Saturday, June 12, 2010

The night I made a fool of myself in front of Charles Woodson

Unlike some other cities that are home to professional sports teams, Green Bay is not usually described as a booming metropolis. Because of this, the options for people looking for a night on the town are somewhat limited, and at some point every Friday or Saturday night, all roads seemingly lead to downtown Green Bay. This is both good and bad (probably more on the bad side, for my wallet at least), but the one unique element to going out in Green Bay is the fairly decent chance of spotting a member of the only real local celebrities, Packer players. Making this more interesting is that in downtown Green Bay, there are no VIP sections, no forbidden rooms upstairs where players can escape overly-talkative fans; instead, they sit on the same stools as everyone else, but probably with more expensive drinks.

Well, this leads me to a night over winter break last year. I had eventually made it downtown after a few hours in a friend’s basement. It would be fair to say that at this point, I had my share of rum and Cokes for the night. We stepped into a bar and I immediately began to hear murmurs from my friends: “Did you see who is here?” “Look who is over there!” I looked ahead and immediately recognized the reason my friends’ thought I may have been excited: Charles Woodson was there.

For as long as I can remember, I have been a Charles Woodson fan. I’m not sure if ‘fan’ is a strong enough word to describe the situation, but since I don’t want to use ‘obsessive,’ we’ll just stick with ‘fan.’ I think it started with the outrageously athletic interception he had in college against Michigan State in 1997, where the quarterback looked as though he just wanted to throw the ball out of bounds, but Woodson leapt with almost no running start, ripped the ball out of the air with one hand, and dropped a foot inbounds. From then on, I followed his every move. I watched him win a Heisman Trophy and national championship at Michigan. I tracked his years with the Oakland Raiders, even when it looked as though the spirit was being sucked out of him; the Raiders have been known to do that to a player (also see: Moss, Randy). Then, the Packers signed him, and my favorite player somehow found his way to my favorite team.

It is important to note here that not only was this a great move for me and my rooting interests, but it was also a superb move for Woodson and the Packers. Since arriving in Green Bay, Woodson has more interceptions (19) in three seasons than in his eight previous seasons in Oakland (17). I would argue he has been the best defensive playmaker the Packers have had these past three years.

Anyway, remember those rum and Cokes? Those along with some strong persuasion from my friends brought me next to Charles Woodson, shaking his hand, and probably embarrassing myself. It is safe to say my speech skills were not as good as I wish they would have been. I managed to tell Woodson how big a fan of his I was, and that this has been going on for quite some time. I told him how glad I was that he was a Packer, and that I appreciated everything he has done for the team. Probably feeling a little awkward, he said thanks and that he appreciated the support, then I walked away, pretty stunned about what had just happened to me.

When I mention to people that I met Charles Woodson once (I swear though, I don’t lead off all conversations with this), they look at me with real excitement, and I don’t think it’s because I simply met a Packer player, I think it’s because people that know me know what meeting Charles Woodson meant to me. As fun as it is to tell people that I once had half of a conversation with my favorite football player, I think it is better for me to know that I got to tell Woodson how much he has impacted my sporting life. I’m assuming the conversation means more to me than it does him, and that’s fine.

I guess this story is a way of introducing myself as a sports fan. The teams and players that I support, well, I really support, probably at an unhealthy level. I’m looking forward to this year as I attempt to write for your newspaper. Next time, I’ll try to lay off on the hero worship, but if B.J. Raji does anything spectacular, we might have problems.

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