What it should say is “Why I didn’t watch MOST of the draft”, but that would be a lot less catchy and most of you probably wouldn’t have cared. Some of you are probably thinking to yourself “I actually STILL don’t really care.” If you’re one of those people, let me say how sorry I am that you’ve contracted that disease that forces you to click on links against your will, or to read e-mails that automatically pop up in your inbox.
I know there isn’t a cure yet, but trust me, together we can beat this thing.
I did, in fact, watch the first round Thursday night. It’s a good thing too, because otherwise I’d have missed the passing of the “league’s biggest knob” torch from Eli Manning to Andrew Luck.. I would have also missed seeing how Tampa Bay safety Mark Barron is basically a bizarro Theo Huxtable. And of course, I would’ve hated to miss that special moment between Dontari Poe and Roger Goodell, where their 30-second embrace and subsequent awkward gaze into eachother’s eyes may as well have been accompanied by dancing unicorns and cartoon hummingbirds.
I also was able to see the Bengals’ selections of Dre Kirkpatrick (a corner from Alabama) and Kevin Zeitler (a guard from Wisconsin). Neither were sexy picks (Dre is character-deficient and Zeitler’s a pasty-faced guard), but both could be starting on Day One. That’s a solid first-round haul for a playoff team, regardless of the fact that Zeitler’s a scumbag Badger and Dre couldn’t fit his hat over his dreads.
But after Thursday night’s festivities, I did something I can’t remember ever doing, which was completely tune out. I could blame my negligence on the hard week I had at work, but there are about 50 of you reading this that would justifiably call me on that BS. I could also cite the fact that this year’s draft had a new format, so my internal sports clock was a little askew. None of that really factored in though. In truth, there’s only one thing to blame for my total lack of vigilance on one of the most important football weekends of the year.
The Tough Mudder.
Most of you are probably familiar with the Mudder, or at least cognizant of the fact that it’s all the rage these days to pay an assload of cash to run a race that makes you feel extremely bad about yourself. Basically, similar to a marathon, the Tough Mudder is a super long race where a ton of people train for weeks to spend four hours making their insides weep. However, most marathons don’t require jumping over fences, slogging through mud on your elbows, and basically pretending to be a runaway slave. The Tough Mudder does all these things, and much more. It’s a grueling test of will, a hell-fest of physical torment. It’s something that none of us will ever forget.
Especially the people who ran it.
That’s right jackalacks, this guy didn’t exactly feel like paying two-hundo to jump into a freezing cold koi pond or get his gibblets tased by a bunch of hanging wires. Instead, I did what any sensible almost-thirty-year-old would do, which was load up a backpack of Miller Lite and Jameson and start pounding at 9:30 AM. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The race was Saturday morning and located about two hours north, so some friends and I met a couple other friends at a cabin and they brought some of their friends, and pretty soon we were all friends and everything was really friendly. But seeing as it was the night before the race and all the runners were nervous about their impending castration, Friday night was pretty low-key. Relatively speaking, at least. People like myself, my lady-friend, and a few others who weren’t running definitely found time to toss back six-to-eight beers, shots of cheap/weird liquor, and several bags of chips. Enough, apparently, to make me completely forget about Rounds 2 and 3 of the draft, which eventually made me want to kick myself in the face.
Saturday, however, was even worse. Granted it only featured rounds 4-7, but the Bengals have had a lot of success in those rounds in recent years. Pro Bowl-caliber players like Geno Atkins, Domata Peko, and Robert Geathers, to name a few. Yet, trapped in a drunken haze, I simply just forgot. I’ll tell you how, and then you tell me if you blame me....
For some, the morning started around 7:30 (and from the overall tone of this column I’m sure you’ve already guessed that I wasn’t included in that group.) While the runners and approximately half of the supporters (the half that were, ya know, actually supportive) were up and bright-eyed, eating Powerbars and bananas and whey, I lay in bed wondering whether the chocolate covered pretzels and double-stuffed oreos would fit in my bag. After all, I was anticipating a full-on tailgate situation, so sacrificing food or booze in the name of backpack space was absolutely not an option. These are the questions that ran through my mind as I lay half-asleep, waiting for all the ruckus outside my door to cease.
Eventually it did, which meant all 12 people who were devoted enough to leave the house before 9am had piled into cars and were off to shake hands with destiny. I took this opportunity to roll over and wait for someone to wake me up, which is my standard M.O. when there’s something someone wants me to do, but I’d rather be sleeping. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before Lady Child came into our room and spoiled my fun by rummaging through her suitcase and making comments about how my cumulative nightfarts had left the room smelling like the inside of a tonton. It was like 9:30 at that point, so there was little use in resisting.
After filling up on eggs, bacon, sausage, and probably an illegal amount of mimosas, my three compatriots and I broke camp around 10:30. Our car consisted of Kate (fiancee’ of a runner), Ben (fiance of another runner), and me and Jen (planning to get schwasted.) The race’s start time was 10:00, but we assumed this meant “get there, straggle around, sign in, take pictures, get pumped” was at 10:00, meaning the race would actually kick off closer to 10:45.
All the festivities were held about 10 minutes from the Pocono Raceway, so that’s where all 17,000 cars were parked. Runners/spectators were to be shuttled over by the fleet of school buses, which was important for two reasons. First, the shuttle over to the Mudder entrance opened up a world of accelerated pre-game possibilities. And second, even though everything was like four seconds from the house, none of us could seem to grasp a hold of how to get there, so we spent a good 20 minutes driving along the main drag, spotting yellow buses, all obviously headed in one direction, in an attempt to “feel” our way to our destination. Sitting shotgun, I made it my main duty to yell out “BUS!” every time we saw one, as if the huge yellow vehicles were invisible to everyone else.
If you were a bottle of champagne deep, you’d probably do the same thing, because stuff like that always seems extremely helpful when you’re slobber-knocked.
After finally arriving, boarding, and spending the bus ride drinking Jameson out of a water bottle, our four-person strike team touched down at the race’s entrance around 11:30. Immediately, we were confused.
Thousands of people were right there in front of us. Milling around, stretching, eating, guzzling beers. Racers who started at 8:00am limped by like they’d been hit by a forklift. EMT’s were buzzing around on golf carts, wearing Oakley’s and pretending to be important. Spectators like us were hiking around aimlessly, sucking beer out of Camelbaks.
It was all very disorienting.
So, after being herded through an entry gate (where we showed our ID’s and signed like five waivers in case we drowned in mud puddles or were hit by shrapnel), we decided our best course of action would be to post up at one of the 20-something obstacles toward the end, so we could catch our heroes as they ran by. Without having a map or the wherewithal of sober people, we decided this plan was basically foolproof. (Little did we know, the four supportive supporters who had arrived hours earlier found a way to follow our runners almost step for step from obstacle to obstacle, making the four of us look like giant dushkus.)
Luckily, the obstacle we had in mind wasn’t more than 50 yards away. It was a huge wooden structure, the finale of the whole race, where runners had to run through and get zapped by hanging electrified wires. Hopefully I don’t have to explain why this was appealing.
For the next two and a half hours, we were privy to what had to be some of the best entertainment the Tough Mudder had to offer. Being that the race hosted thousands of runners throughout the day, we were treated to a steady stream of tired, wounded, smelly, and sometimes ridiculously-dressed people whose only goal was to stagger through the final obstacle on their way to freedom. It doesn’t take a mathlete to figure out that weak/vulnerable goofballs getting zinged by wires plus dozens of drunken spectators equals hours of loud and semi-inappropriate hilarity.
Even during the lapses in the action, where the voltage gauntlet sat empty and waiting for another wave of victims, the four of us stayed busy. Jen, as she’s often prone to do in times of substantial alcohol imbalance, took it upon herself to do something that she’d end up hating herself for in the morning. Usually this involves beating people in chugging contests or engaging in spontaneous slap fights. But Saturday she decided to test a theory that her, Kate, Ben and myself had been hatching all morning.
Basically, as funny as the scene was in front of us, it didn’t appear that anyone was really getting shocked THAT BAD. I mean, sometimes a girl would run through and let out a little yelp. And yeah, at times big meatheads would hurtle through and bellow out obscenities. But I’ll be damned if anyone really got thrown off course or knocked to the ground, which obviously was what everyone was rooting for. So being the naysaying contrarians that we were, we took it upon ourselves to encourage everyone that jogged warily to the entrance, usually yelling out things like “IT’S NOT EVEN ON” or, for the jacked guidos, ‘STOP BEING A F%CKING WEENIE.” Obviously there was no way for us to know if we were right or wrong, but it didn’t hurt to yell out random encouragement or advice, seeing as we weren’t the ones who paid the consequences.
That all changed though when the stocky female EMT on the other side of the gauntlet (the one that had been glaring at us for exposing their fake-ass electric scare tactic) challenged Jen to try it herself. Now, I like to think that if someone simply told my wife to go run through a muddy shock-zone for no particular reason, she’d decline (note: she probably wouldn’t). However, this lady was crazy like a fox. Instead of goding us, she instead just asked that jen run out into the middle and grab a shoe that was bogged down in the muck. Even in my precarious state, I recognized this to be entrapment immediately, but Jen was basically FUBAR at that point (and I’m pretty sure a part of her wanted to be included in all the fun), so she readily accepted. I’m almost certain that what happened next changed the fortunes for our forthcoming team of runners.
My loving and graceful wife dashed through the obstacle in record time and with reckless abandon, basically making the whole structure look like a sham to the onlookers, and sending the lumpy pony-tailed EMT into a stinkpot of embarrassment. She apparently wasn’t to be trifled with, however, because the next time someone lost a shoe, she extended a similar challenge to Jen. Already muddy and blown up with confidence, Jen obliged.
Now, perhaps we were all too drunk to pay attention to much of anything (or, just as likely, none of us were trained electricians), but it was clear that they had teased up the frequency on that bad boy, because Jen basically got her shit rocked. Had she been more sober, she probably would have felt the effects more immediately, but she continued to run through like a banshee, causing the crowd of onlookers (Team Lazyass) to erupt in cheers. It worked out fine for Jen, who could barely feel her extremities anyway, but I’m sure it didn’t help our team of champions, who would soon come around the bend.
All of our crew ended up coming through the final challenge safely, as it turned out. But pretty much all of them felt the effects of what I would then refer to as Jen’s heroics.They emerged a bloody, muddy, beaten and broken crew. But they emerged to tell the tale, which was more than I can say for those of us who didn’t run it (except for those jerks that got there early, took pictures/videos/memoirs, and made us look like kumquats - hey guys!)
By the time the day at the race was over, so too was my will/desire to do anything but chase the elusive brown out. The evening in the cabin was one huge boozefest, a night-long campaign that was pretty much totally staffed by myself, I’m told (Jen had taken multiple naps by seven o’clock and was hungover by 8:00).
It wasn’t until Sunday morning, where I could barely open my eyes and/or roll over in bed without ralphing, that I realized the draft had come and went. The Bengals had pulled off their third excellent showing in as many years, pulling in a haul of game-ready playmakers.
As we rode home (Jen drove, as there was no way I could even see the road, let alone legally operate the vehicle), I read up on the Bengals picks. Guys like Devon Still and Mohamed Sanu, who look ready to contribute immediately. Or Orson Charles and Brandon Thompson, who might have fallen for whatever reason but could pay huge dividends down the line. It felt weird to be reading about these guys days later; it felt like I let someone down. But I took comfort in knowing that even though I didn’t get up early, or take any pictures, or make any signs, or really do anything at all that could be considered productive, at least I still sacrificed for our friends.
In my own way, I paid my dues that weekend. And even though it may be hard for anyone else to understand how stuffing my face, sleeping in, and getting hammered (all before the View came on) could be considered a sacrifice, I missed the draft. And I never miss drafts.
I’m not saying what I went through was harder than eating mud and getting your nads zapped, but then again I’m not saying it wasn’t. Missing one of the biggest sports days of the year wasn’t easy.
In fact, I’d say it was pretty damn Tough.
JOURNEYMEN Founder and Day-drinking Enthusiast