Wednesday, August 11, 2010

On our way to the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward, I got a call from Edie.

"Drew Brees is signing his book at Borders, and I'm in the second group to get it signed. They're allowing three books per person to be signed by him. I can get a copy for you and you can pay me back when you get home. Would you like one?"

I suspected it'd be a fairly standard athlete autobiography, and I already knew a great deal about Brees' story anyhow (turns out there's a great deal of God talk in there, too, which I kinda suspected would be there as well), but I said yes. What the hell.

So I've traveled a lot this past summer. My entire July was spent in other places, but it's damned good to be back home. Even if home is over 100 degrees in the shade. Even if home arranges to have an outdoor music festival in the middle of all that heat. Even if school is starting extra early for the little guy. I mean, sure I felt like I was going to melt into a sinkhole that opened up on Urania Street when I walked to our neighborhood watering hole for a beer and then back to my house, but that's summer at home....and the hopeful autumn light at the end of the heat index tunnel was marked this year by a trip to the Saints' training camp out in Metairie.

Tips for visiting training camp:
Bring your sunscreen.
Wear a hat.
Bring an umbrella, but only use it if you're sitting on the top row of the bleachers by the field or if you're standing by the sidelines - it's not nice to block someone's view.
Bring a towel.
They sell water & other beverages at the field, but bring some in your bag anyhow.
Bring your camera so you can get your picture taken with New Orleans' latest treasure, the Lombardi trophy from Super Bowl XLIV:

The Lombardi it is and The Lombardi is what it will always be.

On walking through the tent that contained a signed Hall of Fame helmet with Rickey Jackson's John Hancock prominently featured, the Halas trophy from the NFC Championship game, a set of the baseball bats Payton gave to the players before the big games last season to help fire 'em up, a championship ring, and the Lombardi, I was relieved to note that not a single fingerprint of the coach's was in evidence on the Lombardi and that he was out on the field in long sleeves doing what coaches do. I hope he never buries even replicas of the past season's trophies.

Watching the Saints train is an even greater exercise in "hurry up and wait" than the average NFL game is. It's also the closest one will get to an NFL 50 yard line without having to pay out the nose for it. Veteran players' moves were checked out, rookies were noted and commented upon, and some wan cheers were actually mustered when Tom Benson & his spouse tooled around on the sideline in their covered golf cart and showed off the championship bling the team earned on their fingers. No one forgets that the man in the cart was ready to schlep the franchise elsewhere not too long ago. I suspect the cheers were for the stylin' ring.

So we sat in the bleachers and sweated out puddles for an hour and a half. We watched the frequent Gatorade breaks. We wondered why we weren't seeing some players in action (talking to you, Shockey and Colston). I finally went to get a players' roster when Edie was mistaking every receiver for Reggie Bush and witnessed a spectator nearly collapse from heat exhaustion. I went back to my melting spot next to Edie in time to see Morstead pop off some punts. The end of training that day was marked by the players heading to the sidelines to sign for the fans in the heat. God bless us all. We love these guys.

Of all my trips this summer, that was the sweetest.

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