Thursday, November 19, 2009

Name Dropping

When I was single, the random hook-up was one of the more thrilling experiences. It wasn’t something that happened often, so when it did, it was new, fun, and memorable. The actual act of getting with the girl was exciting and enjoyable (at least most of the time), but let’s face it, the next best part (or sometimes the best part) was telling your friends about it. Even women take part in this ritual. At brunch, groups of women sip on mimosas and talk about their latest hookups (at least that’s what happens on Sex and the City.)

When you tell a hook-up story, everyone listens. They are curious. They are excited to hear the details. They are your audience. You get to be the center of attention. Maybe you embellish a little bit here, and exaggerate a little bit there. But for those five minutes, you’re running the show, and it’s a great feeling.

As we get older, and settle down with our significant others, we no longer have hook-up stories. Our lives become dull and boring and we must live vicariously through our single friends. It’s quite sad, but it’s reality.

The only experience that’s even close to “hook up” stories is “running into celebrity” stories. And it’s really the same idea. You hype up a story how you shook hands with LARRY BIRD (Name Drop #1), got a hug from CARMEN ELECTRA (Name Drop #2), or how you peed in the same bathroom as ROBIN WILLIAMS (Name Drop #3.) In the end, it’s meaningless. But because it’s a celebrity, it becomes exciting. Just like gossip and just like hooking up. No matter how lame the story/hook-up is or who the celebrity/girl is, people will always listen because it didn’t happen to them.

Some people thrive on telling these stories. It gives them a sense of purpose. They even write blog posts dedicated to their most recent “running into celebrity” experiences. These people are name droppers. And I am definitely one of them.

September 26th, 2009

The Shannon Sharpe Story

I got the call just 14 hours before game time. Without hesitation, I accepted. I would be going to the Red Sox-Yankees game and sitting in $400 seats for free.

Apparently, my friend PA has a remote connection to JEFFREY LORIA (Name Drop #4); the owner of the Florida Marlins. Despite running the team in Florida, Mr. Loria has season tickets to the Yankees because his family lives in the area. His seats are the ones that are always empty because they are too damn expensive for mere mortals. We would be sitting in the Legends section. Today, we would be legends.

I visited Yankees stadium the night before and sat in the normal section; right field; highest level up. I was not overly impressed with the 1.5 billion dollar stadium. It was too big, too ostentatious; I felt like I entered an airport or giant mall. I immediately felt anxious and uncomfortable; of course, I am a Red Sox fan. So maybe it was just me.

Well, today was different. Today, I was rich. Today, I was a Legend. PA and I flashed our tickets and were escorted to a secret underground location. The floors were shinier, the air smelled cleaner, and the people were nicer (i.e. they didn’t spit on me or my Red Sox garb.)

Around the corner, down the stairs, and to the left, and suddenly we were in a giant, elegant, oversized dining room. And everywhere I looked was food; and not just hamburgers and hot dogs. We’re talking steak, another type of steak, and a third type of steak. All you can eat. And it was all free.

PA and I collected food items like trick-or-treaters on Halloween. We loaded up our plates, and carefully headed outside to our $400 seats; 4 rows behind the Yankees dugout.

The view was amazing (I could clearly see all the rolls of fat stored in C.C. Sabathia’s gut), but the food was even better. I felt like John Belushi in the cafeteria scene in Animal House. In a span of one hour, I devoured filet mignon, cheesesteak, a steak wrap, Chilean sea bass, fresh carved turkey, Peking duck, sausages & peppers, a hamburger, a Butterfinger, Snickers, peanuts and crackerjacks, and an ice cream sundae…and it was all on the Yankees. I figured if they can spend $1.5 billion on a new stadium and additional $200+ million on players, the least I could do was consume all of their food.

Pablo, the security guard, approached me as I sucked down my hamburger. He seemed fascinated by me.

PABLO: I have worked here the entire year. And you have eaten more then anyone I’ve ever seen. You’re unbelievable!

I shrugged, smiled, and then gobbled down my ice cream. It was one of the proudest moments of my life.

I later learned that PA and I were on TV the entire game. Every time a left handed batter got up, we were in the background stuffing our faces. It was just like George Costanza at the U.S. open when the camera captured him chowing down on a hot fudge sundae.

Mid-way through my pig-out session, a familiar face sat next to me. It was SHANNON SHARPE (Name Drop #5.) Shannon Sharpe and I used to have a connection. He was on my fantasy football team 10 years ago. Although he has no affiliation with New York, he was somehow a Yankees fan. For those who don’t know, Shannon Sharpe is one of the most prolific tight ends from the 1990’s. He played for the Denver Broncos and then the Baltimore Ravens. In his 14 year career, he compiled 815 catches for over 10,000 yards. He’s listed as 6’ 2” and 228 pounds, but I swear, he’s twice that size, has 0% body fat, and is absolutely gi-normous. His hands were bigger then my entire body.

Shannon no longer plays in the league, but looks like he easily could. He can now be seen doing the halftime show for CBS. He’s the one who can’t speak clearly, and kind’ve looks like a horse.

Throughout the game, fans took pictures with Shannon and sucked up. But I really didn’t care. I was more into the game, and supporting the Sox who struggled against that fat ass Sabathia. I cheered on my Red Sox as loud as possible. If I had regular seats, I would’ve been quiet, but my theory on rich seats was different. If you scream out anywhere else, Yankee fans will pelt you with garbage, and douse you with beer, and you may get arrested by the impartial cops. But in the nice seats, everyone is civil because they’re rich; and because they don’t want to get tossed and lose their precious seats.

I wasn’t vulgar, but I put my hands together and shouted to the players who were within ear shot. Some Yankees fan didn’t like me so much, but they playfully ripped me and it was all in good fun. But the one man who ripped me the most was Shannon Sharpe. If the Yankees got a hit or the Red Sox got an out, Shannon didn’t just clap or cheer. Instead, he pointed his meat hooks at me and screamed. He had more fun mocking me then watching the game.

At one point, I left for more food. When I came back Shannon greeted me with some inaudible comments (I couldn’t understand what he said most of the time) and then a “You suck! Boston sucks!” I was actually quite honored. It was kind’ve a respectful hatred; like a hatred between siblings or rivals. My former fantasy football tight end, and my go to guy on the Broncos in Tecmo Super Bowl, was more concerned with making me feel bad then actually watching the game.

In the 8th inning, Shannon took off. His monster hand grasped mine and he uttered some more playful comments to me. He let out a hearty laugh and then went on his way. After he left, Pablo the security asked me what he said. I wasn’t positive, but I’m pretty sure he told me Boston sucked. He was right. They lost 3-0. But after all that food, those beautiful seats, and interacting with a former NFL star, I felt like a winner.

Theo Epstein Walks Into a Bar

That night, I went out for drinks at my favorite Boston bar in NYC. It had to be 3am when the bartender nudged me on the shoulder and said: “Oh my God! Theo’s here!” Theo Huxtable? Nope. THEO EPSTEIN (Name Drop #6.)

Theo Epstein has been the General Manger for the Red Sox for 6 years. He’s got a dimpled chin, plays the guitar, has won two World Series for the Sox, and he’s Jewish! Every New England man would love to be him, and every New England women would love to be with him.

I’ve met big sports figures before: VINCE CARTER on the film set of Like Mike (Name Drop #7) EMMIT SMITH at the ESPY Awards party (Name Drop #8), AND KIRK GIBSON at Fox Sports in LA (Name Drop #9.) But this was Theo Epstein!

I stood proudly as I approached Theo. I pushed out my chest showing off my Red Sox shirt. Theo sipped on his Bud Light bottle; that’s what I was drinking too! For one of the first time in my life, I didn’t embarrass myself in front of a celebrity. I’ve had so many painful run ins like the times I met LARRY DAVID (Name Drop #10), SETH ROGEN (Name Drop #11) or TOPANGA from Boy Meet World ( Name Drop #12.)

But this time I was actually cool. Theo and I bantered back in forth for a few seconds. He asked where I was from and we made small talk. I thanked him for all the work he’s done for the Sox, and wished him a Happy Jewish New Year. We clicked bottles and took a swig. I offered him another beer on me, but he declined. He wished me a good night and thanked me for the support.

Afterwards, I wondered how many other general managers, coaches or even athletes would go to a Sports Bar at 3 am, have a Bud Light, and casually talk to their fans. Then I realized how lucky I was to be a Red Sox fan even if they do make me cry sometimes.

On the way out, I passed by ANDY SAMBERG (Name Drop #13) from Saturday Night Live fame, but I was too drained to approach him. I’d met enough people for the day.

I mean I can’t talk to everyone.

That would be ridiculous.

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