Yeah…I KNOW the 49ers beat the Bengals in Super Bowl…but Jerry’s a class act!
I have to be honest…I’m not all into the celebrity sports figures. I’ve met my share and none of them know me nor do they want to know me. I work for the hated media. The ones who write about them or post pictures of them on the web or take video of them whenever they’re getting tossed into jail for drunk driving. So when I’m boarding a plane and I see a college basketball coach or I’m on the charter with a team or if I’m on the sidelines and they don’t say anything to me, it’s all good. I’m not their friend and they aren’t mine. But every now and then, if I see an opportunity to say a little something as I’m walking by, I say it. I’m not one to strike up a conversation, but if a player just had a good game or if they have made eye contact with me and seem friendly, I’ll chat with them. In my time doing what I do for a living, this happens every so often.
Who have I chatted with?
Well…maybe that’s a story for another blog, but THIS story is about my brief conversation with Jerry Rice, who is one of the premier football players in the history of the sport and considered to be the greatest wide receiver ever. And once again, it was a circumstantial situation. I was checking out of my hotel room in Los Angeles, he was getting some “petty cash” (if you call multiple $100 bills “petty”) at the front desk of the Century Plaza Hotel. Apparently he was going golfing that morning and was getting ready to head out. As we both were leaving the front desk and as I passed by, I simply said, “Congratulations on being inducted into the Hall Of Fame, Jerry.” He looked at me and smiled and then he continued the conversation. He said it was quite a thrill to be in the Hall and we continued our brief chat as we walked to the lobby Starbucks to get a coffee. Once there, he said goodbye, walked up to the counter where he had already placed his order, grabbed his coffee and then, after chatting with the baristas for a few moments, headed out to get his day started.
And that was it.
In that brief moment, I got a feeling that not only was Rice a great football player, he struck me as a very pleasant man and a good person. Now, I admittedly don’t know anything about his personal life, but as a fan of sports, and being someone he has never met, the fact that he chatted with me and the baristas for a little while speaks volumes about him as a person. Some of these guys are not as friendly and some are downright rude. But not Jerry Rice. He seems very unassuming for such a man who has accomplished what he has in his career, and from what I’ve seen of him in interviews and during the entire weekend of his induction (I was there in Canton a couple of weeks ago), he seemed gracious and humble.
So I met Jerry Rice and we had a conversation. Maybe not earth-shattering but definitely noteworthy for me. Although I wasn’t a 49er fan, I AM a fan of anyone who takes the time to chat and smile and appreciate what fame has brought. Rice seems that way and is now high on my list of favorite athletes. And the kicker to all of this? In my backpack, which I was wearing at the time because I was going to work, I had Jerry’s Hall Of Fame Induction speech. I had kept it from that weekend in Canton for no reason other than I thought it would be cool to have it. And I completely forgot about it until he was walking out the door. I wish I had thought to have him sign it for me but…oh well. I’m thinking the conversation was enough for me for now.
But NEXT time…