As I stated before, last night was both a great night and a terrible night all wrapped up into one. While at the 360 Sports Lounge I received multiple emails and tweets about QB Matt Schaub’s possible season-ending injury. I immediately began checking with fellow fans to confirm the bad news and sure enough, it was spreading like wildfire. Now, before I go any further let me make this disclaimer:
*Schaub’s injury has not been verified yet. He has not visited with the multitudes of doctors from across the country and, until that is complete, the team will not release an official statement concerning his injury.
You could almost feel the air get sucked out of the room as all of the fans let out a collective gasp at the thought of losing Schaub for the rest of the season. Still, and I was quick to say this, we have to have faith in this year’s team and what they can accomplish despite the absence of their starting quarterback.
Where was I? Oh yeah, at the lounge, the anxiety began to build and build as we awaited the arrival of the Houston Texans players. CB Jason Allen was the first to arrive. He slipped in unnoticed by most because he in through the front door wearing a dark hoodie that made him rather inconspicuous. Shortly thereafter OLB Brooks Reed entered.
Brooks’ entrance was much more noticed, it is really hard to have a 6’2″ 250 lb. man just “slip by”. Fans everywhere welcomed him with a round of applause…two down, three to go.
Not even 10 minutes later ILB Brian Cushing and LS Jonathan Weeks entered. And the crowd went wild! Cheers of “Cushing, Cushing” and “Crushing Cushing” reverberated throughout the bar. Brian gave a congenial wave and, with Jonathan, made his way to the holding room…four down, one to go.
Just a couple of minutes after Brian and Jonathan arrived the final Houston Texan, TE Owen Daniels arrived. Again the crowd chanted his name as he shook a few hands, made a few fist-bumps and disappeared into the holding room.
There was a palpable excitement in the room as the fans grew steadily rowdier.
Now keep in mind that this was my first autograph session with the players outside of training camp. I had no idea what to expect but from what I was told this was one of the best autograph sessions that some of the other fans had ever been to. There were around 100-150 people total and only the first 50 people in line at the door were guaranteed an autograph (I was fifth in line). Needless to say Verizon Insider and NFL Mobile did a great job of organizing this “Tweet-Up”.
If you are not familiar with what a Tweet-Up is, it is a social meeting organized completely through tweets on Twitter.
Finally, the time arrived and we were allowed to get our autographs from the players. While it is always nice to get an autograph, that is not my primary reason for going to this event. I wanted to get inside the mind of these players…but more about that in a bit.
The players were very friendly during the signing session even though the fans were not so much so. Let me just take this one minute to vent my frustrations…
…people need to chill the #%&* out! These are football players, not gods. There is no need to bull-rush them every time you see them and ask them for an autograph or to take multiple pictures with you. If they offer, fine, otherwise leave them alone and let them be themselves, they are more enjoyable that way. Nor is it necessary to step on, push, nudge, elbow, or otherwise disturb those around you just so that you can get six inches closer to a player – grow up!
Back to the evening. After the autograph session came my favorite part of the evening. The players came out and mingled with the fans, some sat and talked football (of course) while others walked around taking pictures and meeting their fans. I took this opportunity to meet the men who put their bodies on the line each week for our entertainment.
The following questions are those that I asked the players and the responses that they gave. Please note that I asked each player if it was acceptable to use their answers on this blog and they all approved.
The first player I talked to was Owen. I questioned him about how he felt the team would do in Matt Schaub’s absence. He replied,
"We’ll [the team] be fine. Coach Kubiak has confidence in Leinart and so do we [teammates]."
While this was a rather generalized and diplomatic answer, I also felt that he was being genuine. This team has overcome a great amount of adversity this season and this is just another bump in the road for them. On to Jason Allen…
Jason, I must say, is a really great guy. He took a few minutes and talked to me and he agreed to check us [ToroTimes] out! Anyways, I asked him about what he considers to be the one thing that has made him so successful this season to which he said,
"It’s just been having the opportunity at the right time. You know, staying professional and playing every game like it counts the most."
That last part is what impressed me the most, “…playing every game like it counts the most”. That is how the Texans have been playing as of late. Every game they go into with a 1-0 mindset. Their complete focus is on winning one game at a time and making that one game their top priority. That philosophy has worked well for them thus far. Uh oh, here comes Thor (that is how my wife referred to him)…
Brooks Reed is a huge guy! Still, he is so amiable and friendly, he opened up quickly and shared a few of his thoughts with me. I started off by telling him that I had predicted that he would be a starter before the season was over, he had a good laugh at that one and told me that not even he ever expected that! Still, I asked him what it was, in his opinion, that was making him (and the entire defense) so successful this season,
"Executing the defense as it drawn up and not letting your teammates down. We are playing for each other. That’s what we’ve all be doing, there are no greedy players, we play for each other on every down."
I then asked him what it was, for him, that was the most difficult to adjust to when coming into the NFL. He stated,
"The speed of the game. Everything is faster. You have to think faster and you have to execute faster."
Well put rookie, well put!
Unfortunately, I was not able to get a minute alone with Brian to ask him a question. You would think that he were a popular guy or something. However, I did learn that he is a Battlefield 3 fan. When he has free time he says that he loves to play video games and probably spends too much time doing that.
Before everyone had been allowed into the lounge there were many players who had stated that Brian never signed autographs and was rather “offish” at events like these. What I discovered, however, was that they were right – to an extent. Brian is a very nice guy, he smiles a lot and will talk to you in a heartbeat, as long as you are not acting like a crazed, star-struck fan. Rather, if you treat him like a normal guy he seems to be more responsive.
Jonathan was busy with friends for most of the night be he too echoed the thoughts of Owen when I asked him how comfortable he was with Leinart coming to take over. He said,
"You know, my job is pretty much the same with or without him. I know that it will affect the flow of the game, somewhat, but it should still be fine."
Again, the general consensus among the players seems to be that of support for the quarterback, whomever that may be.
As the night grew longer the crowd began to dwindle. The players made their way out of the building and I decided that it was time for me to head home as well. There were a number of things that I learned from this experience however:
- Treat football players like people and you will get further with them. You would not want a hundred people hanging all over you trying to take your picture all of the time. What makes you think that they are any different?
- Football fans, while energetic, enthused, or whatever you want to call it, can be pushy, intrusive, and down-right rude. They need to learn to act like adults and be more respectful of others.
- Be real with the players. If you try to act like you know more about the sport than they do, they will sniff you out in a heartbeat. Do not be like the guy who upset Brian last night, the look that he got could have pierced kevlar!