Thursday, February 14, 2008

Just Another Guy

For most guys, today is a day they dread, either in fear of disappointing or, well, disappointment. You are not going to understand why I post this on Valentine's Day until you get to the final punchline. The following is written by ESPN's Bill Simmons, hanging out at a previous NBA All-Star weekend:

Best Random Celebrity Moment Ever

So I'm leaving Jam Session on Saturday afternoon when Sully gives me the "Come to the Four Seasons, we're hanging out in the hotel bar drinking Bloody Marys" phone call. Well, I can't turn down that offer. Not ever. Within 10 minutes, I'm sitting right there with them. And we're hanging out and talking hoops, debating whether to stay for a second drink, when none other than Charles Oakley saunters into the bar with three lady friends, eventually settling at the table right next to us. As soon as Oakley orders a round of shots for his table, as well as a martini for himself, we decide to order a second round of drinks for ourselves. I mean, where else can you drink 5 feet away from the real-life Shaft?

Twenty minutes later? MJ shows up with two friends and stops the room cold. (That's right, two brushes with MJ in 36 hours.) At first, it seems like he's just saying hello, but then we realize he's sitting down. Eventually, they move him into the inside booth, then block him with chairs on both sides so nobody can bother him. (I like to call this the Chair Armada, since it's the exact same strategy that guys use in strip joints when they don't want to be continually approached by below-average strippers trying to pull the "Maybe if I sit right on his lap, he'll feel bad for me and get a lap dance" routine. The Chair Armada never fails.) When Oakley ordered more drinks, we ended up ordering food and drinks for our table. For all we knew, we were staying all afternoon.

(And we did: Our bar bill ended up being like $400. Back to the story.)

Things kept rolling along. People kept walking over to say hello to MJ, pay tribute to him, kiss his ring ... it's almost like he's the real-life Michael Corleone (with Oakley as his Luca Brasi). At one point, his longtime agent David Falk sat about 30 feet away, waiting for an invite, finally giving up and coming over to say hello. (Falk asked MJ, "How late did you stay out last night?" followed by MJ casually saying "7:30," as we nodded admiringly.) And the drinks kept coming and coming and, occasionally, Oakley would get up and saunter around just to stretch his legs and look cool as I made comments like, "I wish you could rent Oak for parties." At one point, he was thinking about ordering food, stood up, looked over at all of us eating, noticed Rich's cheeseburger, asked if it was a cheeseburger, asked if it was good, kept glancing at it, kept glancing at it ... and I swear, we were all waiting for Oak to say the words, "Oak wants your cheeseburger, and he wants it now." But he didn't. He ended up ordering one himself. Too bad.

Well, two hours pass. Everyone finishes eating. The cigars come out. And I'm sitting there saying, "There's no way that the cards aren't coming out soon. It's impossible. MJ has never sat this long in one place without the cards coming out."

While we were waiting for that moment, just to make a strange afternoon stranger, I walked over to Elgin Baylor's table and talked about the Clips with him for 10 minutes (we're getting along these days -- that's a whole other story). And when I returned, the cards emerged, just as I predicted -- they started playing a game called "Bid Wist," a form of spades that's popular among NBA players, with Oakley and MJ teaming up against two of their friends. We got to see MJ's legendary competitive streak in action. He was trash-talking nonstop, snickering sarcastically, cackling with every good card, badgering his opponents to the point that I actually thought one of them would start crying. This wasn't Corporate MJ, the one you and I know. This was Urban MJ, the one that comes out for the black Super Bowl. We never get to see this one.

And I'm sitting there dying. For one thing, I love cards and have a gambling problem. Also, what would be a greater story than Sully and me getting winners against Oak and MJ? Sure, there wasn't a chance in hell, but it was fun to imagine. Meanwhile, the day kept getting stranger and stranger. Around 6, Shaquille O'Neal showed up with his posse, wearing a four-piece suit that caused MJ to joke, "I'm glad you're living up to the responsibility of the dress code." A little bit later, Bucks assistant Lester Conner showed up wearing a red sweatshirt with a giant Jordan logo on it .... when do you run into someone when you're randomly wearing their clothes? And MJ kept getting louder and louder, and he and Oakley were cleaning up, and we're all watching them while pretending not to watch, and then suddenly ...

MJ's wife shows up.


Everyone makes room for her. She sneaks in and sits down right next to him. And poor MJ looks like somebody who took a no-hitter into the ninth, then gave up a triple off the left-field wall. The trash-talking stops. He slumps in his seat like a little kid. The cigar goes out. No more hangin' with the boys. Time to be a husband again. Watching the whole thing unfold, I lean over to Sully just to say, "Look at that, he's just like us."

And he was. Just your average guy getting derailed by his wife. For once in my life, I didn't want to be like Mike.