Your once-conjoined buddy or girlfriend fades into acutance faster than Eddie Murphy’s singing career. Which is why anytime you get a chance to set out on an excursion, reminiscent of a time less weighted, the experience lived becomes legendary and unforgettable in your mind. And that’s exactly what mine, and assumingly others', weekend invasion of Cheney became.
The weekend began on Thursday night for me. I jumped on the irresponsibility theme early, by connecting with an old-time friend. The type of friend, whose presence or image, conjures up memories of sleepless nights, bad vices, a few arrests, deathbed secrets, and laughs. Never the one to turn anything down, we quickly reverted to a less responsible time. That action lead to getting one or two hours sleep, tops, before another more responsible old-time friend, Brian, arrived at 4 AM.
Brian and I had been through the drill before. In Mike Holmgren’s second year, we had ventured to majestic Cheney to witness training camp. Cementing our rookie status, we miserly booked a campsite over a hotel room. Not a particularly a smart move when you consider it reached 110 degrees, with zero shade at our campsite. Neither one of us is what you would call intelligent, but we’re not stupid enough to repeat that grave error. So, we booked what looked to be a pleasant, locally owned motel, Willow Springs.
Traveling from the north end of Seattle, our first stop was in North Bend in attempts of procuring a non-Starbucks coffee. Eventually forced to swallow our Supersonic pride, we ordered up mochas from the “Renaissance” man behind the Starbucks counter. The only morsel of manhood salvaged from that horror was my insistence that Starbucks locations sell Oklahoma Supersonics season tickets, despite what the pierced wannabe poet tried to tell me. From there, we stopped in Moses Lake to dine at Shari’s where the only eventful memory came in the form of my sure-fire request of having my eggs deviled, over scrambled.
After a few more hours of scenically traveling I-90, visually ingesting lava rock, depressed farmhouses, and unkempt grass, we arrived in Cheney around 9AM. The town of Cheney is one without any direction or theme from a city planning perspective. There are a few local watering holes, three fast food restaurants, the hollowed out buildings of ill-advised entrepreneurial dreams, and the secretive emptiness of a summertime college town. It was Norman Rockwell meets “Deliverance” meets “Footloose”.
Once within the limits, we took one of the endless left turns you can, to arrive at the Eastern Washington University campus, more specifically, the Seahawks training camp practice fields. Within five years time, Seahawks Training Camp had evolved from a quaint gathering of 30-50 drunken NFL adventurers, to a massive exodus of Seahawks crazed participants, all yearning to get a glimpse of a next year. Given the crowd, I reached for my cell phone and called Les (aka Pithy Radish on the message board) to try and locate some familiar names and faces.
An odd symptom of participating in an Internet message board is the meeting and alignment with individuals outside of one’s usual compatibility. If someone were to encounter me, I’d be dismissed as an NFL “know nothing” pretty boy with a tendency to be sophomorically obnoxious. While to me, most others are deduced to humorless old curmudgeons enslaved and caught in the societal standards of the ignorant. What you soon find is that everyone, all people, are equipped with all aspects of humanity making everyone able to mesh with one another, leading to new perspectives, experiences, and friendships. It was with all that, I met up with John (Hawkstorian), Mark (Rockhawkx), Dominic (Tech Worlds), and the aforementioned Les (Pithy Radish) all lunged over a chain link fence.
Les is what you’d expect based on his articles and message board ramblings a jolly, older man just enjoying the company and the football in front of him. Dominic is a soft-spoken, tan-complexioned man whose persona embodies passive and easy to get along with. Mark, reminded me of the pick-up driving party animal from high school originating from either the north or south suburban poles of Seattle. And then there was John, who looked the part of a full-grown child prodigy, with straight-laced views and a biting wit.
After the introductory salutations, friendly jabs, and a few moments of time-passing small talk, there was a bit of an awkward silence. Based on my experience and arrogance, the silence was due my arrival. I tend to cause a bit of uneasiness and trepidation based on my persona. I’m sure they questioned what drugs I was on, how I’d embarrass them, or what outburst would pass my lips. Having faced this before, Brian and I trekked forth to secure our own piece of the chain link.
Safely isolated and near doubled over the fence, we began to consume the practice in front of us, noticing and analyzing what we could.
The first item that jumped out was Ryan Plackemeier booming punts. Every punt maintained hang time and distance coinciding with his 252-pound frame. Adding to his enchantment was the catawampus nature of every ball propelled from his foot. One couldn’t help envision opposing punt returners fumbling their erratic and slippery arrival on a Qwest Field game day.
It’s known to any consistent reader of my drivel, that I happily serving the Kool-Aid at the “Peter Warrick as a game-breaker” table. He didn’t disappoint. To this partial viewer, he looked larger and quicker than he has in some time. With that, he did drop a few balls when I was present. But, I still expect big things.
Nate Burleson was as advertised in 2004. He’s a crafty receiver with deceptive quickness and shiftiness. He’s also going to quickly become a crowd favorite with his personality. On more than one occasion, he capped a drill TD by running all the way to the fence line and high-fiving the on-looking faithful. Simply put, he’s happy to be home and very proud to be a Seahawk.
I’ll skip the description of Matt Hasselbeck’s performance, as it was what you’d expect: professionally flawless. The other QBs all deserve mention, but for different reasons.
First of all, Seneca Wallace is a QB, a real one. He fulfilled every drill with precision, timeliness, accuracy, and effectiveness. Anyone who doubts his ability to QB this team, for a smattering of games, is sorely mistaken. He can and is ready to play tomorrow. If the unthinkable occur, Hasselbeck missing some games due to injury, trust me when I say we’re in capable hands.
The flip side of Wallace would be the inevitable third round bust, David Greene. Greene requires a full presidential term to make a decision. Even with that time, the ball still floats from his hand with clumsy, indecisive movements, just waiting to thud to the ground or into a defenders hand. David Greene won’t make it to the regular season.
The man who will supplant Greene, is the NFLE star, Gilbran Hamden. He looked the part, with his large and sturdy frame. Every ball rocketed from his hand had a decisive, accurate zip to it. He could throw to any spot on the field, including the all telling “deep out”. Goodbye SEC, hello Big Ten.
Kelly Jennings looked beatable in the drills, but terrific in 7-on-7, or full “scrimmages”. To me, that signals his focus on specific technical aspects in the drills, while allowing his ability and already acquired techniques to takeaway WRs in scrimmages. All of which, cements what we already know about him; he’s coachable and equipped with NFL-ready talent and technique.
The biggest impression left me from day one of practice, or any of the football related events, is the magnitude of Julian Peterson. Wearing #44 is fitting of the man, given it’s unique look on a defensive player. He stands apart from everyone else on the field, with his unusual and freakish frame. He’s taller and lankier than the LBs, sleeker than the DLs, and sturdier than the secondary. His presence is Tao. Smile Seahawks fans, Tim Ruskell just equipped you with a defender who may very well revolutionize defense, by the time his career is over.
With practice called early due to offensive ineptitude, Brian and I swooped through the Willow Springs to get a bead on a general check in time. The Willow Springs Motel is Bates Motel only with less money invested, less hospitable management, and erected as a tunnel for trains to pass through. We opened the scantily hung glass door to the office, to be greeted by a low speaking Arab American. The man seemed excited to inform us our room would be available early today, around 1 PM. When we asked about the frequency of the trains, ones that essentially under all rooms, he reassured us with “there’s usually 2-3 trains passing a night. But don’t worry, you wont hear them over the air-conditioner”. With that incredibly odd and funny statement we set off to waste an hour or two.
We scouted and decided on Goofys, a seemingly out of place tavern with it’s invitingly hip décor and up to date pinball and video bowling machines. By that time it was 11AM, justifiably okay to drink, according the book “How to Live Like a Kennedy”. Fittingly enough, Brian and I were the first customers that AM, and proceeded to pound a few Heinekens over some video bowling. Once I proved my bowling prowess, deserving of a clear bowling ball with a rose within it, we moved to Zips for a bite to eat.
Zips is Eastern Washington’s answer to Dick’s Drive-In but lacks the magic that Dick’s has. And let’s face it, that’s a bit of an unfair comparison. Nothing, and I mean nothing, compares to greasy Dick’s….burgers, nothing. Once we were armed with our grub, we sat in the booth adjacent to John (Hawkstorian), Scott Eklund, Mark (Rockhawkx), and others that, rudely, no one introduced me to.
Once we sat, we began some small banter about the Seahawks. The conversation ended one-sidedly, as Ecklund has a tendency to disallow any other words edge wise (not a shot, Ek, settle). Once our demonstration of football geekdom subsided, I noticed a strange and random picture on the wall above our booth.
It was a picture of a woman wearing a circa 1982 feathered-out hairstyle, a “femlet” if you will, clothed with a Davy Crockett, hyde-colored, straight tasseled, untreated leather jacket. The woman was kneeling down, like you do in the front row of a first grade elementary class group photo, proudly displaying a rifle and a gold medal. All of which took place on a lake dock. It was perfectly obscure, ridiculous, and awful at the same time. We later found out it was an Olympic Champion markswoman from Cheney. I guess I’ll have to explain that to the 20-30 buddies I anonymously texted the picture to someday.
After those good times were had, we returned to the Willow Springs to secure our dwelling for the weekend. The room itself wasn’t too horrible, if you don’t mind nicotine stained walls, the smell of German Shepard bath water, and walls thinner than the Arizona Cardinals’ offensive line. It was the kind of room that CBS executives would love to get their hands on, as at least fourteen CSI spin-offs were one black light away. It was within a few minutes of arriving in the room that I received an odd phone call.
The phone call sounded like an effeminate pre-op man, who was extremely distressed. The individual explained to me that his name was “Susie”, from down the street. The call immediately released a surge of panic and adrenaline, as I’ve been known to consume individuals that offer multiple choices. The wave of anxiety quickly passed when the caller on the other end straightened out their voice, and proceeded to say “Hey, this is Todd (Aros - 'not only a member but the President of Seahawks.net'). We just got in town, we’ll meet you at the afternoon practice”. That call was the kick-off for a night that will forever live in lore.
Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3 of "Weekend at Cheney's", to be published Thursday and Friday of this week!
Known very well to friend and foe as "pehawk" in our fan forums, Ryan Davis will be providing a fresh voice on the Seahawks, Seattle sports in general, and life in a nutshell. Feel free to send your thoughts, recriminations and mule sniffs to Ryan here.