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But I also can already feel the group ethic taking over. There's a sense of belonging that develops in training camp, but it fades once the season starts and we start going home after practice, instead of to Jake's. If Garvey wants to take us out, he'd be smart to understand that the best time to strike is while we're still living together and that the farther we move from camp, the harder it will be for him to retain unity. And if we do strike, you know who'll settle it? The wives.
Thought for today: When I came into the league, I thought anybody 32 was ancient. Naturally, rookies want to show up some old big name, and the new defensive backs all play me very hard. But lots of times rookies only imagine they've beaten a veteran. The kid's going all out while the veteran is secure and really isn't competing and may just be working on one phase of his game—like footwork.
SATURDAY, JULY 31: The Great Bat Caper
I room alone. I'm the only guy on the team with that privilege—not only here, but when we go on the road, too. This isn't because I'm the dean, either. It's just because when I was traded here six years ago I told Bud I'd like to have my own room and I explained why, and he said O.K. I told him that I need my freedom and that also I'd probably end up distracting any roommate I had on game days. I just can't get my face ugly. I can never focus myself entirely on the game until game time—and when it's over, it's over.
I don't think pro teams still make guys room together just to save a few bucks. It's mostly that old football thinking says that if you've got another player around, you'll be more involved with football. Involve is a big football word. If you have two guys in a room each can make sure the other gets to meetings. Also, it's more unlikely a player can smuggle a woman into his room if there's another guy there.
Actually, here at Mankato it's pretty easy to get women into the dorm. The Vikings only take up three stories of this dormitory wing, and it's 12 stories high. The rest is empty. It's not uncommon for me to bump into women in the middle of the night walking down the corridors. Some of them just wander in on their own, taking pot luck. Others, the guys pick up somewhere—most likely over at the Albatross. They just say to the girls, come on over to the dorm, go up to the fourth or fifth floor and don't say who invited you if you get caught. It's amazing the kind of chances young players will take these days—women, drugs, whatever. When I was a rookie, I didn't even dare laugh, except very quietly and never in a meeting.
I'm not a recluse or anything, it's nothing personal, but I was just never crazy about roommates. My first two years in the pros did me in. That was '72 and '73 at the St. Louis camp. I didn't have a regular roommate in either of those years, and they kept giving me the newest black guy to arrive in camp.
I say black guy, because that was a completely segregated team then, and the whites and blacks wouldn't even go into the same bar together, much less sleep in the same room. And so I'd get all these guys I didn't know whom they'd picked up on waivers somewhere, and these guys would say, "Hi, Home," and "Hi, Room," and all that jive stuff. One week they assigned me this character who had been in Vietnam. He was totally abstract all the time, a very tough cookie. I'd hide my music tapes way down in the bottom of my suitcase, underneath everything, and I'd come back in the room, and one of my tapes would be playing. He'd just look at me, daring me to ask him where he'd got the tape. I didn't ask much until one day he was taking something out of his suitcase and a gun fell out.
"What do you need that for?" I asked.
"You never know, man" was what he said. I agreed. The last I heard, that guy was in jail for armed robbery.