Kellie and I arrived at practice yesterday early enough to begin work on our sunburns while still standing in line to get into the practice fields, but not early enough to beat the several hundred people in front of us. The last time I waited in a line this long, I swear, I was waiting to get on Space Mountain. And, you know, for a staff at a palatial Coliseum belonging to a world-class professional sports franchise, you'd think the people being paid to herd us around like cattle would have just slightly more of a clue than we did about where we were supposed to go. This was not the case, although, toxically, they had a healthy dose of self importance anyway, and so, while not actually knowing what they were doing, they did a fine job of acting like it.
Take, for example, the fact that upon being herded through the chute into the concession area behind the stands, rather than allowing the crowd to disperse evenly over the five staircases leading to the bleachers themselves, the crack crew of stadium staff instead forced us all through the two staircases at the center and expected us to disperse evenly from there. Naturally, it was a complete cluster fuck. One poor man, blind, with a service dog, was appealing to one of the staff to let him go around the bleachers as I made my way, "mooing" sarcastically, my eyes at butt-level with my fellow fans in front of me, out of the frying pan and into the fire.
Or pancake griddle, in this case, because that's what the metal bleachers under the blazing sun felt like. Kellie and I sat down and I swear I heard a sizzle. The children all around us began doffing their respective Vinatieri and Brady jerseys and commenced whining at their respective parents with blinding speed. Other fat women began fanning themselves with team rosters. Before practice even began, many of us were ready to go. Add to that the fact bottled water was so expensive that you had to take out a second mortgage and finance it a high interest rate, and things were rapidly approaching cruel and unusual.
But not until we met the Sideline Nazi were we in full effect. This was a woman whose job it was to patrol the sidelines and to keep estrogen-mad fans of Tom Brady from rushing the field, tackling him, etc. (Not that that thought crossed my mind ever, of course) This in my mind should have been all she did. But out of zealotry or perhaps simple boredom, Sideline Nazi took it upon herself to tell every single person who dared sit in the front row of the bleachers that those seats were "handicap only" and that they couldn't sit there. She even said this to tiny, tiny children who had wriggled out of their parents' laps and plopped themselves on said seats to stare at the ground or play with their feet or whatever little kids do. I felt especially bitter about her apparent concern for the handicapped given the scene with the blind man I had witnessed earlier (I never saw him in the stands after that), and the fact that no actual handicapped people seemed to be waiting for said seats.
A child of perhaps eight stood by the sideline quietly holding a giant sign that said "I CAME FROM LAS VEGAS TO SEE TOM BRADY" Not only did this not seem to warrant even a nod from Tom himself, but Sideline Nazi was soon on his case about standing too close to the field. A little kid, for chrissakes! And a fan so great it broke your heart at that! Not hearts of stone, though, like Sideline Nazi. Oh, well. Piss on her.
Other members of the staff, while frustratingly unwilling to haggle on the prices of food and drink items, were at least friendlier. Water Man handed out ice cubes toward the end of practice, at least till one brilliant child stuck his entire head into the bucket. The Hot Dog Boys at one of the concession booths were sympathetic about the outrageous prices of their wares, even though they were stuck standing over a hot grill all day. And other sideline people were much more easygoing. One of them, for example, helpfully told me that she didn't know who, exactly, would be signing autographs after practice, but she did know who it wouldn't be: Tedy Bruschi, Adam Vinatieri, Lawer Milloy or Tom Brady, i.e., anyone I'd actually want an autograph from.
Ah, well. Such is life. And we brave such things because we are fans, no? So on to practice itself. David Patten was, once again, not suited up. Later I heard that he apparently has "tightness", whatever that means, but Belichik is being characteristically tight-lipped about it. Marquee trade Larry Centers was also not in uniform, although some people said he was one of the poor souls stranded on the stationary bikes and StairMasters at the far corner of the field. Troy Brown, however, was in top form, making a few spectacular plays during goal-line and red-zone offense drills. Tom Brady didn't seem to be holding much back for practice, as far as I could tell--Tuesday afternoon and Monday night he threw consistently hard and accurate, and even drilled a few bullets between the numbers of a couple of his receivers. I'm still a bit concerned at the play of newly signed free agent Roosevelt Colvin--he stood out in what seems to be a trademark red T-shirt under his jersey, and I watched him cut through the offensive pocket like butter again and again, reaching the quarterback easily (but not actually hitting him, as is customary in practice). Obviously, he's an asset to the defense, but I worry about that apparent hole in the offensive line, and I have yet to see anyone correct it. I'm not the only one who has noticed this. Finally, a fight that broke out (or seemed to go on) between Dan Klecko and Matt Light, which was similiarly disconcerting, though I know fights are common at camp, for whatever reason.
But Belichik and Co. are professionals for a reason. So, like everyone else not carrying a clipboard or wearing a helmet, I'm just going to have to show my support, cross my fingers, watch, and wait.