HOUSTON -- Not to go all "TMZ" here, but esteemed colleague Tim Tucker and I were escorted to our seats at Vic & Anthony's last night, and who should I spy with my little eye at the next table but ...
Dan Quinn. And assorted Falcons staffers.
The last thing coaches want on a night out is to see journalists. They've seen too much of us already, and they're about to see a whole lot more. (Four consecutive days of media opportunities -- that's overkill for us, too.) But you can't really ignore someone you know, either, especially when that someone is at the next table. So I said hi to DQ and got on with the business of gorging myself. (Apologies in advance to our accounting department. I didn't order from the $1 Menu.)
After his crew finished, Quinn walked over. It struck me that I almost never see him in civilian clothes, but here he was wearing a dark sports coat and a blue-checked shirt. Maybe that was the reason -- Tim noticed this -- that nobody approached him during his meal for autographs or selfies. "Do you think that would have been the same if Belichick and his coaches were sitting in this restaurant?" Tim asked.
(Probably not. But Belichick would have had a private room and armed guards and would have forced the waiters to sign confidentiality agreements.)
I mentioned to Quinn that -- setting journalistic objectivity aside for a second -- this run of his team's has been neat to watch. He said that Sunday's sendoff at Atlantic Station had been a moving experience. "I really felt it then," he said.
Then he was gone, and Tim and I congratulated ourselves on our dining choice. We'd come to the restaurant because it was a five-minute walk and Open Table took our reservation on short notice. Quinn and his merry men had ridden in from the Westin Memorial City, which is 20 minutes away. And it reminded me of another Super Bowl meal at another place bearing an ampersand.
It was 2002 in New Orleans. Esteemed colleague Matt Winkeljohn and I had ducked into Smith & Wollensky on Poydras Street late on a Tuesday. (Might have been Wednesday, come to think of it.) There weren't many people dining at that hour, but in walked Robert Kraft, who owned/owns the Patriots, who were massive underdogs against the Rams in that Super Bowl. I remember feeling kind of sorry for what I figured was about to happen to his team.
His team won 20-17. I now think of myself as a good-luck charm. If you have a team about to play for the championship and you and I wind up in the same eatery, you're in for more than a nice meal.