It was a last minute, thrown together, blown tire, epic adventure to the Donald Driver softball charity classic this weekend. Here's what I saw, and what I will take away from the experience.
Wow. What a trip. For those of you who don't know, late Saturday I won tickets on Twitter to the Donald Driver charity softball classic. Due to a couple unexpected expenses, I really couldn't afford to make the 12 hour round trip and everything that went with it. However, with the blessing of my wonderful wife, and the help of several thousand people on Twitter, I put my treasured Nintendo Wii on the auction block so I could make the journey. As soon as it sold, I hit the road. In the end, I think we have a near split decision, but I almost wish I had my Wii back.
When I arrived, I was one of the first people in the lot. Seriously, no one was there yet. I got my tickets at will call (after a slight altercation with my Twitter printout) and immediately headed for a barricaded section that I assumed was the players entrance at the back of the stadium.
As you can see I had a prime spot, and got there well before any players. I had my Rodgers' jersey on, and was prepared with a Sharpie to try and get some autographs.
I waited for about a half an hour or so, and I don't why I think this is so funny, but arriving WELL before anyone else was superstar long-snapper Brett Goode. I can safely assume that he wasn't there to beat the rush of fans, but I found it fitting he showed up first for some reason. Now, you can't really see his shoes in that picture, but let me assure you they are atrocious.
Goode went inside so quickly I never got an autograph, plus honestly I had no idea who he was until after the fact. Snap away Brett, love ya buddy.
Finally, about a half and hour later, the man of the moment arrived. Pulling in a white Range Rover, family in tow, was the one and only Donald Driver. Donald seemed a little distracted, and didn't really stick around for more than a couple of seconds. I wanted to have him sign my jersey, but that's when I finally was educated to what a bunch of scum bags most autograph seekers really are. I'll go into more detail on this a little bit, but rest assured it left a terrible taste in my mouth.
Finally the players started to trickle in. The next guy out of his vehicle was second round pick Mike Neal. He got out of truck, walked right up to me, and signed my jersey. I wished him luck, and he proceeded to go around and sign just about everything he could. Now I know it's only Mike Neal, but after having that name on my jersey I was starting to freak out. After Neal I couldn't get any signatures for a little bit. The assault on these players by professional autograph people, and parents using their kids as bait is completely out of hand. These guys are getting out of the car and I am applauding and yelling and cheering and all sorts of crazy stuff. In the meantime everyone simply hollers, "Sign this, sign this, sign this" over and over and over again. Like I said, I'll elaborate more after I get in the stadium.
Pat Williams and Brandon Jackson were the next guys to arrive. I couldn't get to them at all, but luckily, walking right up to me at the time was none other than the Packer's first round draft pick Bryan Bulaga. I congratulated him on being a Packer, and got to have a brief conversation. I held out the #12 jersey and told him hopefully he will never see it on the field. He laughed and put his John Hancock right in the middle. Holy squealing school girl batman.
Most of the big name guys seemed to be late getting there, but I also got autographs from T.J. Lang and Mason Crosby.
Alex: Mason, dude, I got to get you to sign this.
Mason: Dude, that black jersey is sick.
Alex: Thanks man, best of luck this year.
Mason: Totally appreciate it man.
Now you are all well aware I am kind of a Mason homer, although I did start to get down on him a little bit at the end of last season. It's safe to say I am back on the wagon and sitting in the front seat.
A few more guys started to trickle in including: Breno (who is a monster of a cut dude), Clay Matthews, Chad Morton, Al Harris, Brett Swain, and Matt Flynn. It was around this time that the homerun derby was about to start (and my phone started to die) but none of the big names had arrived yet, and I REALLY wanted to shake Barnett's hand so I decided to skip the pre-game and hang out. I stood there for nearly an hour, and by that time the crowd had really thinned to where I had an awesome spot. Then just as I was about to leave, the entire posse arrived.
Pulling in simultaneously and in a huge thunderous rage of music and train horns were Jermichael Finley, Aaron Rodgers, Ryan Grant, and the man himself Nick Barnett. I immediately started getting the crowd going in a Musafah chant, hollering for Nick to come over for a just a second. He seriously walked 8 inches right in front of me and through the door. Rodgers did sign a couple of pics, but the rest just went straight into the building. Honestly, I was a little crushed.
At that point I figured I might as well head into the game, but shot some footage of Big Red on my way out. I thought of leaving a note on the windshield, or hocking a loogie on the tire, but I decided against it.
Right now, I would like to thank my brother in-law Jason Kania for stepping to the plate at this moment. He was on the receiving end of my other ticket, and thank god had a camera that still had battery power. Many of the pictures you see today are compliments of him. Thanks dude.
We headed into the stadium and decided that the best place to sit would be along the backside of the left field. We figured a lot of balls would be hit there so we could see some action. When we found out the Ryan Grant and Clay Matthews were playing left, we knew we had made the right call. Seriously, look how close I am to these guys. It was so cool.
I really tried to enjoy the game. I was cheering dudes on, giving Matthews grief when he missed an amazing snow cone grab, and basically trying to take in the game (or whatever that was). I even hit Matthews with a little "clawledge" line in which he turned around and smiled and started heading for me and my jersey and Sharpie. Then all hell broke loose.
All I wanted was a couple of guys to sign my jersey. As soon as a guy would even start walking towards me, a hundred people, most of them adults with five year kids would literally bury me in a mosh pit on the fence screaming for autographs. Half of the little punks didn't even know the players names, and you could hear their parents coaching them:
"His name is Ryan, not Brian, don't say that or he won't sign for us."
It was the most pathetic display of using your kids that I have ever seen. I have nothing against kids getting an autograph at all, in fact I was quite polite the whole time. I didn't scream for the players, I cheered them on, and generally took it all in. But, there is no way in hell that you can convince me that a four or five-year-old kid has any business getting an autograph. When I was about that age I met James Lofton and got his signature. I had no idea who he was, no idea what it meant, and probably lost the paper a couple of days later. It's sickening to me.
Then, you have guys with like eight million things all carefully arranged prior to shoving them in everyone's face at practically every moment of the entire game. I now totally understand why these guys are turned off by signing shit. I would be too. It's frickin' pathetic what these people do, and you damn well know it's all for money. I don't care how much you offered me, there is ABSOLUTELY no way you could get my signed jersey off of me. Seriously, that thing will never see the wash again, and I may just sleep with it too. I am a Packer's fan, and the fact that I couldn't get an autograph even though the guys were literally 6 inches away, is pretty damn sad. All you people who smashed your five-year-olds into my face and on top of me should be ashamed. You screwed me out of Matthews, Grant, and Matt Flynn because I was being a cool guy.
As far as the game goes, well it's no surprise it isn't much of a game but more of a show. These guys obviously don't try overly hard, but it was fun to watch nonetheless. Here are some observations:
Best Softball Players:
1. Matt Flynn
2. Brian Bulaga
3. T.J. Lang
Worst Softball Players:
1. Pat Lee
2. Pat Lee
3. Pat Lee
4. Desmond Bishop
Seriously, Pat Lee should not play softball.
Barnett from the mound to first with a rocket throw.
Everything Pat Lee did.
Clay Matthews turning around and laughing when I hit him with the "clawledge" line. Then proceeding to take a nap when Driver's wife came up to bat.
Blowing out a tire on the interstate on the way home. Man.
Donald Driver's son running the bases. It was so funny, the kid even looks like a mini-stick Driver. The little guy is super fast too. Wish I had a picture.
How massive (not fat) Breno Giacomini is. Just can't get over that.
1. Barnett's Big Red
2. Brett Goodes Ford F-3,000,050 - I don't know what that beast was, but that is a man's truck.
3. Pat Lee's Harley Davidson edition Ford truck.
Pat Williams 1999 Chevy Malibu with tinted windows and huge rims. Dudes were rolling on the ground laughing about that.
Al Harris seemed to walk a little gingerly.
They did not let Nick Barnett run at all. I found that odd. Is there something we don't know?
Aaron Rodgers hit the fans with the championship belt celebration at least twice.
The token Ebay winning player was a buzz-kill.
Ryan Grant was great with the crowd.
Brett Swain looks like a stick man. Seriously, he looks like a dirty little skinny hippie. Everyone in the crowd was claiming they could easily "take him" in a brawl.
The announcers kind of sucked.
One of our Lounge writers J. Rehor was standing right next to me the entire time and I didn't know it. Got to love the anonymity of the intranetweb.
Overall, I gave the whole experience a C-. Honestly, I probably would not go again unless I lived in town. It was not worth the 12 hour round trip. I had a pretty good time for the most part, and those signatures I got I can't say enough about. But the flock of screaming autograph seekers and dumb ass kids was enough of a turn-off to never go again. That's just my humble opinion.
I'll leave you with two short videos that show just a few seconds of the experience. I'll also be twittering a couple of small low quality videos throughout the day.
Cheers, and enjoy a non-criminal related Packer's story for a day. Out.