Camp Follower: The Cheney Diaries, Part Three

Now that the Seahawks have announced their 2006 Training Camp schedule, we thought it might be fun to take a look back at the infamous Seahawks.NET Caravan to Cheney, as it rolled across our fair state in August of 2005. In the finale of a three-part series, Doug Farrar concludes the recollections of his lost weekend near the Palouse Prairie.

We’ve made it over halfway through Editor Doug’s Cheney weekend, and it’s time to bring it on home. A scrimmage, karaoke, one last practice, and a wistful farewell to fine friends, good times and outstanding football marks the conclusion of “The Cheney Diaries”.

Note: You can read Part One of the Cheney Diaries here, and Part Two here.

The Scrimmage
(Saturday Afternoon, August 6th, 2005)

So…now that we’ve discussed road trips, practices, Rob Rang, Mike Flood, Mike Holmgren, Mike Brown (by the way, I also saw Mike Kahn and Mike Sando…sensing a trend here?), a FanFest and the Radish’s party, I did want to address one issue before I continue.

Cheney in summer? It’s freakin’ HOT, man!

I have spent a summer in the San Fernando Valley, where it would inch up to the 110s and the bank thermometers would freak out and break. I’ve been in Yuma, Arizona (don’t ask me why) when it was so gamey that the vultures were wearing shades and those goofy Greg Norman/Brian Billick straw hats. But I have neeeeeeeever experienced heat like Cheney’s. I mention this because as our NET group headed to the Saturday afternoon scrimmage at Woodward Field (a smidge to the right of the EWU main campus), we realized that the guys who built Husky Stadium had a pretty good plan when they added those jutting double “ledges”. To wit: Shade.

Woodward Field? Not so much.

A replica of Pork Chop Womack at one of the field entrances. Pork Chop, of course, is larger than this.

One frequent topic of conversation over the weekend was a reasonable offshoot of our “GAWD, IT’S HOT!” invective…we would wonder (and still do) just how NFL players can stand it. Put a 300-pound man in a full uni, bop a helmet on his head, and send him out there in 100+-degree temperatures to run around at unsafe speeds. How is it done? If I knew that, maybe Mike Reinfeldt would be working MY agent over. But I digress.

Although advertised with a 2:00 PM start time, the action began almost an hour earlier with punter and kicker warm-ups, followed by basic drills by position, a good stretch at 1:53 (the players, not us. We weren’t movin’!) and some more complex drills right around 2:00.

Then the matchups – first-team offense on second-team defense, and vice versa in alternating short-rep sets (seven first, eleven later). Hass began the day with two 7-yard outs to Darrell Jackson and a 10-yard slant to Jason Willis. All three balls were caught (checks, reviews notes, checks again…yep, all three balls were caught. An auspicious beginning!)

Certain plays caught the eye more than others, like the early fade from Hass to newbie Bobby Shaw which was tricked up and picked off by safety Jordan Babineaux (one of the surprise stars of camp, at least when we were there)…Seneca showing some nifty moves on a right-side 5-yard TD run (and looking more and more like a quarterback every day!)…UDFA punter Chris Kluwe’s helium bombs…RB Kerry Carter getting absolutely erased by OLB Tracy White (the “OOOOOOOOOH!!!” hit of the day)…Jerome Pathon’s impressive 30-yard TD catch, and Jerheme Urban’s equally notable drop of a gimme pass in the end zone (on such little vagaries of fate are roster cuts made)…Grant Wistrom at his Tasmanian best, and Chuck Darby busting through the line like a bowling ball with bad intentions.

Yeah…it was football. It was GREAT! And once it was over, it was time to head back to our rooms again and see just how much stress an air conditioning unit could take. We had to rest up, because it would soon be time for the REAL highlight of the entire Cheney trip.

BISMILLAH…NO!!! We Will Not Let You Go!!! (let him go…)
(Saturday Night)

At around 6:30, we arrived at Eagles Pub in Cheney for dinner and the prefunk. Highlights of this adventure included bitterly fought billiards battles between Mr. Breda and myself, as well as Rockhawk and THE TABS going at it on Golden Tee Golf. Word has it that TABS got his butt handed to him, a defeat for which he probably blames Matt Hasselbeck.

Steve Utz, Johnny and Trish, Hawkfiend37 (who blew Todd away with his gift of a Jim Zorn autographed football)…it was a great crew. And at 9:15, we departed Eagles for the Willow Station pub.

Now, about this whole Karaoke thing. First of all, Todd has been a professional singer. He was in a band that was almost signed a few years back, and the guy’s got some unGODly range. He had to quit the music biz because he was annoying too many dogs. And Steve Utz? Fuggetaboudit. The guy was carrying a CD wallet, PACKED with his own karaoke discs.

Obviously, I was outmanned. And yet, none of us walked away with the prize. The absolute, unequivocal hit of the night was our own Johnny Mac, who tore the joint apart with “Mustang Sally”, and a version of “My Way” that would have had you swearing that Ol’ Blue Eyes was back, and gracing one of those little New York Italian restaurants that Dick Schaap used to frequent. It’s fairly simple to string a few notes together in a listenable fashion…what’s much more of a rare thing is when you can get your listeners to feel what you’re singing. Johnny Mac’s got that – in spades. And he showed us younger punks a thing or ten about putting it across. We were pups at the man’s feet.

Todd, never one to sidestep a challenge, elected to sing, in order, “Silent Lucidity” by Queensryche, “Sister Christian” by Night Ranger (all applicable “Boogie Nights” jokes included)…and “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen. In a smoky bar, with a $5 Radio Shack microphone and a Fisher-Price My First Monitor…and he pulled all three of them off, virtually note-for-note. Nice touch courtesy of Mark “Rockhawkx” Olsen when he suggested that he and I join Todd on the little stage for “Rhapsody’s” operatic middle section.

It was then that I began to think that the whole “.NET Band” idea isn’t such a bad one.

Steve Utz entertained with “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” (the Dylan “Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid” version, NOT the G’n’R version…Steve requested that I make this abundantly clear), “Have You Ever Seen the Rain” by CCR, and “House of the Rising Sun” by the Animals. Mr. Olsen had enough gumption stored up from his TABS-thrashing Golden Tee triumph and subsequent choral debut to sing “Stray Cat Strut” and “Just A Gigolo” very well, indeed.

As for me? Well…seems some of my friends think I have a “70’s Arena-Rock Voice” (imagine Arnold Horshack trying to sound like Paul Stanley), which led to “L.A. Woman” by The Doors, and “Cold Gin” by KISS. And I will say that I can do a fairly accurate Gene Simmons when the beer strikes me.

It was an incredible evening that didn’t break up until after 1:00 AM Sunday. The fact that none of us thought to bring a camera, much less a recording device, is something that I’ll regret for a very long time.

Vanishing Point
(Sunday, and the long journey home)

As you can imagine, morning (and our last practice) came all too soon for some of our revelers, although I won’t name names (cough…TODD…cough…STEVE). Breda was positively monosyllabic, and Sutzy? After ringing his room three times and knocking on the door three more, I gave a passing thought to Who manager Bill Curbishley’s old method of waking up Keith Moon on the road:

1. Open door with hatchet;
2. Pray there aren’t undetonated explosives;
3. Check for a pulse.

Sound like fun to you? Me, neither. So, I called up Mr. Rockhawk, and we headed off to our final look at training camp. Soon, it was time to end the dream and take the BredaMobile (fortunately, its owner had regained consciousness and lost that mysterious green tinge) back to Western Washington.

Back to “The Real World”. (*sigh*)

There’s so much I’ll find it impossible to forget about my first trip to training camp, but the overriding impression I came away with is that the ties that bring the Seahawks.NET community together have never been stronger. So many people, with so many different lives, and so much to talk about, having never met in person before. And those friendships that have benefited from past hangouts and gamedays growing ever stronger with each day in Cheney.

People ask me what it is about a football website that takes so much of my attention. I used to respond with my desire to talk about the game at a hyper-advanced level with other fanatics, or my need to write about the game I love, or even my career aspirations.

After this trip, the answer will be far simpler, with much greater meaning.

I’ll just point to my heart.

Doug Farrar is the Editor-in-Chief of Seahawks.NET. Feel free to e-mail him here. Top Stories