Security guards stood outside the downtown Minneapolis hotel in which the Carolina Panthers stayed. Players could take any one of four buses to the Metrodome, which was about six blocks away. Each left at a different time. Players could hang out at the hotel or in front of their lockers at the stadium.
The two rookies emerged together, Jonathan Stewart first and Jeff Otah a few feet behind him. That's the order in which they were drafted. But today it will be Stewart following the big man.
The security guards had it easy. A throng of three fans stood outside the hotel.
It's interesting to return to the place from which you come. I grew up in Minneapolis, went to high school here and finished college here and got my second newspaper job here.
I drove Saturday to Minnehaha Falls. I remember the waterfalls as being powerful. Man, you could hear them a half mile away. On this day, you could hear them when you stood within 10 yards. The roaring river had become a creek. The water cascading down looked like two fans, two separate creeks.
I've been gone 27 years so there were other changes, new stores and restaurants and massive condominium projects. In my neighborhood, little remains. I remember a shop that sells and repairs lamps moving into a prime shop on a corner near my house. We thought: how long will that last?
It's still here.
Another place that's still here is Nye's. Nye's is where the World's Most Dangerous Polka Band plays. Place was jammed when they began. Ruth, who runs the band, is 76, and has been playing at Nye's, which Esquire once named the best bar in the U.S., for 33 years.
When Ruth puts her cap on backward and her Flav-a-Flav glasses on, and begins to rap, "She's too fat, she's too fat, she's too fat for me," you understand why Esquire got excited. Polka is the music of my people.
A lot of Minnesota fans tailgate along the Mississippi River. We ran along the water, over bridges, down hills although it seemed as if we mainly ran uphill. Even there, we couldn't get away from football. We saw locks on the Mississippi, which reminded me of my Lock of the Week.