Below is a lot of words. A whole lot. I know that this might be the wordiest thing in KSR history and if you want to skip it, feel free. But, should you read the account of my encounter, be prepared for more than just subtle “that’s what she said jokes”. It’s a sordid tale of a simple Kentucky blogger, the AL East, Francis Scott Key and Dick. And it’s at least 90% true.
To properly understand this story, you must first understand the setting. Take a trip with me back to Tuesday, September 16, 2008. The setting is a raucous Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, Florida. The beloved Rays are coming off of their first home loss to the Red Sox all season and their lead in the AL East was only percentage points (.001) and the standings had them tied. Emotions were high inside The Trop and my friend Chris and I were prepared to heckle and party, but not necessarily in that order.
But then Dick happened.
As we made our way inside the stadium, we headed toward the elevators that would take us to The Whitney Bank Club, an all-inclusive suite where I could never afford to sit had I not weaseled it into the marketing budget, and we had our first run-in with Dick. I was lost in a text message fest with my girlfriend (not something I’m proud of) and, being the fairly large man that I am, nestled myself into a safe spot in the back of the elevator, not noticing the glistening dome standing directly in front of me. As I exited the elevator, Chris mumbled “Dick” and I immediately chuckled not knowing what he was talking about. Then, in a moment where I swear I heard “Dreamweaver” in the background, Dick turned around and smiled and kept walking.
He was out of my life.
So, like any star-struck youngster, I immediately got out my phone and texted Matt Jones and Evan Hilbert to inform them of my brush with a guy who actually gets paid for his hot sports opinions. Not surprisingly, Evan returned with some sort of “that’s what she said” joke and Matt Jones replied with “Do you know who I am? Don’t text me again unless you have something that impresses me”. Damn. Back to the drawing board.
So, I moved through the suite gathering little bits of free food and a couple of beers wondering what could have been if I was able to get close enough to Dick to be able to draw him into this Kentucky Sports Radio world with an interview of debatable relevance. Would I ever get this chance again? Would the good readers of Kentucky Sports Radio ever be privy to an interview with Dick where he’s questioned about jorts, fecal incisors and the Josh Harrellson free throw picture? I’m a big subscriber to the 8 Mile way of thinking (you only get one shot, one opportunity) but if God truly did love me unconditionally like Pastor Troy (the preacher at Crestwood Baptist, not the rapper) always said, then Dick would be back in my life.
And then he was, although I still find it hard to talk about this time in my life, even though it was almost 36 hours ago. I’ll do my best.
I was sulking my way back to my seat from the restroom when I saw Vitale heading for the Whitney Bank exit. This was my moment. I channeled my inner Jim Gray and was ready to surprise attack him with intense questioning that could possibly send his 69-year old heart into cardiac arrest. The old man made his way toward me and before I could even get “Dick” out of my mouth, some typical late-40’s Tampa skank with orange skin and giant fake (and quite nice) jugs had already beat me to it. Dick turned away from me and toward her and gave his cheesy, open-mouthed grin and waved, moving past me and out of my life for the second time in less than an hour. I was a bitter, defeated man.
This began to eat at me and I started to harbor a grudge. The hate grew inside of me and I started to dwell on the events of the evening, creating irrational hate for the man and I declared Dick Vitale my mortal enemy. I mean, who the hell does he think he is?The guy can’t shake my f—king hand? Hell, John Cena was shaking hands and taking pictures with everyone and he was in a movie with the chick from Nip/Tuck and a guest judge on Nashville Star. Has Dick ever done that? Is he too good to say hi to someone or do an interview for their blog? Why does he hate blogs? This is obviously another example of an anti-UK bias and he must be exposed for it! The guy doesn’t even have tickets for this section and they let him in for the free food because he gets all raspy-voiced over teenage boys? Man, I hate that mother f’ing Dick Vitale.
So I did my best to enjoy the evening and the following day at work, but still struggled knowing that not only did I let down the entire Kentucky Sports Radio fan base, I still wasn’t allowed to text Matt Jones because I had nothing impressive. But, luckily, that is not where the story ends. Unfortunately for you, there is more.
Fast forward to Wednesday, September 17, 2008. Last night. The Rays now have a one-game lead over the Sox and The Trop is just as rocking. Despite my poopy mood and general disappointment in my blogging efforts, I accompany the aforementioned girlfriend to the game. We arrive just as the game is getting ready to start and I’m racing my way through my seats so I can see Dwight Howard and his jorts throw out the first pitch.
And that’s when it happened. I saw Dick again.
Leaned up against the cinder block wall near the bathrooms, Dick’s little tan body was literally the rose growing out of the concrete of which Pac spoke. And this, my friends, was a rose I was about to catch a sniff of. But as I placed my hand out, Dick turned away. Looked in the exact opposite direction of where I was standing and I started to walk way, defeated again.
But, then it hit me. Crosley Field, 1945. Clarence Beisner and a young Lester Beisner were taking in a Reds game when they had the opportunity to say hello to Reds broadcaster Waite Hoyt prior to the first pitch. Hoyt had been dodging Clarence’s handshake all summer and he had just about had enough of it. No one treats the Beisners like that. He put his three-piece suit on for the game one leg at a time just like Hoyt did and he wouldn’t be denied of some common courtesy. He cornered Hoyt in outside of Willy’s Milkshake stand near section 4 and straightened that S.O.B. out. Hoyt never slighted a Beisner again. It was time for Dick to learn that same lesson.
I was ready to make my move again and I would not be denied. All of a sudden, things started to move in slow motion. I raised my left index finger at my girlfriend to alert her to remain stationary while I made my move. I then pivoted on my right foot, turned toward Dick, pointed at him and nodded my head toward him and smiled like we were broadcasting equals. I extended my right hand and was ready to finally end all of this madness.
Little did I know, things were about to get really weird.
As I stood there with hand extended, Dick just looked at me dead in my eyes, his eyes wide and bloodshot, likely from getting all teared up over another Nasty Boy Brian Knobbs promo on the big screen. Dick continued to stare at me with that awkward gazewhich I’m guessing was made up of two parts “Why the hell is a grown man wearing a B.J. Upton t-shirt jersey” and one part “I’m going to stab you”. I didn’t get it. Could this guy really just be an unbelievable a-hole to the point of where he doesn’t like strangers harassing him when he’s out in public? It had to be. And why the hell was his hand over his heart?
Son of a bitch. They were playing the national anthem.
So, I quickly try to retract my handshake. I did not want one under these unpatriotic circumstances. I pulled my arm back and gave Dick the “I’ll get you after the anthem” look. He removed his hand from his heart and put it out. What do I do? Shaking this man’s hand during the Star Spangled Banner could one day be used against me in a political campaign but, at the same time, I’ve been working on this for 24 hours. Well, I decided that public service isn’t for me and I put my hand out. He pulled his back. So I retracted and he put his out. I put mine out and his went back to his heart. This handshake tango lasted from “rocket’s red glare” all the way until “flag was still there”and ended with the most pathetic, limp-wristed hand shake I’ve ever received from a man. I’d expect Dick to be a little more firm.
So, there we stood. I was toe-to-toe with a Hall-of-Famer and he was face-to-chest with a blogger in a B.J. Upton t-shirt jersey, both of us equally disappointed in the other. What was next? Dick was surely ready for me to make my way to my seat, but I wasn’t going out like that. He was going to be doing an interview with KSR even if I got removed from The Trop in cuffs. So, I nestled myself against the cinder block wall trying to fashion myself as a flower emerging from the concrete, ready for that final note to end so I could make my way in with him. After all, the Kentucky world needs answers!
The anthem ended and I turned to Dick and started giving him the Kentucky Sports Radio bit. Dick had no interest in this new anti-American terror cell standing next to him and got all Toby Keith on me, sticking a boot in my interview requesting ass. He refused to turn towards meand instead chose to yuck it up with all of the people around who did pay attention and salute the U.S. of A when it was properly requested by the P.A. announcer. I was officially dead to Dick Vitale. The world would never know what he thinks about jean shorts and poop teeth. And I, for one, am completely devastated over it.
So, I stand before you Kentucky fans as a broken and ashamed man. Not only have I shamed our national anthem, I’ve likely locked us in for a good ripping at the hands of Dick Vitale. I promise you that I had your best interests in mind throughout this entire process and I never wanted to hurt you. We’ll make it through this, but I’m hoping that you can find it in your heart to give me another chance.
And as for you, Dick Vitale, I am currently unleashing the most fervent assault of interview requests the world has ever seen. You will answer my questions. Oh yes, you will answer them all. If not, I will make it my mission to interrupt every national anthem you ever hum your chapped little lips to.