Posted by: Feldman
Ten years ago today (Monday, Aug. 1), I was standing outside the Gage Hall dormitory on the campus of Minnesota State University, Mankato, at one of the first days of Vikings training camp, 2001. I was waiting for my ride home, fellow P-B sports reporter Troy Young, when I overheard a radio reporter from the Twin Cities talking with Vikings linebacker Ed McDaniel.
McDaniel was in a hurry to get to lunch and, like a lot of veterans, didn't really want to talk, though he obviously understood it's part of the deal for players in the opening days of training camp.
"Who's the funniest guy on the team?" the reporter asked.
McDaniel's face lit up. With a big smile, he answered, "no question it's Korey Stringer. That guy could make anyone laugh."
On our drive home, we heard on the radio that Stringer had been taken from the field during the morning practice -- neither of us had noticed -- and that he had been transported to a local hospital.
Dehydration, we thought. Heat exhaustion, we thought. (The heat index that day had been close to 110; I remember wondering what in the world I had been thinking that morning when I put a dark blue polo shirt on). He'll be fine, back on the practice field in a couple of days, we thought.
The next morning, at about 7:45, I got a phone call from a friend and fellow Vikings fan.
"Dude, Stringer's dead."
I remember running to the TV to turn it on, speechless. I honestly don't know if I even said anything before I hung up the phone. Later that day, watching Denny Green, Cris Carter and Randy Moss give a tear-filled press conference, it was surreal. There's no other way to put it.
To watch Moss not be able to control his tears, to not care that he was breaking down in front of thousands of people watching on TV, it was a heavy reminder that these guys are people, just like the rest of us.
They may make more money, spend more money, have (much) bigger egos, and live a different lifestyle than many of us, but their emotions are the same.
A couple of weeks later, I was in the Washington, D.C., area, covering the Rochester Redhawks baseball team in a national Babe Ruth tournament (they weren't a Legion team at the time), and I went to a sports bar to watch the Vikings' first preseason game, on the road against New Orleans, a nationally-televised game on ESPN (the Vikes and Saints had met in the playoffs the previous season). It was a bar full of Redskins fans, but when Moss caught a deep ball early in the game for a long TD, and pointed to the sky, the bar erupted.
I can't say it's my favorite sports memory, but it gave me chills and it's one I won't forget for a long, long time. Just like Vikings fans won't forget Stringer.
It's hard to belive 10 years have passed since that day. Stringer's son, Kodie, is 13 now. Stringer would be 37, maybe still playing football, maybe still in Minnesota.
No doubt, though, he would still be able to make anyone laugh.