Friday, March 03, 2006

Gladwell on sports

Sorry to beat you over the head with sports posts, but things have been pretty quiet around here lately, my wife is very ill with congestion/cold stuff, so I've got to keep myself entertained. Sports is a good way to do that. "Think about baseball," I think is the line from the Naked Gun movie. (I remember seeing it in the theatre and everytime O.J. made an appearance on screen, one of my friends, who is also a Bills fan, would chant "Juice! Juice! Juice!) Speaking of which, have I ever told you my O.J. pen story? This is probably the best story that I own. I haven't had the occasion yet to post it online and actually told someone a couple weeks ago that I wouldn't, because I was afraid of making it part of the public domain and its losing its value. I was afraid, I'd end up like Kramer after he sold his stories to J. Peterman...

I'm coming up the elevator with O.J. after the Bills beat the Oilers in that all-time comeback game of 1992. I was at the game on the Times press pass, because the regular writer was out of town, knew I was a Bills fan and offered me the pass to go watch the game. I tailgated and had a good pregame experience and watched the game from the press box. (I was working part time for the paper, so I wasn't totally illegitimate.) Well, I wanted to leave at halftime, but had no idea where my cohorts (my brother and a friend) were sitting, so I stayed put and witnessed history. After the game, I had to go down to the lockerrooms just to check out the scene. I don't remember too much from the Bills lockerroom, except that everyone was mildly excited, but also somewhat in a state of shock, so it wasn't completely unrestrained celebration. Plus, it was only the first round of the playoffs and the Bills had been to the Super Bowl the two previous years.

The Oilers lockerroom, however, was very memorable because of the sheer silence. I've seen such silence in high school lockerrooms, because, well, they're high school kids and the games are very important to them on an emotional level. But for a pro lockerroom to be filled with that kind of pall (I think that's the right word) was fairly unique I think. And then Jack Pardee, the Oilers coach, was literally in tears as the press surrounded him outside the lockerroom doors. I guess they didn't have an interview room set up for him.

Upon leaving that carnage I had to take an elevator to get out of Rich Stadium (now known as "the Ralph.")And O.J. who was working for NBC at the time, gets on the elevator with me. I think he has an entourage of maybe one other guy. We ride up in silence one floor and door opens and we get out. A couple kids are standing there and immediately recognize O.J.
"Can we have your autograph, O.J.?"
"Sorry, don't have a pen."
Before O.J. can walk away. "Here, man, I've got one," and I offer him my Bic. (I was pretending I was a reporter, after all.)
O.J. takes it and signs the autograph -and then, here's the crux of the story - instead of handing the pen back to me, or even to the kids, he tosses it nonchalantly on the ground and walks away. I have to bend over and pick up the Bic that O.J. just threw on the ground - that I had given him two minutes earlier. Clearly a psychopathic move by O.J. (and I know nothing about psychology), so it didn't surprise me at all when he killed his wife a few years later. There, that's the main gist of my O.J. story - hope you enjoyed it. (there is a sequel that involves drinking Dos Equis on my neighbor's porch during the car chase, but like most sequels, it pales in comparison to the original.)

Basically, that's a long introduction to this link to an e-mail exchange between two of my favorite current authors: Malcolm Gladwell and Bill Simmons. Gladwell is a Bills' fan from Toronto and an accomplished author. I'm almost done reading The Tipping Point, which is kind of a psychological study of markets. He brings this psychoanalysis approach to his sports commentary, so you may enjoy this, even if you're not a dyed-in-the-wool sports fanatic.

Cheers.

Ralph

1 comment:

Jim Lichtenwalter said...

What a scuz!!! Threw the pen on the ground!?! My impression of him (which is near zero) just got worse!!

Tell Mags I hope she is feeling better!