A fans eye view from Carlisle

As you know, I've been foaming at the mouth to get up to Carlisle to see the Redskins back on the field. Flying into Harrisburg's been an adventure...there are serious thunderstorms and the flight's been in a holding pattern. Nothing like a repeated view of thick clouds over south central PA....

Finally I'm on the ground and I've got my rental car...on to
Carlisle. The anticipation is killing me. The fates, however, are not
looking with favor upon my quest. Pennsylvania's roads were last paved
during the mid-1960s (everything since then has been a patch) so it's
pothole city. There've been several accidents and folks are
rubber-necking. Traffic zooms along, sometimes reaching the dizzying
speed of 12 mph. Sigh..

At last I reach Carlisle and my destination...the Ramada. Not bad.
Not sumptuous, but there are no terrible surprises like finding I have
to share a room with Achmed and his clan. It's going to be o.k.

It's Tueday evening (about 6:30 p.m) and I decide to head over to the
Dickinson College campus to see if anything's going on. As it turns
out, there'd been no afternoon practice due to the thunderstorms, but
there are a gaggle of faithful autograph seekers waiting outside of the
Student Union building, where the players are in meeting.

There's a young kid wearing a sign..."It's my 13th birthday. Won't
you sign my birthday book?" This, I think, is a clever ploy. I wonder
if the kid's really 13 so I ask and, yes, it turns out this is his
birthday and all he wanted was to come up to camp. His parents drove
him up from Annapolis, missed the practice due to the rain and now were
hanging out in hopes of salvaging something.

A number of players were coming out. Danny Wuerffel is doing an
interview for a local t.v. station, but he doesn't come over. Maybe he
didn't see the kid with the sign....if he did, I think it stinks that he
didn't come over.

A group of Redskin players come out. They're in casual dress - tee
shirts and shorts, so if you don't recognize the face, you have no idea
who these guys are. We're asking the players to come over and sign.
They really don't want to so they all point at one guy and say,
"Hey...that's All-Pro Tackle Chris Samuels."

Chris Samuels gives his team mates a pained look as if to say,
"Thanks a lot...that's thanks with a capital F." But he comes over. I
fight off the urge to push the 13 year old out of the way (I'm
exaggerating here) and I do get Samuels' autograph and a lousy photo.
The kid gets a good autograph.

In talking with the kid's mom, it turns out they didn't bring a
camera because they thought cameras wouldn't be permitted inside the
training camp. I told them I'd take some photos of birthday boy with
some Redskins and e-mail those.

I called several players over to pose with the kid and I got some
great ones. Rod Gardner...Darnerian McCants...Akil Smith...Sean Powell
and Donovan Arp...Otis Leverette.

Of all the players, I think Darnerian McCants spent the most time
talking with us. I wonder if he's in trouble. I noticed that his
number from last year (#19) was assigned to Chris Doering and that
McCants has #85. Also, he said something about being left out of the
media guide. I really like McCants, though. He's humble and seems to
be willing to stop for the fans even if he's had a long, tiring day.

Keep in mind that all of this went on around 8 p.m. The team stayed
in meetings for a long time and the players are dyin' to get out. They
really don't want to hang around with the fans. A ploy I noticed was
for players walking by lines of autograph seekers to keep a cell phone
to their ear. It was so universal that I'd doubt they're all talking to
someone...it's just a good, socially acceptable excuse for ignoring
everyone trying to get their attention. Because so many players did
that, I won't single out anyone (are you listening, Sage 'Who Are You
Little People' Rosenfels?).

Actually, Sage was very nice to fans every other time I saw him, but
it rankled a bit that first night. But I'm seriously pumped and I can't
wait to get to practice Wednesday morning. But that's for another
column.


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