1. I hope you will all pardon the tardiness of this week's Sixpack. I had the good fortune of traveling to Georgia earlier this week and attending the opening day of practice rounds at Augusta. I foolishly thought I would be able to post a running commentary on it from the hallowed grounds, but there is a better chance of Mark Brunell throwing for 5 yards on 3rd and 4 than there is of getting a cell phone into Augusta.
2. I'll try for some Redskins parallels, but there will be a definite golf theme to this post. For instance, I was at the concession stand getting lunch and my order consisted of: two sandwiches (one egg salad, one pimento cheese), one bag of chips, one banana, and one tall sweet tea. The total: $6.50. You read that right. I immediately commented, "I would actually have to finance this purchase at FedEx for a Redskins game." Two men in front of me turned around and started rattling off the beer prices at Washington sports venues. They were from the district and they, too, were amazed at the low prices of everything. A beer at Augusta will run you $3...and it's a tall boy.
3. While The Masters is played in Atlanta Falcons country, the diverse mix of people in attendance made for a wide-ranging assortment of topics. Though I ran into a ton of folks from the DMV, the topic of "you-know-who" was always the first thing people from everywhere else wanted to discuss. Robert Griffin III was trending at The Masters. With no cell phones or any way to text, tweet or email, trending at Augusta consists of a conversation infiltrating surrounding conversations, and permeating the property. I swear that I could hear "RG3" coming out of people's mouths all day.
4. When I tried to think of any kind of legit NFL comparison to the practice round at Augusta, I recalled the year that Dan Snyder decided to charge people to attend training camp. I ended up gaining access to a corporate tent for a day, which came with an all-you-can-eat-and-drink spread and air conditioning. Still, it was a million degrees, at 100% humidity and it seemed like the only ones really practicing were the kickers. The majority of players on display were guys that were never going to make the team. Finally, the absurdity of Snyder's plan caught up with him as we found out that every other team in the league could send scouts to our training camp legally. At Augusta, the only ones practicing are guys that are going to be playing in the tournament. Sure, there are players you don't recognize that will likely miss the cut, but the field is stacked and you can't turn around without seeing a big name bounding up a fairway. Unlike the awkwardness that surrounded the whole conception of that circus in Ashburn that summer, the atmosphere at Augusta this week for practice is beyond reverent. Golf crowds and football crowds are inherently different, but as far as sports events go, the practice round at The Masters is by far the more respected, esteemed, awed and honored one.
5. One thing I love every summer about training camp in the NFL is the tradition in Green Bay where players ride the bikes of neighborhood kids from the locker room to the practice field. I can never get enough of watching it. At The Masters, they have a few traditions/rites of passage that occur during the practice rounds that are equally awesome. I'll share this one: on the par-3 16th, players must clear a very long man-made pond to get to the green. As soon as they have hit their balls from the tee box, the crowds surrounding this hole immediately begin to egg on the player(s) to "Skip it!" This is where the player drops a ball at the edge of the pond and attempts to skip the ball across the water to the green. It is a large distance to skip a ball, and the crowd is not satisfied until the player has successfully gotten a ball across it. I saw a player or two threaten to not do it, but the boos from as many as 20,000 fans in the vicinity succeeded in getting every player I saw line up a skip shot. Making the shot more difficult are the turtles that climb out of the water along the edge of the pond near the green. I saw at least a handful of balls run along the water and threaten to pop up onto the green, only to bonk off the shell of a basking turtle and drop into the pond. This cost me more than a few dollars...stupid turtles. As Tiger Woods approached the 16th tee box, the crowd swelled to an insane throng. Everyone was asking their friend, "Do you think Tiger will skip it? He better!" As he departed the tee box, he left no doubt, heading straight for the edge of the pond. All day long, players had taken turns trying to skip the ball across the water. Tiger and the two golfers he was practicing with all lined up their shots at once and hit them simultaneously. Two balls made it across, with everyone swearing that Tiger's was one of them. It is hard to properly convey how something so simple captivated every single one of the 60,000+ fans who made their way to the 16th hole at some point. A tradition unlike any other...indeed.
6. One of the greatest traditions the Redskins had going for so many years was going to Carlisle for training camp. The small town swelling with fans for a brief period each summer, putting the team and its faithful legions in close proximity remains a cherished memory for so many Redskins fans. There has never been that kind of feeling at Ashburn. Hopefully, the moving of training camp to Richmond will reinvigorate an old sense of tradition that this team has been lacking. Hopefully, this new tradition will someday resonate in the hearts and minds of the Redskins faithful in the same way--or at least close to the same way--that the practice rounds at Augusta do.