Eagles Wake-Up Call: Live From Bismarck
BISMARCK, ND — Even before the plane touches down in North Dakota, the differences between Bismarck and Philadelphia are crystal clear. You expect the open plains to give way to those familiar skyscrapers at some point, but they never do.
Once you land, you open up your Uber app to discover the ride-sharing service doesn’t operate in North Dakota’s capital. Then you look around for taxis, don’t see any and wonder: Where am I? It’s the small things you notice first.
While Carson Wentz will be in Chicago for the draft today (or “Carson Wentz Day” as the mayor declared it in Bismarck), T-Mac will hold things down for us at the NovaCare Complex. I’m in Wentz’s hometown to learn more about the place, people and philosophies that shaped the Eagles’ presumptive No. 2 overall pick.
After attending an NFL “Play 60” event in Chicago yesterday, Wentz fielded a question about how he would handle the transition from Bismarck and Fargo — where North Dakota State is located — to Los Angeles or Philadelphia.
“Everyone talks about that. ‘Cause everyone wants to (disparage) where I’m coming from. Fargo, they always say, is not the same,” Wentz said, per Les Bowen. “For one, we have some passionate fans in Fargo, but, two, I’m ready for it. Everyone talks about, can you handle the adjustment to city life, all that stuff — it’s just football. Don’t make it bigger than it needs to be. Block out all the noise and just go win football games.”
There’s no reason to doubt how Wentz will handle the move, but the Great Plains are quite different from the big cities. That much I was able to learn after my first 45 minutes here.
After struggling to figure out how I’d make my 13-minute commute from the airport to the hotel (to a somewhat embarrassing degree), I asked a middle-aged woman where the taxi pick-up area is outside of Bismarck Municipal Airport.
“Taxi? Don’t take a taxi. My cousin will give you a ride.”
I appreciate the offer, but I don’t mind walking to find a taxi.
“My cousin will give you a ride. She’ll be here soon.”
Elise explained that she just got back from Fort Lauderdale, where she went on a cruise with her sister and didn’t get the tan she had hoped for. Her cousin, Melanie, was picking her up to drive her home about three hours north of Bismarck. Not long after Elise showed me pictures of her daughter outside to prove it snowed in North Dakota yesterday, Melanie was more than happy to assist the out-of-towner.
A few minutes into the ride, Elise asked me if I minded if we stopped.
Of course not. I’m not going to tell the woman giving me a ride that she can’t stop to get gas.
As it turned out, however, she didn’t need gas. Apparently, in North Dakota, you can call ahead to order carryout pot roast at gas stations. We waited for her food, and inevitably, Carson came up. (He reached first-name-only status in Bismarck long ago.) Melanie can’t name a single NFL team, but she knows Carson’s face and can probably rattle off his 40-yard-dash and 20-yard shuttle times at the Combine.
After Melanie got her pot roast, I realized she wasn’t joking about taking the “scenic route.” As she and Elise explained how the oil industry’s decline in Bismarck eliminated jobs, they showed me the state capitol building, the two biggest hospitals — Melanie was disappointed I’d never heard of either of them, but Elise understood — and a plot of land where houses were going to be torn down to build a big bank.
“We’re so wasteful in America,” Elise opined. “We’re spoiled. Here, we tear things down when there’s nothing wrong with them. In Europe, they just fix things and have buildings that are hundreds of years old.”
We stopped at some type of automotive business to buy a car battery, and then the supermarket where Melanie left the car running with no one inside the vehicle. (“If you go West, don’t do that,” she cautioned. To which I replied: “Don’t do that if you go East, either.”)
After our series of errands, we finally drove to my Marriott. Elise couldn’t quite understand why the Eagles would give up multiple picks for just one in return, but my explanation of the trade may have been influenced by my disagreement with it.
When our journey ended and Melanie and Elise dropped me off, they recommended I eat at Space Alien. I thought they were joking, but then I looked across the street and saw a restaurant with that name above it.
If you’re reading this, Melanie or Elise, it was pretty cruel of you to leave the fresh pot roast in the backseat with me forcing me to smell it the entire time without letting me eat it. But thanks for saving me money on the taxi ride, while giving me a glimpse of Carson’s hometown.
WHAT YOU MISSED
Philadelphia is reportedly the favorite to host the draft next year.
A player and a fourth-round pick? What the Eagles may want in return for Sam Bradford.
Tim takes an insightful look at the business side of a potential Bradford trade.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Carson Wentz and Jared Goff will be forever linked, writes the Inquirer’s Jeff McLane.
On the Monday after Easter, Ron Wingenbach welcomed Eagles scout Anthony Patch to Century High School in Bismarck, N.D.
Patch’s trek to the center of the Great Plains state wasn’t part of some quest to visit all 50 capitals. He was here for one reason – Carson Wentz.
The Eagles had finished their on-field evaluation of the North Dakota State quarterback, but they sent Patch to meet with Wentz’s high school coach to cross off any final concerns they may have had about character.
Mike Kern of the Daily News says Sam Bradford’s emotions have gotten the better of him.
You’re not supposed to make decisions based on emotions. Yet it seems that’s what Team Bradford has done, in response to the Eagles moving up to No. 2 in the draft to apparently take their franchise quarterback for the next decade. Whoever that turns out to be. So Sam didn’t see this coming, after he signed a two-year deal for a fairly good chunk of Jeff Lurie’s money to at least be the team’s No. 1 QB next season? And possibly even in 2017. He obviously didn’t view Chase Daniel as a threat to him continuing his career here. But Jared Goff or Carson Wentz, well, that was obviously different. Even though it really didn’t have to be.
We’re being told Sam wants to go somewhere, anywhere, that can ensure him he’ll be the man going forward. Kind of a bold statement, for a former top pick in the draft who’s yet to really show that he can be that guy. And I’ve always tried to give him the benefit of the doubt, when a lot of folks said he couldn’t take you to the promised land. And maybe they’re right. Yet he looked better in the second half last season, for whatever you want that to mean.
There’s always the chance he’ll do even more this season, given the fact that for the first time in four years he’ll be coming off a season in which he actually played a bunch. Imagine that. Maybe now we’ll never find out. Or maybe he’ll have to find out elsewhere, if the Eagles can somehow fulfill his wishes and find a deal out there that makes sense for them. I’m not holding my breath. But hey, in a league that has to way overvalue the position due to the obvious talent shortage, you never know for sure.
The draft is finally here, starting at 8 p.m. on ESPN and NFL Network.