GRAPEVINE, TX -- The day before a game is, of course, like none other. It is a combination of a giant exhale after an intense week and a check on the preparedness of a non-stop day to follow. It is, in this case, a change in location.
For the first road trip of the 2008 season, we are in Dallas for a Monday night game. And the excitement level is real. And the exhale is about to become a rapid-fire 60 minutes of focus and intensity.
I can't give this game any more justice, any more hype. Not now. I'm good until about 3 or 4 p.m. and then, well, it's every second of every thought on Eagles-Cowboys. Now, as I feel compelled to share the feelings I have as a big game approaches, my mind is more on the day that has been rather than on the day that will be. In short, I wanted to tell you about my day.
I'm filling space. I'm blogging. I have nothing substantive to say other than to think that you may find snippets of my day interesting. What Dave Spadaro Does On The Road, if you care even a bit ...
So, Sunday mornings are time for television and, during a 1 p.m. game, radio. This time, I worked FOX's Gameday Live, which I love and think it is an honor to work on because it's such a good show. John Anderson pilots the show very well, the show is produced well and shot well and my role is perfect for me. Hugh Douglas is new to the show, so I spent 75 minutes in his presence. Great time. Excellent on the air, a vibrant personality on the air, Douglas has made a superb transition to the real world.
He can say what he wants on WIP and there is no doubt that he always does, but I know that more than anything else, he has a strong, strong dislike for the Cowboys. He wants an Eagles win. I think he knows the Eagles can win this game, too, and that it would make him very happy if that happens.
Then it was off to the team charter. The players sit in the back, the staff -- equipment, security, media, media relations, etc. -- sit in the middle and the coaches and big mahoffs sit up front. It is total first class. The travel is an awesome part of what I really love about this job, because I immediately feel the team camaraderie and togetherness on the plane. It feels like training camp in a bottle for three hours.
We land, bus to the hotel and then it all breaks down. The players have a few hours to themselves and many visit with family. The coaches get dinner. Meeting rooms are set up. Andy Reid and a handful of players have their production meetings with the ESPN (6abc in Philadelphia) broadcast team. I take part in some player interviews, do a video stand-up for our Eagles Report and then head to my room.
That's generally the way it goes for every single road trip.
From there? I did what you did: I watched New England and the Jets, and was impressed by how the Patriots defensive line overwhelmed New York and how New England quarterback Matt Cassel managed the game and New England beat the Jets. I saw a good deal of the fourth quarter of the San Francisco-Seattle game -- can Seattle be that bad? Can J.T. O'Sullivan scramble around that way and stay upright for the 49ers? -- and a couple of minutes of the Tampa Bay win over Atlanta (is Jeff Garcia's career over?) and shared in the experience with the rest of the room watching San Diego at Denver.
Amazing game. I don't know what to make of either team. For that matter, I don't know what to make of any team after two weeks.
Anyway, Denver experienced an incredibly impossible loss. The referees' call on what was decided to be a non-fumble on Denver quarterback Jay Cutler was horrible. That's my opinion as a football fan watching the game. I also can't believe the terrible interception Cutler threw earlier in the quarter with the Broncos going into the end zone. What was that? Furthermore, how in the world did the Chargers get back in the game? I didn't see that part of the contest. I arrived just Darren Sproles was going to the house for a second time. What wheels!
A team hotel is a busy place. The traveling party consists of every player on the active roster, so everyone other than Kevin Curtis and Victor Abiamiri made the trip. They are in and out during those early hours, replaced by family, by fans and by other visitors to Texas later in the evening.
A Mexican dinner for 15 occupied a couple of hours between the end of one wave of games and the second quarter of the Pittsburgh-Cleveland game, and then it was all about NFL football.
Every play. Every analysis. Every statistic, since I have jumped back in the land of fantasy football for the first time in about six years. More than anything, a chance to look at two teams the Eagles play later this season. The Steelers come to town next Sunday, in fact.
First, the Steelers. Good team. They have the same formula they've had for years. They are physical, they run the ball well and they play great defense. Ben Roethlisberger has a separated shoulder? Keep an eye on that one. It was a very emotional game, so how much will Pittsburgh have on Sunday? Both the Eagles and the Steelers are going to be coming off emotional battles. Who gets it back on a short week?
Cleveland just hasn't impressed me. They don't make enough plays on offense, at least not yet. The defense played much better than it did a week earlier against Dallas. The Browns have a lot of injuries, though. They are going to have a tough ride now, taking to the road after successive home losses to open the season. Yeah, the Eagles did it in 2003, I know ...
General thoughts of the NFC: Nobody stands out. The Giants have been terrific for two weeks. Green Bay has played really well. Arizona is the best team in the NFC West. The Vikings are losing that team because of the quarterback. Carolina is a good team, very solid and opportunistic.
Anybody else? The Rams are lousy. Detroit, too. Washington is hard to figure, as are the Saints. Tampa Bay is a borderline playoff team.
Heck, I don't know. Nobody does. We're two weeks in.
Now, it's time to relax. The next big game of the season is hours away, at a time when the calm is replaced by the great game day.