Friday, March 2, 2007

Me on Me, Part 1

Here is part one of my exclusive interview with me. If you listen closely while reading, you can hear the sound of one hand clapping.

Q: Jim, great to see you thanks for coming out today.
A: No problem. Always a pleasure.

Q: So, is that you on the cover?
A: Um, no.

Q: I see you work at Sports Illustrated, do you get to contribute to the Swimsuit Issue?
A: No. In fact, this year they distributed copies to the staff on a day when most of us were out of the office and someone helped himself/herself to most of them, so I haven’t even seen this year’s issue, except when I pass a newsstand.

Q: Okay, which event was your favorite?
A: Have to say the Kentucky Derby. It’s got everything. History, tradition, it’s a little bit wild yet sophisticated. You’re all dressed up, rubbing elbows with celebs and sipping drinks one minute, then standing on your chair screaming at the top of your lungs the next. And there’s a palpable excitement, an audible buzz, that lasts the entire day and permeates the entire track. There’s something about it being outdoors too—the blue of the sky and the smell of the grass. It’s a full sensory experience. I suppose the gambling doesn’t hurt either.

Q: How did you pick the events?
A: It’s a mix. Some of them are ironclad icons of sport, like the Super Bowl and some of them are more personal, events that for whatever reason I’ve just always wanted to go to. Also, some of those quirkier events-like a trip to Lambeau-are things I think everyone should go to even if they don’t realize it, and part of what the book attempts to do is show why that’s the case.

Q: Which event was the biggest surprise to you?
A: The Daytona 500. I spent three days living in an RV in the infield with some people I met over the Internet. So going into it, I had never been to a NASCAR event, I didn’t know the people I’d be living with and generally had no idea what to expect. But the folks I stayed with were great and the entire stay was really a blast. And the place itself was surprising. I had no idea how big the track is—it’s so big that there’s a lake on the infield and they put on waterskiing shows a few times a day.

Q: Any events you put on the list that you wish you left off?
A: No. No regrets. I enjoyed every stop along the way, although an interesting phenomenon occurs after a while. About five events into it, everything takes on a certain sameness, but at the same time, that sameness also makes the individualities of each experience stand out even more.

Q: So are you done now?
A: Yes and no. Having gone through this makes me feel that there are a number of events I don’t need to go to anymore, unless there was some special circumstance. At the same time, it makes me want to go to others over and over again, and it whets my appetite for some of the other events that I considered but that didn’t make the list.

Q: Such as?
A: The Olympics. World Cup soccer. The Bassmaster Classic—which is supposed to be really wild. Some of the great college rivalries I passed on.

Q: What’s the craziest thing you saw?
A: Well, there was quite a bit. From some of the partying at the Michigan-Ohio State game to the tailgates at Lambeau and the scene at the Final Four, but overall the center of insanity was definitely the Super Bowl. The scale of it is just overwhelming and the characters are incredible. I spent some time with one guy who was standing on a corner with 20 $100 bills fanned out in his hand trying to buy tickets. He claimed to be a former scalper who’d been to every Super Bowl since 1973 and who’d also snuck into dozens of major events and had even partied backstage with the Rolling Stones after talking his way into one of their concerts. He said if I let him, he could sneak into the Super Bowl with me. He’d just carry a box and walk behind me and we’d breeze right through. I’ve never been able to resist a plot with all the complexity of a Scooby Doo episode so I agreed to meet with him outside the media entrance before the game. I’d bring my media credential, he’d bring the box. Little surprise, he failed to show. He did call me on my cell about an hour before kickoff. I was already in the stadium and he wanted me to come down and meet him. I hung up on him. The guy was certifiable, but he told a lot of great stories.

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