One of my favorite questions to ask in an Athlete of the Week interview is, “If you could meet any famous person, who would it be?” When you ask kids about their favorite celebrities, athletes or notable historical figures, you can get some really good answers.
Normally, I’ve heard about playing sports with certain athletes. I haven’t done the calculations myself, but if my memory is correct then Tampa Bay Rays third baseman/blond mohawk-wearer Evan Longoria is the most popular person, and playing baseball with him is the most popular scenario. I would imagine that to be a fun time, even if you accidentally bean him with a pitch like Chelsea Baker once did on television.
I’ve heard of dream meetings between athletes and U.S. presidents of the past and present, with both George W. Bush and Barack Obama recently getting some column inches. I’ve heard kids say they’d want to meet Jesus Christ, which more of you can probably agree on than the presidents. If I had the room in today’s paper, you all would have learned that Jake Sullivan already has an entire date night planned out for himself and pop music superstar Selena Gomez at the Genghis Grill in Brandon. (And there would even be leftovers for the next day.)
I’ve encountered several famous athletes, both in my line of work and outside of it.
The first celebrities I ever met were some members of the 2000 Buffalo Bills, which happened when I joined my best friend and his family for several preseason games at Orchard Park. (Full disclosure: His grandfather, Eddie Abramoski, was the team’s physical therapist for around 37 years and is enshrined in the team’s Wall of Fame and Ring of Honor. The family got hooked up often.) I remember Marcellus Wiley’s wife loudly telling anyone who would listen that he was going to be a beast on defense. (NFL legend Bruce Smith had just left the team for the Washington Redskins, so Wiley took over.) But I never got to meet him. I once passed on kicker Steve Christie to get my hat signed by quarterback Doug Flutie — a move that my dad ended up getting mad at me for — and declined an offer to have Rob Johnson sign it.
In hindsight, I’m really, really glad I didn’t get “Robosack” to sign my hat.
In one of my internships, I met former Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Earnest Graham, who many of you probably remember for being awesome in 2007 while Cadillac Williams was on injured reserve for the thousandth time. This was a few years after Graham retired from the game, and he was preparing to coach high school ball in Fort Myers. He’s all right in my book — super nice guy. And, as I’ve written about in previous columns, I’ve also met several Rays players, most of who are no longer in Tampa.
I can think of several people I’d love to meet, whether on assignment or off the clock. Chris Paul, Eric Moulds, Jim Thome, Patrick Roy and Ric Flair are at the top of my sports list. I’ve always been fascinated by food writing, so I’d love to meet someone who’s been able to balance food and sports, like ESPN long-form writer Wright Thompson, whose job I envy more than any other. And, outside of the sports and journalism worlds, I can’t think of anything I’d like to do more right now than eat with gourmet chef-turned-rapper Action Bronson. Bronson is basically the Anthony Bourdain of the rap game, and the enthusiasm for cooking that he and his guests show on his VICE-produced web series (which is absolutely R-rated) is infectious.
A guy can dream, right?