It’s the Friday before the Friday before the Super Bowl. This is already the fifth day of talking heads blabbing endlessly. The most popular subject lately is Richard Sherman, the cocky Seahawks defensive back who went a bit berserk on the field being interviewed after the 49ers game. The pressing issue seems to be, “Is Sherman a superstar or a thug?” (He’s actually a Stanford graduate!)
Each day the media tries to invent an angle to sustain the public’s seemingly unquenchable thirst on the countdown to Super Bowl Sunday. Frankly, I hate the week between the league championships and the Super Bowl. And yet here I am apparently adding my idle chatter to theirs. Hopefully the following will be different.
Not that it’s a major accomplishment in life, but I’ve literally had a Super Bowl ring in my hand, albeit momentarily, and it’s an impressive piece of jewelry.
It took place 20 years ago at the Ocean View tennis courts in Ocean Park, early on a very foggy morning. I was due to play tennis with a wealthy friend. I mention his economic status only because he was wearing a Rolex watch, which turned out to be rather pivotal.
I didn’t even notice the watch, but it came to my attention as we were stretching to get ready to begin play. Suddenly an imposing-looking stranger approached in sweat clothes, not exactly tennis attire. He was 6’4”, 240 pounds and expressed a definite interest in the Rolex. Keep in mind, due to the hour and the fog there wasn’t another soul around. And, oh by the way, the stranger was black.
It absolutely shouldn’t matter (and doesn’t) what race this person was, but I’m embarrassed to admit it was a factor. I would like to think if he had been Caucasian (or Polynesian for that matter) I would have had the same nervous reaction. Confession over, I will continue with the story.
Actually we had seen the stranger moments before as we entered the court. He had been hitting balls against the wall and, trying to be diplomatic here, without much skill.
Getting our attention he quickly asked my friend if he was wearing a Rolex “Or was it a knockoff?” Why my buddy didn’t say, “It’s a knockoff,” still mystifies me. The next question caused me even more concern. “How much did it cost?” the stranger asked. I gulped.
My friend must have been a little concerned too because his voice seemed to be slightly higher than normal. “$10,000,” my buddy blurted out nervously. The stranger said, “I own one, too.” Frankly, at this point, I was convinced we were going to be mugged and was busily looking for an exit. (I blame it on having watched too much “Cops” on Fox.)
As those two continued to talk about watches, I was barely hearing the words. You could say my focus was similar to Michael Corleone’s moments before he kills Sollozzo and Captain McCluskey at that restaurant in the Bronx. (Is it me or did food always look so good in the “Godfather” movies?)
The “Rolex conversation” continued as my mind was racing. Being more of a Timex guy I couldn’t have contributed anything to the chit chat. The truth is I was still plotting my escape route. And my legs were feeling heavier by the moment.
At this point the stranger asked if he could try on my friend’s watch. Uh, oh! My friend nervously slipped off his watch and then something dramatic changed the entire dynamic because of something my friend noticed for the first time. A gun? Hardly.
“Is that a Super Bowl ring?” my friend asked the stranger. Immediately my eyes zeroed in on the stranger’s hand. Sure enough, he was wearing a gorgeous diamond ring that was in fact from Super Bowl I.
Here’s the big reveal. The “stranger” had been the tight end for the world champion Green Bay Packers and owned not one, but two Super Bowl rings. I was flush with embarrassment. (Some of which I’m re-living as I write this.)
The man, who shall remain nameless, (I wish I could) couldn’t have been nicer. I instantly hoped he hadn’t sensed our unwarranted fear. I wondered how often in his life had he experienced that. Feeling guilty, I thought about confessing the imaginary drama that had been going on in my head but had the good sense to realize that I’d only be putting my feet in my mouth.
If there’s any lesson to this story I suppose it’s the stupidity of seeing stereotypes and not the person. Unfortunately for eight more days we’ll likely be hearing more about the Richard Sherman/thug issue. To me it’s as foolish as I was that day on the tennis courts.
Jack can be reached at facebook.com/jackneworth, twitter.com/jackneworth or via E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.