Monday, October 20, 2008
Late Friday afternoon I was called into my boss' office. A new assignment had been dropped by the Head Honcho's desk, and he needed someone with my deft skills and rapier wit to properly cover and detail an event to be held at the Governor's Mansion in Little Rock.
Actually they needed a writer who had a tux available, and fully aware of my Tuxedo Tuesday ritual, they knew I had the goods and gave me the assignment.
I attended the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame's 16th Annual Induction Ceremony, and preceding reception. The Hall perennially inducts six new members, five living and one posthumously, for those who have excelled in their respective fields while having Arkansan roots. I was never able to tell if the excelling of these individuals was remarkable because the inductees were African-American or because they had Arkansas ties. Woo pig sooie, anyway.
I had a great time. The Champagne flowed, the Governor gabbed, and hands were shaken. Speaking of the Arkansas Executive, Governor Mike Beebe (who called me a "funny son of a gun") even added flavor with a salutary pound to his African-American friends, which I thought was special.
Of the inductees, the most notable name was that of Angels center fielder Torii Hunter. Hunter is from Pine Bluff, Arkansas, which makes his successes even more compelling and amazing. For those of you who luckily are not in the know, Pine Bluff is the Mississippi of Arkansas (sorry Daly, but it's true). There's a paper plant there that not only reeks in 500 miles in the wind's direction, but literally has crippled the southeastern section of the Natural State. Despite all of this, Hunter has gone on to a very profitable MLB career, earning seven Gold Gloves and becoming one of the league's best athletes, currently playing for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim of California of the United States of North America of Earth. Disney is currently in talks to add Milky Way to their title, but is currently hitting a snag with the Mars bar people.
Needless to say, I was pumped. I figured that he'd be courteous, but in a polite I-know-I-can-buy-you way. So I interviewed him about his role in the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame, to which he replied that he was first and foremost very humbled by the nomination and subsequent induction. We wrapped up our brief interview on the note that he was happy to represent Arkansas by being a good role-model for young people who may struggle. A little cliché perhaps, but pretty cool when you can see the sincerity in the man's eyes.
After pausing my recorder, I thought that would be the end of it. I went about my way and found a waiter to grab me a glass of the bubbly. I watched Hunter walk around, greeting everyone. Then he came by and we started chatting. It was awesome. Torri Hunter is a stand-up and classy American. He wouldn't throw Minneapolis under the bus, but said that he really loved LA. We talked about the World Series (Hunter says "Look out for the Rays."), and baseball in general. We ended our conversation by him saying "Man, you're just as important as I am. I'm just a regular guy." I swear to God, I nearly choked up.
So it's official. I have my first man-crush. Darren McFadden came close for a little bit, but due to pending pregnancy tests for his numerous illegitimate kids, my affections had waned. Torii Hunter is awesome on the field and off. I'm an Angels fan (after the Cardinals, of course). I would do for Torii Hunter what I would scoff at and never do for my family members. Man-crush: It's on.
In all seriousness, it was really pretty cool to see that at least one of sport's best and brightest isn't a complete and total douche. Looking at you, Tom Brady. Don't let me down, LeBron. Pelé?...You're alright.