Well here it is. The first day of the Pittsburgh Steelers training camp. First days are always interesting, whether it be like in the past, when Tunch Ilkin picked me up at my house and got stung by a bee, only to have his eye swell up like the “Elephant Man” which looked hilarious in his helmet (and quite painful too).
Or the year I walked into my dorm room with all my junk and Tunch was sitting there on his bed, well actually not sitting as he was upside down doing a headstand and chanting stupidly. He said he was meditating. I figured one day into camp and he’s already lost his mind.
Or the time Jack Lambert took a job for one of the local TV stations after he retired and was at camp interviewing players as they came in. The players started calling Jack “Scoop Lambert” which honked Jack off and he quit.
Or the time Joe Greene got surrounded by the press corps late in his career and asked for a few moments alone because he wanted to enjoy how good he felt at that moment, knowing “he wouldn’t feel this good again until February.”
First day in camp used to mean the dreaded conditioning test. More like the “Running of the Bulls” as we thundered around the fields up at Saint Vincent and Mike Webster had a blowout (one of his air soled running shoes blew out causing him to trip, stumble and fall). Yet “Iron Mike” still managed to get to his feet and win the lap.
First day in camp meant the first team meeting with Head Coach Chuck Noll which as I sat next to Jon Kolb, Jon being a 10 year or so guy at this point could practically recite Chuck’s opening message verbatim. Including the one joke Coach would tell in the hour and a half meeting.
First day in camp meant the first evening meal and if you were a rookie, it meant having to get up and sing for the veterans. I got called out by Joe Greene and attempted to give a high energy rendition of that classicTV showtune “Rawhide” because, paralyzed by stage fright i couldn’t remember the Syracuse fight song. Mercifully they Simon Cowelled me and booed me off the stage after the first verse.
First days meant first nights, and that meant sleeping in a non-air conditioned dorm on a horsehair mattress made for an average 135 pound college kid and not a 280 pound fat guy which was sure to produce a sleepless night.
First days meant second days, which meant double sessions of pounding against teammates twice a day, for days in a row and knowing that you would turn into a zombie walking on dead legs. You became a “Dead Man Walking.”
Yep, first days are always interesting. Bring it on.