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Old 07-28-2010, 07:01 AM   #1
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"The IG IG/Jerry Thornton Thread"

So some of the newer members may not be familiar with our resident offbeat sports writer, Its Good Its Good, a/k/a Jerry Thornton. He's started doing pieces for, and here's his latest installment.

p.s. it helps if you click the link, also, so he can get more hits.

Confessions of a Patriots Training Camp-oholic
Wed, 07/28/2010 - 12:24am
By Jerry Thornton

I have a confession to make about a very serious matter. They say that the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem, so here goes. Iím going to admit this publicly for the first time.

My name is Jerry. And Iím Ö a Patriots Training Camp-oholic.

I love this time of year. LOVE it. Patton said when he looked over a battlefield, ďGod help me, how I love it so.Ē More than is healthy for me, I know. Because I realize of course that July and August isnít real football. Hell, this early on itís not even fake football. Itís 80-man rosters, receivers whoíll be in the CFL next month running routes for quarterbacks whoíll be working as mall cops. Itís undrafted linemen, as anonymous as doomed, red-shirted Star Trek crew members, running around pylons trying to earn a spot on the practice squad. So largely, itís a waste of everybodyís time.

But itís also so much more. Itís watching Brady, Moss, Welker, Faulk, Wilfork and some of the other greatest players ever wear a Pats uniform honing their craft. Itís watching the 57 rookies they drafted this year, learning their numbers, getting familiar with the way they run and the shape of their shoulder pads and seeing how they look. Above all, itís Bill Belichick in a visor and gym shorts, walking between the practice fields spinning a whistle around his hand while Bon Jovi cranks on the speakers, a man in his element if ever there was one.

Consider this: How many opportunities in this life do you get to watch someone who is perhaps the greatest ever in his field, working at his artistry? Mozart didnít write operas while 5,000 people sat in bleachers sucking back Vitamin Waters. Sixteenth-century Italy didnít have cable showing ďHard Knocks: Michelangelo Sculpting David.Ē Grandpa Albert didnít scribble out formulae on the chalkboard on ďKeeping Up With the Einsteins.Ē Genius at work is a very rare thing and itís not often you can witness it in person. But for Patriots fans, itís just down Route 1.

Say, Roy, is this Heaven? No, itís Foxboro.

So sure, I go to practice when I can. But even when I canít, I like the whole package. Pouring over the daily reports. Catching up on the blogs. Anticipating the cuts. Waiting for the ones that hurt. Keeping an eye out for someone elseís high profile veteran being waived. Reading up on 7-on-7 drills, who made a spectacular catch and who picked off Brady. And if thereís time, Iíll even read the 10,000 profiles of the kicker and punter from those sportswriters who donít know enough about football to write anything else.

Like I said, it isnít real football. Itís the anticipation of football. Which isnít the same thing, but itís pretty damned good. The start of NFL camp is opening the doors on footballís Advent Calendar, with each day bringing you a tasty morsel to tide you over til Week 1. Itís the coming attractions before footballís feature presentation. Itís the smell of bacon before you actually get to eat any. Itís the way smokers describe lighting that eye-opener cigarette in the morning and you canít wait to take the first drag. Following NFL training camp for me is what I imagine foreplay would be like, if Iíd ever actually tried it.

Iím not sure exactly when I realized I had a problem, but I think it goes back to when I was a kid. Growing up, the end of July was a tough time of year for most of my friends. We were just past the halfway point of summer. Each day brought us further away from the blissfully over school year past and that much closer to the hideous, soul-sucking year to come. My buddies Beef and Yodel back in Weymouth would be wallowing in misery about it and start marking off the passage of time like Tom Hanks in his cave in ďCastaway.Ē

But not me. Iíd be giddy. Iíd head home after a day of listening to my friends pee & moan about how summer was flying by, race in to grab The Patriot Ledger and read what Ron Hobson had to say about Stanley Morgan or Mosi Tatupu. Those Steve Grogan Pats clubs of the late 70s were my gateway teams. And I was hooked.

Iíd wait for the news to come on (back when people under the age of 90 still watched local news sports reports) hoping to catch camp footage from Smithfield, Rhode Island, with the same excitement I had trying to catch a glimpse of nipple on the scrambled porn channel. Iíd even keep a Will McDonough Sunday notes column between my mattresses, hoping no one would find out about my secret shame.

And I succeeded. No one knew. Through my college years and into adulthood, I kept my addiction hidden. I was what the experts call a ďFunctioning Camp-oholic.Ē I mean, there were some pretty lean years in there. The Ron Meyer Era. The Dick MacPherson Days and the disastrous Rod Rust Year when I hit rock bottom. Mostly I just deluded myself during those times that I was having fun. And Training Camp was usually the highlight of the season. Going back to the coming attractions/ movie metaphor, it was like seeing the preview for ďInception,Ē and then the featured film would turn out to be like ďThe A-Team,Ē a bitter disappointment.

Then of course, along came Bill Parcells, and everybody joined the party. He made the Pats a real, legitimate, NFL franchise for the first time in my life. For me it was a non-stop bender of optimism, excitement and the pure entertainment of watching Tuna work. Camp was Parcellsí stage, and he worked it like Richard Pryor. Calling Terry Glenn ďshe,Ē the whole ďbuying the groceriesĒ thing. He was a master and for me it was like stepping up to harder stuff. The Training Camp monkey was on my back and there was no getting rid of it.

Then came the fateful day when Big Bill gave way to Little Bill. The Hooded One came and within what seemed like days took control of my system. Soon, a thousand quotes about how camp is like building a house and you have to lay the foundation then build it up brick by brick wasnít enough. And one was too many.

Iíll never forget the time I visited camp with my brother Jack in 2001. Glenn, disgruntled over his contract, was trying to destroy the club with dissention, faking injury and leading the Tour de Sidelines on the stationary bike. Fans were losing faith in Drew Bledsoe and a good two dozen of them came to practice in Michael Bishop jerseys of all things. The team was coming off a 5-11 season and their quarterbacks coach had died a week earlier. I asked Jack to give me some hope, some reason to believe. And he convinced me to have faith in Belichick and the no-name free agents heíd brought in. Nobodies with names like Vrabel, Andruzzi, Compton, Smith and Pleasant. Somehow it all made sense to me so I drank the Kool-Aid that day and life hasnít been the same since.

So thatís my story. Over the next six weeks, Iíll be battling my demons and getting my fix, but think Iíll make it through OK. Because now Iíve taking the first step of admitting Iím a Patriots Training Camp-oholic. See you in Foxboro this week. Cheers.
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