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TUESDAY, NOV. 16: Gloves
I first heard the strike was over late this afternoon, when I was in a sporting-goods store. I said sure, thanks, when the guy told me. I'd heard that too many times the last 50-something days. But outside, in the mall, I met a neighbor of mine, and she told me the same thing. She's married to a Northwest pilot, and those guys are always on strike, so I figured she knew strikes. And she was right.
The first thing that came to my mind, Frank, was: This is great. We can get hot and win the whole thing. The way I heard it first, eight teams would make the playoffs. We're 1-1 now, so I figured we could glide past some guys. We're a passing team, and passing doesn't demand as much precision as running. Besides, it's going to be essentially a cold-weather season now, and receivers always have the advantage on frozen fields.
Unfortunately, that also made me think: I wonder if Bud Grant has changed his theory on gloves. His theory is that no matter how cold it is, you don't need 'em. My hunch is, Bud hasn't changed.
I've changed, though. I've been growing a beard for six days. I needed to do somthing. At first, the strike was nice. I haven't had two days off in a row in the fall for many years. But having two months off was another matter. For several years I had a mustache, and I was a totally different-looking person with it. I appeared much older and tougher. I'm proof that all black people don't look alike, because with a mustache I didn't even look like me.
Thought for today: I just found out 16 teams, not eight, get in the playoffs. Great: I always wanted to play in the NBA.
WEDNESDAY, NOV. 17: Shoes
Up at 6:30 for a physical at 8. And I couldn't find my shoes. The last thing I did when the strike was called was to bring my cleats home, because I was going to work out a lot in them. That was the last time I thought about my shoes. I finally found them out in the garage.
Then everything went great. I was so excited I was actually looking all around for other Vikings as I drove to our training facility. And 10 minutes after we got there, it was like we'd never been away. It was fun all over again. The three things you need to play pro ball are good hands, quick feet and thick skin, and right away, the guys were all over each other. Like, if you've got a slightly large nose, everybody will say, "Hey, tell me what they're cooking in Spain today." Why, there were even some guys who actually had some unkind remarks about my new beard, such as: Did you just climb out of a garbage can?
The universal joke was, "Hey, Where's my check?" because in the new agreement we're all getting big bonuses. The backup universal joke involved urine specimens. The gag was that clean specimens were for sale, starting at $35 and going up to $100 if you had a reputation as a party boy. As you can see, Frank, the 50-some days haven't eroded any of the clever wit we gridiron stars are renowned for.