So my wife, eldest son and I hauled over from Chicago on Friday afternoon. We dropped MGoSon at Ashley's to meet some friends and drink their beer, then the missus and I wandered around town a bit checking out what has changed since our last visit: 2008's Wisconsin game.
A lot has changed and a lot hasn't changed, in a nice mixture from my perspective.
We checked Yelp for dinner ideas and wound up choosing the Chop House on Main -- whoa, price check on all the damn aisles -- those prices impressed me and we have dinner out in Chicago and burbs a lot. Bless their cotton-picking Maize and Blue hearts at the Chop House.
Anyway, we were seated at a table for two in the front window. We ordered, had a coupla glasses of red stuff, and were into our salads when a big honking limo pulled up outside and the right rear door opened. The first man trying to get out was struggling because his feet and legs were too big to pull out of the space and get out the door. Once he was out and standing, it occurred to me that the guy looked an awful lot like Bubba Paris...and the next guy looked a lot like Eddie Muransky. Another 4 or 5 huge guys exited the limo, but I didn't recognize them.
A few minutes later, another five really large guys came down Main from the south. I think one fellow was John Elliott -- among a bunch of big guys, he was clearly the biggest.
More and more of similarly sized fellows came in, most of whom I did not recognize, but a few I did included Drew Henson, John Wangler, Tony Leone, Ron Simpkins (I think), Stan Edwards (also a guess). One guy was the largest human being I have ever seen in my life, easy 6' 7'' and completely filled the double doors on the restaurant. With the number of my-era 70's guys there, I was looking for Mike Jolley, Butch Woolfolk, Billy Dufek, Rick Leach, Russell Davis, Andy Cannavino and some others, but didn't see/recognize them. One guy might have been Kirk Lewis and another Jeff Bednarik.
All these guys disappeared downstairs into the cigar room, followed by a flock of wait-persons.
A bit later, a little short dude with straight reddish hair in a grey sweatshirt and briefcase headed out -- John U. Bacon, apparently feeling underdressed with all the guys in blue blazers because he was back in about 20 minutes later with his blue sweater and khakis on.
A bit later still, another group in blue blazers came up. This crowd was different, though. There was an older square-jawed gent with his wife and a somewhat younger square-jawed gent with piercing eyes. Obviously, it was Jim Harbaugh and his folks heading in to join the crowd.
The Chop House emptied in moments, patrons leaving steaks and wine unchaperoned to go meet, ogle and take pictures with the Coach. Jim was extremely kind and outgoing with everyone who came up. He chatted and posed for pictures with diners out on the sidewalk for about 15 minutes before heading inside and downstairs. I left the table to go say hi and shake hands, and also chatted briefly with Jack Harbaugh. Jack had been on the staff back when I was in school and I knew him a little bit. He was gracious enough to pretend to remember, so I could tell my wife.
So, anyway, there must have been nearly 100 guys there down in the cigar room and going in and out. I wish I could have recognized more, but they and I are older now and much different than before.
My wife was thrilled -- she and I dated in college when a lot of those guys were there. She excused herself to powder her nose -- downstairs, of course -- and came back saying she had said hi to Jim and Wangler. Great news for a old, short, balding, bearded, low-on-the-roster baseball player with a pretty wife. She did come back, though.
So, great night all around. Lots of good guys enjoying each others' company and telling stories, having drinks and sharing cigar smoke.
Oh, yeah, one more thing -- Jim was talking to a guy whom I thought was Brandon Minor, a guy I always respected for giving so much in tough circumstances. Presumptive Minor said to Coach that it was an honor to meet one of the alltime greats. Coach's response was that he was honored to meet one of the greats himself.
I wish I had talked to Brandon.