What a difference a year makes. Last year we spent three days in NYC on draft weekend. All day Friday hanging out (and in line), Saturday at the draft and then dinner, Sunday at the draft and dinner and then heading back. Since last April, two of us (Jeff and I) have become dads and one who was planning to go in '06 actually could go in '07. YOU CAN READ LAST YEAR'S DIARY HERE, HERE, AND HERE.
Oh yeah, and we only went for one day, down and back. Before we get started, let me drop this on you. Here's how things transpired.
4:30 a.m. - With my alarm set twice (once for 5 and once for 5:12) I'm surprised to wake up, look at the clock and see 4:30 on the clock. I stay in bed 15 minutes and decide to just get in the shower and get moving. I'd much rather be early than late.
5:30 a.m. - Out the door and in the car. I'm grabbing an ice coffee, some gas and hitting the pike with a little Kanye West to help wake me up.
5:45 a.m. - "Now I aint sayin' she's a goldigger..."
6:30 a.m. - Pulling into Cracker Barrell, I've got a gift bag for Jeff (Melissa and Nolan, really) in tow and see the other two dads on the trip (Chris and Jeff) at the front table. Eric and Frank should be arriving any moment.
6:35 a.m. - I'm just ordering wheat toast for breakfast while Jeff pretty much gets everything chocolate on the menu (yes, including a shake) and Chris loads up, too. Can you guess which of us isn't the morning person?
6:40 a.m. - Apparently, Frank managed to forget his ticket to the draft, so he and Eric had to double back and are running a little late. Jeff, Chris and I are shocked. No breakfast for the laties.
8:01 a.m. - Frank and Eric made good time to Sturbridge and we've been in Chris' Explorer for a while now. Thank god Chris agreed to drive. The rest of our cars would have been very tight fits. This one has three rows and we are pretty comfy. At least until Chris doesn't realize he's in one of those pesky left lane exit only spots in Hartford (one of the dumbest things I've ever seen) and we go swerving to the right to stay on the highway.
8:03 a.m. - We start to wonder if the Tampa Bay rep at the draft will be playing solitaire on his computer during the draft again this year.
8:53 a.m. - We are belting out an old favorite: "It's gonna take a lot to drag me away from you; There's nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do; I bless the rains down in Africa; Gonna take some time to do the things we never had!!!!!!!!!!!!"
9:04 a.m. - We've only been on 684 for a few minutes when we can see up ahead that the traffic is at a stand still. We turn on the radio for the traffic report and are told "684 is a disaster right now. There was a tractor trailer fire and only one lane is open" miles and miles ahead of where we were sitting.
9:05 a.m. - Apparently, a good chunk of drivers were also listening to that report as the cars on the on ramp to our right started backing up the ramp. A few cars on the highway followed suit and the next thing we know, Chris is getting in line to go backwards up the on ramp. "YOU'RE BATMAN!" I tell him.
9:06 a.m. - So many cars are making this move that we are actually in reverse traffic at this point. All except for the guy behind (in front?) of us who makes a quick five-point turn and is now facing up the wrong way going up the on ramp. Is that more or less illegal than what we are doing? We can't decide.
9:17 a.m.- We went the other way on 684 and back-tracked back to 84, where we'll take an opposite route toward the city. Thank god for Eric's knowledge of the area or we'd be in trouble.
10:29 a.m. - We are in the city, but traffic has us understanding that we won't be there for the doors opening at our VIP entrance. Those are supposed to open at 10:40. We have the VIP tickets because we stayed throughout the second day last year (Day Two Diehards!). This is why we didn't have to stand in line this year. We won't have that priviledge if we decide to do this again in 2008.
11:35 a.m. - We are finally inside Radio City Music Hall after another ridiculous display from the NFL. Once again, they managed to have an idiotic setup that allowed the non-VIP ticket holders in before the VIPs and had us literally standing on the opposite side of the building from where the entrance was.
*Now seems like a good time to try to describe this whole thing. The draft wasn't always a huge deal. I've been a NFL and NBA draft nerd for as long as I can remember. Just as Chris about our live cable access broadcast covering the NBA draft way back in the day. Anyway, this has become like a Trekkie convention for football fans. It's amazing that you can be disturbed by the whole thing while simultaneously taking part in it, as I have the past two years.*
12:01 p.m. - It's finally after noon and Oakland is on the clock with the first pick. Each first round pick (and there are 32) have 15 minutes to make their selection. Matt texts me to wonder why the first team gets 15 minutes as they have clearly been on the clock for months now. Personally, I don't think there's any good reason to have 15 minutes instead of 10.
12:20 p.m. - The pick has been made for a few minutes and it's finally announced as JaMarcus Russell, the quarterback for LSU. We were all hoping for a shocker here because, unlike last year, there had been no deal made beforehand between the first team picking and a player. In the end, it was the guy everyone thought it would be. First-year NFL commish shakes Russell's hand and then does all the posing he has to do with the five or so players who were invited to attend the draft. I point out to Jeff that he has another player (Russell) to hate now.
12:22 p.m. - "Roger Goodell looks like a contest winner up there." - Jeff
12:26 p.m. - OK, is it Ja Marcus or JaMarcus? I've been under the impression all this time that it was one word, but the card reserving his table in the green room said "Ja Marcus Russell" so now I'm confused. Still pretty sure it's one word, but that's not a real impressive mistake by the NFL there.
12:31 p.m. - Detroit takes Calvin Johnson, the Ga. Tech WR everyone says is the sure thing in this draft. It's interesting because the Lions took a WR in the first round in 2003, 2004 and 2005, but he's clearly the best guy here.
12:42 p.m. - ESPN's Steve Young is telling Cleveland, which has the third pick, to take Brady Quinn, the Notre Dame QB.
12:43 p.m. - Nope, it's left tackle Joe Thomas instead. Browns fans cheer. You have to love Thomas, who declined an invitation from Goodell to attend the draft because he has a family tradition of fishing with his father each draft day. Good stuff. There were a bunch of "I'd rather be fishing" T-Shirts with Thomas' face on them around.
12:46 p.m. - With Tampa on the clock, ESPN's Sal Paolantonio points out that the Bucs have Phil Simms on their roster. Um, no, that don't.
12:55 p.m. - ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper uses the term "Bust-Factor" when discussing defensive end Gaines Adams. The Bucs immediately take Adams with their No. 4 overall pick.
1:03 p.m. - So Arizona is up and they desperately need an offensive lineman. Frank is hoping Levi Brown will drop to his Dolphins at No. 9, but that's not looking good here.
1:05 p.m. - Arizona takes Brown. Frank doesn't look happy.
1:14 p.m. - There is a Redskins fan (they are on the clock) sitting in front of us wearing a John Riggins jersey. But instead of "Riggins" written on the back, he's got SEC308R17S27. I guess if he ever gets too plastered at a game, he'll always be able to find his seat, even if he's lost his ticket. If you are ever at a 'Skins home game, stop by and say hi to him.
1:24 p.m. - After LaRon Landry goes to Washington, we are wondering now which of the two guys left in the green room, Quinn or running back Adrian Peterson, will be the last one there. They are making two very different faces right now. Peterson's: "Why did I agree to come here?" Quinn: "Do you see the girl sitting next to me with my arm around her? Does it look like I'm worried?"
1:28 p.m. - Vikes take Peterson. If he stays healthy, he could be BIG time.
1:39 p.m. - Atlanta takes Jamaal Anderson (part deux?), leaving Frank's Fins to choose between two guys he'd love to have: Quinn or Amobi Okoye, the 19-year old phenom defensive tackle.
1:47 p.m. - ESPN shots the list of Miami QBs since Dan Marino retired. Yikes, Quinn seems like the choice here.
1:52 p.m. - Miami takes Ohio State WR Ted Ginn, Jr. The place explodes in shock. As a Pats fan, I'm thrilled with this pick. Frank? Not so much.
1:54 p.m. - Mel Kiper and Steve Young take turns absolutely tearing up the Dolphins front office. We hear that the Miami fans at the team's draft party actually booed their coach when they announced the pick. Nice. Quinn no longer has that look. Now he looks like he wants to puke.
1:56 p.m. - Kiper hasn't taken a breath in 111 seconds. He's still going nuts on the Dolphins.
2:01 p.m. - ESPN shows a montage of QBs who dropped in the draft and were stuck in the green room for quite a while like Matt Leinart last year and Aaron Rogers the year before. Some of the teams coming up to pick don't seem likely to take a QB, so we could be waiting for Quinn for a while.
2:15 p.m. - A few more picks go by and ESPN tells us that Goodell has taken Quinn and his family into his private area, off limits to cameras and media. Way to baby him, Roger.
2:19 p.m. - Niners take linebacker Patrick Willis, much to the delight of their fans, including Eric.
2:20 p.m. - Break time for me. After sitting in the car and then in my seat here, I need to walk for a while.
2:44 p.m. - The Jets trade up to Carolina's spot at No. 14, so we are listening to J-E-T-S chants for a while. Thankfully, Chris, who is sitting right next to me, is among the least annoying Jets fans in the world. Of course, that's like being the slimmest sumo wrestler, but you know what I mean. They eventually take corner to a mixed reaction. I think the fans were hoping for Quinn, but NYJ took a QB in the second round last year.
3:04 p.m. - The music being played between picks is ridiculous. They are in honor of whatever team is on the clock, but some are just so out of touch with the crowd, it's insane. "If you are going, to San Francisco, be sure to where some flowers in your hair." The Niners aren't on the clock, but that's what we heard when they were.
3:06 p.m. - Our schwag bags included the ESPN Draft Preview Mag (which is great, since I spent $8 on the friggin thing Friday). On the cover is a picture of Quinn with the title, "Is he No. 1?" Chris decides now is the time to write "No" in Sharpie on his cover. I think he might be jumping the gun.
3:08 p.m. - ESPN's Suzy Kolber tracks down Quinn, who agreed to do an interview. He's handling this whole thing extremely well. Dude is cool under pressure. Steve Young pretty much says the same thing.
3:31 p.m. - After a few other picks, Cincy is on the clock. I suggest Jailhouse Rock for their music, Frank likes "Folsom Prison Blues." NFL doeesn't comply. They go with the WKRP in Cincinnati theme song.
3:38 p.m. - "All my exes live in Texas, that's why I hang my hat in Tennessee." OK, THAT'S WICKED FUNNY FOR THE TITANS SONG.
3:48 p.m. - Titans take Michael Griffin, Texas, Safety, who I was hoping would get to the Pats at 24. Instead he goes here at 19. At least he's with Vince Young.
4:04 p.m. - Another safety, Florida's Reggie Nelson, goes to Jacksonville at 21. Another guy that would have looked good in NE. Not good.
4:09 p.m. - ESPN's Ed Werder says T.O. will be back in Dallas next year. Enjoy that Cowboys fans.
4:17 p.m. - Dallas trades its pick to Cleveland and there is a roar in the crowd as we all know what is happening. The Browns traded their second round pick and next year's No. 1 to take, yup, Brady Quinn. The pick gets a huge ovation and he breaths a big sigh of relief as he steps on the stage. Now the Browns gets Thomas and Quinn. Now that's a solid rebuilding job.
4:18 p.m. - "Well, the Cowboys will be taking a top 5 pick next year." - Jeff
4:19 p.m. - Quinn is the first Notre Dame QB selected in the first round since Rick Mirer. And Cleveland fans shudder.
4:33 p.m. - KC takes a WR at No. 23 and now the Pats are up. They could use either Paul Posz, the Penn State LB or Brandon Meriweather, the safety from Miami, although I'm not sure they'll take either.
4:34 p.m. - P-A-T-S, Just kidding.
4:36 p.m. - Had been wondering what song we'd get for the Pats and was hoping for Dirty Water. Guess what, we got Dirty Water, baby!
4:39 p.m. - "Boston, you're my home!"
4:47 p.m. - Pats let their clock go down to 0:07 and then take Meriweather. Strange, as he's had some issues, but I'm not gonna argue with Bill Belichick.
4:55 p.m. - E-A-G-L-E-S. What is with all the spelling cheers with football fans? It's probably the worst form of cheer ever and yet all these fans do it. Completely idiotic.
4:58 p.m. - Rocky theme. Nice.
4:59 p.m. - And then the Eagles trade down as their fans were just getting fired up. Ha ha. The trade is to the Cowboys and we go from Rocky to "Deep in the Heart of Texas."
5:09 p.m. - "When the Saints Go Marching In." Guess which team is up.
5:21 p.m. - Pats are up again. Or not. They trade down to San Fran. Great.
6:30 p.m. - I pretty much ran out of steam after the Pats trade. Now we learn that the first round was the longest in NFL Draft history. Six hours, 8 minutes. It felt like it. Yuck.
6:44 p.m. - The Eagles are back on the clock again. With our seats in the fifth row of the left side of the first balcony, it was commonplace for fans of whichever team was on the clock to go to the front of our aisle to try to get on camera. It's really pretty sad to watch. Anyway, there were plenty of annoying fan bases, but the worst were the Eagles fans. Anyway, we delighted in this. We were seated five rows behind this pack and had to listen to them prove they could spell Eagles for 10 minutes. AFTER THIS HAPPENED, I took great delight in spelling K-O-L-B for them as they walked by disgusted.
7:11 p.m. - On our way to ESPNZone for dinner before heading back. The sliders were decent and the chicken was yummy. At one point, Jeff and I were talking about how the prices seemed less than we remembered from the year before. Obviously, there is no way they dropped the prices. I guess that's the difference between eating once in a NYC restaurant and eating eight times in them.
9 p.m. - On our way back to the car. $60 to park for the day (not bad really) and we were off for a relatively easy drive back. We didn't even have to double back into Connecticut. Of course, we DID listen to both Africa and Reel Big Fish on the way back, but I think that goes without saying.
2 a.m. - I fall into bed with Lisa, exhausted and trying to register in my head that it actually was earlier that day (I know, not technically) that I got up to go to New York. Incredible.