By now I was mistakenly considered such a genius that I claimed to have received a copyright for The Bandwagon from the U.S. Copyright Office. Each week I gave a different number of the copyright. Usually the number was a phone number; one week it was the address of The New York Times, one week it was the uniform numbers of all the Redskins pictured in the accompanying drawing. I even started soliciting fans to write in and send me stuff to use in Minneapolis, like hand warmers and lutefisk recipes. And I put their names in the columns, and officially welcomed them on The Bandwagon. I was becoming a community service columnist!
I was a shameless hustler for The Bandwagon and my career. (Geez, this is like an HBO show: "The Making of the Bandwagon.")
By the time the Redskins finally lost a couple of games, The Bandwagon was so entrenched that the losses didn't matter. Readers kept sending in more stuff for the trek to Minneapolis: rock salt, windshield ice scrapers, jigging sticks for ice fishing, beef jerky. The players themselves would come to me in the locker room and tell me not to scrap The Bandwagon; they'd say it was just in need of a carburetor adjustment.
The good news was that The Bandwagon had taken on a life of its own.
The bad news was that when the Redskins made the Super Bowl, we actually had to drive out to Minneapolis in a 40-foot RV decorated with Bandwagon insignias. I couldn't have been any more embarrassed if Dennis Rodman had married my mother.
Three days on the road in that gargoyle with no shock absorbers. I dragged my friend Nancy and Man About Town Chip Muldoon along, swaying all over the highway. The RV had a king-sized bed in the back, but when I went to catch a nap back there I bounced like an apple in a crate. We stopped for the first night in Elkhart, Indiana, then in Tomah, Wisconsin, towns I wouldn't have stayed in on a dare.
It was so cold in Elkhart, I considered setting The Bandwagon on fire. Checking into the Signature Hotel, we found that the hotel had made me the VIP of the Day, and put my name on the message board in the lobby! As VIP of the Day I was entitled to "complimentary fruit in the room." I opened the door to find one apple, as frozen as Mrs. Paul.
And then, finally, we pulled into Minneapolis. (A few minutes before we had seen a sign on the highway: "Minneapolis 9." We weren't sure if that was mileage or temperature.)
"Do you feel it?' Man About Towns (after all, these were the Twin Cities) Chip Muldoon asked me.
"Do I feel what?" I said, praying this wasn't an essay test.
"It! Don't you feel it?" Chip 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!"