CAMP LEG: Rayspit, Mon. (P.S. I Love You, Gus Johnson)

Ahhh....

Spring Break.

While most fill their gullets with cheap tequila or PBR on the shores of some man-made Arizonian Arizonan Arizona lake, I'm simply bursting at the seams to exclaim to the world that I'm the proud owner of More Credit Card Debt, currently writing from the shores of Ocho Rios, Jamaica.

There's pros and cons to cruising the Western Caribbean. For one, you don't have to leave the confines of the ship. Ours has heated pools, air conditioned casinos, and all the soft-serve your face can swallow (thatswhatshesaid).

For another, WHY AREN'T YOU LEAVING THE SHIP???

Funny to watch the hundreds of pasty white tourists - of whom I am the worst - stampede out onto the gangplank only to stay within the confines of the King Kong-ish (stay away natives!) gates getting plastered at the Hard Rock...in Grand Freaking Cayman!

It's one of the most beautiful spots in the entire world and people are treating it like Des Moines. 'Av a leetle rayspit for dee i-lons, mon. And get your bleachy butt to a folding chair.

DSCF0716

Really, Americans?


Flying from LAX to Miami was my first flight in awhile, which is saying a lot because of how often I used to. Getting cut one day only to be back on the NFL tryout circuit the next has led me into more tight squeezes and OJ than the Los Angeles court system.

Which is why, I just rationalized this past week, I've become such an anxious flier. Recently, thin air and even thinner seat dimensions have meant "JOB INTERVIEW" upon landing, seeing as the day after you're surrounded by 15 scouts, coaches, and front office staff assessing your ability to perform by their stopwatch. 

Watching the Miami terrain race up to meet us, I had to remind myself that vacations are supposed to be stress free... and that no lower-tier scout was meeting me at baggage claim.

Even more pathetic, I had time to kill this morning and randomly flipped on Sportscenter. That theme song I used to hear every day in the training camp breakfast commons still causes my heartrate to crescendo. Embarrassingly, such is life on the NFL stage.

I'm curious as to if league officials really understand how much players endure, both mentally and physically. The recent rule changes were, supposedly, made to increase player safety but as Wojo pointed out so eloquently in his ESPN.com article if the league was really that interested in reducing injury why not look first to eliminate preseason games?

Like cruises, there's real hot & cold sentiment toward preseason games for players. For many young guys, it's a chance to impress those that "HIRE" and earn a spot on a team. For many veterans, it's like walking blindfolded in a minefield: just keep your legs.

For four games, vets get around $1100.00 per week in the preseason. Non-vets, around $750.00. If you make it that far.

Mind you, this is MUCH more than the $400.00 per week every player gets during off-season conditioning and Organized Team Activities (or OTA's, whatever those mean, going on now famously without Roethlisberger), unless of course you have incentives built into your contract (in which case you can forsake them altogether if you so desire).

In other words, not a lotta cash compared to the $16,000.00 per week or so during the regular season. And that's just league minimum; some players make upwards of $1 million per. Stay healthy is right.

I learned this early on in my career while at training camp with the Seattle Seahawks. My head coach Mike Holmgren was "having a bad day" and was f'ing some player out. I turned to ex-Washington Husky quarterback (and current ESPN analyst) Brock Huard and tried to justify his rantings. "He's under a lot of stress...it must be tough...many expectations."

Coach-mike-holgren

Insert soft-serve here.

Brock just looked at me in disbelief. "Expectations? Stress? Coach gets paid $4.5 million a year to watch us play. His body isn't on the line. There's no risk of injury. And his money is guaranteed." Unlike basketball and baseball, football salaries are - for the most part - on a week-by-week basis. You get cut, so does your money.

I'm paraphrasing Brock's comments now, but I retained the gist of it. It's a feeling not uncommon amongst players who often feel abandoned by a league that profits largely on their behalf

In contrast to the NFL, vacations are supposed to be stress-free. Beaches, Caribbean sun, Jamaican rum. But I must confess, with the NCAA Tourney being as good as it's been I've been yelled at more than once for holing up in our stateroom to watch CBS.

And most of that can be blamed on one man: Gus Johnson.

Hands down, Johnson is my favorite announcer of the CBS lineup. Sheeoot, he's my favorite announcer of any lineup. Sure, there are old-time faves that only grow more fashionable with age, like Costas, or muppet-voiced Al Michaels, or muppet-faced Greg Gumbel, but Johnson's mix of witty yet passionate play-by-play never gets as grating as Vitale or as cheesy as Musberger.

Gumbel

"Meep."

For months now, Johnson has been known only to my heart and mind as "that guy" - a caller I first fell in love with a year ago during DirecTV's free weekend of Red Zone coverage (<---amazing, that there). The two teams playing were continuously forgetful but Johnson's crisp and articulate coverage always kept me coming back, affixed, wanting more. Like a powerful film score whose subtle themes gently weave through one's subconscious, I had no idea why I was being drawn to this one game.

It wasn't until the seventh, eighth, ninth time DirecTV cut to his game that I started to put it together: This guy was excited about football! He sounded like he actually wanted to be there! It was suddenly all...FUN... again. 

If it weren't for Stokely's cheeky time-wasting this woulda been a perfect call.


Whether covering Stokley's miracle catch, or Adam Morrison's sobs (start at 2.00 if time-constrained), Johnson is a welcomed departure from Jim Nantz and his silky Master's promotions - jewelry box tinkling interjections that completely suck the life from any double OT thriller - and make me feel like I'm seated at sub-ground level with every other ticket holder.

The good news: people are starting to take notice.

All in all, Johnson's a pleasant blend of insane fanaticism mixed with a contained articulation the guy seated in Row GG behind me drunkenly lacks. Don't believe me? Check out his soundboard

Boom-shakalaka.

So enjoy the rest of your spring break. I'll be enjoying the rest of mine. And remember kids, don't celebrate goals by biting.

Bite-Soccer-Celebration

No relevance to anything other than DEAR GOD NONONONONONO!!!!!!!




Tyler Fredrickson was a punter and placekicker for the California Golden Bears from 99-03 and then went on to play four years in the NFL with Seattle, Denver, Dallas, Washington & Oakland.  He's currently in the Peter Stark Producing Program at the University of Southern California while working in film development. He also consumes Spielberg and Star Wars probably more than his allotted daily allowance should permit along with loving his 360. And wine. He drinks like a horse. Not really.

(OK, really.)

But not really.

Email him at: camplegkicker@gmail.com
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