very surprising to see a Super Bowl team so ignored. The Cowboys are out in the middle of Texas nowhere, and they've got 6,000 coming in twice a day. The Rams don't have the tradition that Dallas does, obviously, but this is ridiculous.
Three other points:
1. Warner says he thinks a deal finalizing his seven-year, $45-ish million contract is "very, very close. I thought it would be done by now."
2. I hear P-D columnist Bernie Miklasz is a religious reader of these postcards. Good taste, Bernie. I, by the way, am a regular Bernie reader on sportspages.com.
3. The Titans are here. We'll probably see a couple of fights soon because I'm told there's some legitimate bad blood between the two sides.
Check back soon for more Postcards from Camp. Next: Tennessee