Having returned safe, sound and sunburned from my annual summer tour of NFL training camps, I am bound by tradition and the expectations of my employer to tell you a little bit about what I learned. So here goes:
-- I learned there are a lot of different beer offerings (and a lot of places to buy beer) at Minnesota's Target Field. I learned this because the Twins were hosting the Tigers last Tuesday and the park is three blocks from my hotel. Target Field became the 47th different Major League ballpark in which I've seen a game, and no, that is not a typo.
-- I learned that Fong's Pizza is the place to go in downtown Des Moines, Iowa, if you want a kung pao chicken pizza, which you absolutely should. I learned this because the drive from Minneapolis to St. Joseph, Missouri, is six hours long so I broke it up by staying in Des Moines -- a little more than halfway there. Iowa is now the 41st different U.S. state I have visited.
-- I learned that Bowling Green, Kentucky, is home to the National Corvette Museum, though I did not stop there. I was too eager to finish off the last long drive of my trip on Saturday night -- 4½ hours from Westfield, Indiana, to Nashville, Tennessee. Maybe next time.
I also learned a thing or two about the seven different teams I visited, because this is the best time of year for an NFL reporter to get out on the road, ask questions and get a feel for how the season is shaping up for teams. Most people are pretty relaxed this time of year. There aren't a ton of injuries yet. No one's lost a game yet. It's a time when you can get people to chat, in a relaxed setting, about their plans and expectations.
So here's a stop-by-stop look at the football stuff I learned over the past couple of weeks on the road.