When I came out of the bubble this morning, I saw a photographer there, and I thought, uh-oh. And sure enough, here come two guys at me with whipped-cream pies. I ran a quick down and out, they missed, and I was giving them all a big smug expression just as Greg Coleman came up behind me and got me right in the face with a reverse slam dunk. And Burnsy sees me with all this cream on my face and yells, "Hey, Al Jolson, sing for us."
The worst part is, I feel so old. No, the worst part is: Everybody else looks so young. Of course, that may be because they are so young. Frank, maybe you shouldn't take too seriously all that stuff I told you a couple days ago about how great it felt to be back. I ache. Who's responsible for ending this strike?
Thought for the day: Football practice sure is fun, at least for the first hour.
SATURDAY, NOV. 20: Packers
We didn't take off for Milwaukee, where we're playing tomorrow at noon, until 3:45 this afternoon. Bud believes in saving time. Guys will be home for dinner in the Twin Cities tomorrow evening. We're always the last team to go to training camp, and Bud has us leave for games so late that once, when we were playing in Detroit, we got caught in traffic and were late for the kickoff. I always ride the second bus. That's the one where you don't have to wear a real ugly pregame face. So did Fran Tarkenton. This time in Detroit he leaned out the window to a traffic cop and said, "Hey, we've got the Vikings here. Can you help us get to the game?"
And the cop said, "What do I care? I got the Lions and five." The whole bus exploded.
But we're always ready when we do get to the stadium. I feel like we're ready for tomorrow. Bud even told us today, "I'm not worried about you physically. I'm only worried about your mental preparation." But that's always the real pressure in this game, any game—the intellectual, the emotional. You are not allowed any mental mistakes. Those mistakes penalize too many other people who did things right. The many great athletes who didn't cut it in the NFL failed because they were way up here one game and down here the next, because they ran 10 yards on one quick out and eight the next. There's a lot of funny stuff on any team, but we need that outlet to preserve our sanity. Essentially, it's a very serious game. What's expected of us tomorrow will be no different just because we've been away eight weeks.
The Packer who has played me for years is Mike McCoy, and he's just a treat to go against. Mike is totally competitive, all heads-up, but never anything chippy. If I catch an out, he'll take my back off, but then we'll jog back together and talk about old mutual friends. After the game, if we were staying over, Mike and I would go out and have a few beers together and never even mention what we did to each other on the football field. That's the kind of thing I'll remember best when I'm gone from the game.
Well, I've got to study now. I was right. Bud gave us a whole lot of new stuff. Tomorrow it'll be third and long again, Frank. The ship is sailing once more at last.
SUNDAY, NOV. 21: Lines