1,200 Miles From Home, Bandwagon Meets Dome
By Tony Kornheiser
MINNEAPOLIS -- On and on we rode, continuing our marathon songfest -- after three days, reaching 628,204 bottles of beer on the wall; 628,204 bottles of beer -- when I spotted the green sign on the side of the highway. Eureka! Single digits!
St. Paul 9.
"You're sure that was a mileage sign?" said Chip Muldoon, now Man About Towns in honor of the Twin Cities. "It could have been the temperature."
But it was indeed the mileage. A sense of breathless anticipation overcame The Bandwagon as we saw on the horizon the skyline of St. Paul growing ever closer. It wouldn't be long now until The Bandwagon reached Minneapolis -- home of the Pillsbury Doughboy, Murray Slaughter and the Super Bowl.
Senior driver Harry Lanenbeck took us the scenic route, detouring through St. Paul so we could see the giant, 150-foot-high medieval ice castle sculpture especially designed for the annual Winter Carnival. It had a pale greenish tint, like the classic six-ounce glass Coke bottle -- only somewhat bigger.
Then, after crossing the mostly frozen Mississippi River, we wound our way into downtown Minneapolis, and suddenly, there it was before us, its goofy roof as white as a marshmallow: the Metrodome!
"Do you feel it?" Chip asked.
"Do I feel what?" I said, hoping this wasn't an essay test.
"It ! Don't you feel it?" he said passionately. "Here we are! That's the Metrodome! This is what we played the whole season for! This is why we changed the oil and rotated the tires. This is The Bandwagon's destiny!"
I was speechless.
Yes, this is what it's all about. This is what Coach "Joe" Gibbs had in mind when he called that Counter Trey on every first down since the noncontact, seven-on-seven, intrasquad scrimmage (televised, and proud of it, by Channel 5) in Carlisle. This is what Mark Rypien throws for, what Gary Clark goes over the middle for, what Fred Stokes sweats and strains for, what Stan Humphries holds the clipboard for. This jewel, this happy realm, this land of Kings, this England . . . Sorry, I got carried away. But you get the picture. This is why The Bandwagon rode through snow in Pennsylvania, and freezing cold in Ohio and Indiana, and got momentarily lost in Illinois -- looking for a shortcut Mike "That Toddlin' Town" Wilbon said we should take -- and knifed through Wisconsin, not even stopping for cheese. To get here. To Minneapolis. To the Super Bowl. (And the free food.)
"And just look at you," Chip scolded.
"What's wrong with me?"
"You're wearing jeans is what's wrong with you. Incredible! You think jeans are appropriate attire?" Chip said. "Have you no class? We're going to The Show! You're dressed like you're going to a hardware store."
(Early Super Bowl tip: Marv Levy, so incredibly jealous that Coach "Joe" Gibbs has parlayed his NASCAR sponsorship into a battery commercial, plans to sponsor a dog-racing team, and has asked Jim Kelly to eat his pregame meal from a dish on the floor.)
Chastened, I tried to change my clothes. Alas, there was no time. The Bandwagon pulled up to our Minneapolis hotel with me still looking like somebody from "Hee-Haw." Great Moment In Travel History: I stepped triumphantly off The Bandwagon, but Channel 9, which was there to film the arrival, was out of position, and asked me to re-enact the arrival. I said, "Sure. But if you guys were covering Apollo 11, America would think Buzz Aldrin was the first man on the moon."
Excuse me, Tony, but aren't you at all embarrassed by these shameless pictures of you waving from The Bandwagon? I know for a fact that Eric Williams asked if you "were getting money from the American Dairymen's Association for the way you're milking this thing." Aren't you the slightest bit concerned that you look like a buffoon and a cheap shill, and that you haven't a shred of credibility left as a journalist?
No, but I wish I'd have worn nicer pants.
From the hotel, The Bandwagon cruised back to the Metrodome, where it was met by its official pit crew: Touchdown Terry Orr, legendary wide receiver Russ "The Flea" Grimm and his young ward Mark "The Tick" Adickes.
"How do you feel?" Orr asked.
"Tired," I said. "I think I've got Bandwagon lag."
"You had a long drive. Get some rest," Orr said. "I'll do my part. I'll scrape the ice off the windows."
"You need gas?" The Flea asked. "I'll fill it up."
"You know," The Tick said, "I personally give The Bandwagon credit for us becoming America's Team. Hopefully, we can win this game, and ride The Bandwagon into D.C. like Ben-Hur. Do you think I can stand on the top?"
While I ponder that, The Bandwagon (copyright Anthony I. Kornheiser, U.S. Copyright Office 6861897511) would like to welcome Nancy M. Cassady, who, in recognition of our layover in Tomah, Wis., Gateway To Cranberry Country, offered to bring hot cranberry juice with lemon to soothe the hoarse throats of screaming Redskins rooters, Minneapolitan Michael Mayer, who offered to garage The Bandwagon, Bob Mirlin and sons Sol and Seth, Karen Kennedy, poet Bee Grantham, Kashi, Ed Gojekian and Sonny Severson, Douglas M. Smith, Amy Korpeck, who warned us not to forget kitty litter for the ice patches and whiskey for the coffee, Michael A. Sarzo, Jeff and Kathy Smith, Joe and Barbara Potts and David Paulson, who sent a check to pay for antifreeze. Dave, your check bounced.
If I could get serious for a moment. As I look back on our 1,200-mile trip, I marvel at how lucky The Bandwagon was. Who'd have guessed that driving into the teeth of a January winter, we'd have clear skies and clean roads all the way? Piece of cake. I guess Man About Towns Chip Muldoon put it best when he said, "It was like playing the Phoenix Cardinals without Tom Tupa."
That's it from The Bandwagon for a while. There's a game to be played, you know, and all these distractions are hurting its concentration. The Bandwagon has to put on its game face.