This time of year makes me miss a special tradition Brian and I used to share. Despite my minimal interest in the NFL draft, let alone the game of football itself, Brian and I spent the weekend of the draft hanging out and eating pizza, talking and laughing and intermittenly napping. He even let me have his prized recliner for the festivities. I had very little interest in what was happening but I enjoyed that weekend so much and always looked forward to all the great chatter and trash talk leading up to it. He used to email back and forth with me for weeks before the draft asking me silly questions like this one dated April 9, 2008:
“So do you think that Vernon Gholston should be climbing the charts into the top 3 picks or is he better to fall down to a 6 or 7 when either the Jets or Patriots who can us him as OLB in the 3-4??”
Now what that translated to in my head was not unlike the unformed sounds of the Charlie Brown teacher. I’ve looked everywhere for my response but couldn’t find it in all my saved emails; but I know I wrote something a little sarcastic… something along the lines of, “I do appreciate your desire to get my input but I can’t be rushed into these decisions. I’m really feeling the pressure here, Brian. The draft comes but once a year and I need some additional time to think this over.” Or something like that… because here was his exact reply:
“You know, so far you have handled this question perfectly. The draft is an emotional time for a lot of people… but you didn’t make a rash decision just to answer the question. Time is of the essence, but it’s still somewhat on your side– you have 16 days until the draft. You don’t need to decide on Gholston today– you didn’t answer the question right away and realized that you aren’t going to take anyone’s word of mouth or get caught up in Combine numbers, but rather that you need to watch some game tape. You just need to be damn sure that you know which name should be on the cards in what order when they go up to the podium on draft day.”‘
He knew that I didn’t understand a darn thing we were talking about… we’d exchange witty banter for weeks leading up to draft day and I always looked forward to it.
My favorite draft year was 2007– he asked who I thought should be the Vikes’ first draft pick and I immediately said “Amobi Okoye.” He thought it a curious choice and was facetiously disturbed at the obvious lack of substance behind my reasoning–because he had a bitchin’ name!! “What about his strengths on the field? His weaknesses? What can he bring to the team? How would the Vikes benefit long-term from this pick? Can they afford to drop other picks to be sure they secure him and SHOULD they?” Blah, blah, blah. I said, “His name stands alone! Say it with me…AMOBI OKOYE!!!” I teased him about that for the next few years and it never got old. I’d blurt that name out to him when it didn’t even make sense. I’d say, “Hey, Boy! I learned how to say ‘please pass the gravy’ in Swahili– it’s Amobi Okoye!” Or he’d ask me, “So Dude! Which team do you see going up against the Patriots in the Super Bowl?” My answer? “Amobi Okoye.” Or he’d say, “Hey, Dude. Should I grab us a Papa Murphy’s for tonight or should we get something delivered? My answer? “Amobi Okoye!” “Dude, what time do you get off work on Friday?” Again, I answered, “Amobi Okoye.” He’d say, “that doesn’t even make sense.” To which I’d reply, “Dude. The question matters not. The answer is ALWAYS Amobi Okoye.”
I miss him so damn much. So much I may even go watch the draft somewhere and imagine him yapping in my ear!