And now, the final part of my blogging on personal milestones/events that I wish I could have “live Tweeted.”
—Dennis Rodman sightings, Orange County, CA, 1990s: The pro basketball player famous for his colored hair, nose rings and loose lifestyle became a living urban legend in The OC. His Newport Beach home often was the scene of wild parties that got police attention, and he was famous for showing up and holding court at a Newport Beach sports bar (hint: the chain is based in Atlanta and the waitresses wear orange shorts). I actually chatted with The Worm once there, during former teammate Michael Jordan’s sojourn into baseball. Naturally, I wondered if he could offer insights as to Jordan’s intentions. “Haven’t heard, bro,” he said. He actually was quite friendly. As you might imagine, a person of his size and appearance can be quite an intimidating figure, especially when you identify yourself as a media member. His demeanor was anything but. Thanks for the chat, Dennis.
— Mr. Wrestling No. 2, Macon Telegraph newsroom, 1977: The most bizarre event I can ever remember. A few weeks before, I accompanied my boss to the Macon Coliseum, where he did a story about the “world title” match between the masked area hero and champ Terry Funk, who was visiting from Texas. Hey, rasslin’ was big then, too, and far more entertaining, though they admit now that it’s scripted. Well, seems Mr. Wrestling No. 2 was so impressed with the coverage, even though he did not gain the title, that he personally appeared in the newsroom, mask and all, to thank my boss, Danny Thom, for the story. I have NEVER seen journalists’ mouths drop open before, or since. I am NOT joking.
— Falcons vs. Bears, Chicago, 1977: The Falcons had gotten off to a fast start under first-year coach Leeman Bennett, and the Macon Telegraph was making a push to cover more Atlanta-area sports. So my first real road trip as a journalist was to Soldier Field. It was quite a learning experience. Unlike legendary baseball announcer Harry Caray, I felt a bit nervous in the bars along Rush Street. The game? Well, the Falcons — on their way to setting a 14-game NFL record for fewest points allowed — used ball control and their “Grits Blitz” defense for a tough victory. The unforgiving Chicago press said that the Falcons “bored” the Bears into defeat. How did I stack up in that major league press box? Well, when I came back from the postgame locker room interviews, an Atlanta reporter was using my typewriter case for a seat cushion. You gotta crawl before you can walk.
— Mark McGwire and other All Star baseball players, Maui, 1988: I was on a wedding/honeymoon of a now-ended marriage on Thanksgiving weekend. Well, you might know that the date and site would attract some luminaries. Seems McGwire, the now disgraced slugger who then was then the toast of the baseball world with the A’s, and some other major league players were in the same area of the isle, courtesy of Nike. I’ll never forgive myself for not being more diligent about pics/autographs, etc. But by chance, my now ex-wife captured one of the athletes, pitcher John Tudor, behind me on a snorkeling cruise.
— The Guess Who, Orange County, CA, 2002: The Canadian rockers were among the artists of yore who got new life in the “county fair” scene in Southern California. Others I saw included the Beach Boys, Kenny Loggins and Steppenwolf. But the Guess Who stood out to me because of the way they related to the audience. Proud of their Canadian heritage, they referred to themselves as “your neighbors from the north.” And they told how “through some strange twist of fate” that the band was in New York during the 9/11 terrorist attacks the year before. Feeling the national pain that was still evident in the crowd, singer Burton Cummings said that “America will survive.” I was among the many who had lost their jobs in the economic calamity following the attacks. I always remember those who were there for me when no one else was.