Isn't it weird when you see someone famous in real life? I mean, I don't exactly get all giddy like some weird Zac Efron groupie (i.e. Joe), but it's still a surreal experience. I've had a few of these experiences in my life, and I've broken down the top 10 into this list. I based ranking on two factors: 1) level of celebrity, and 2) quality of encounter. So for example, seeing the President at the airport would receive a 10 in Category 1 (he's intensely famous), but maybe a 2 in Category 2 (it's not like we're buddies now). Having a beer with the guy who played Dauber on Coach would be a 9 or so in Category 2 (that's definitely a quality encounter), but roughly a 4 in Category 1 (because I'm still calling him "the guy who played Dauber in Coach"). So that means that the beer with Dauber ranks higher than seeing the President. And that sounds about right.
So all of that having been said, here are my Top 10 Celebrity Encounters of All-Time:
10. Leaping Lanny Poffo (3). My aunt went to high school with this guy, and you have no idea who he is, so he clearly ranks at the bottom for both criteria. He was a professional wrestler who used to read poems that he had written whenever he pinned a guy. Check out his web site. Here, you'll find that his father set the world record for sit-ups with 6,033 in 4 hours and 10 minutes; his brother is Randy "Macho Man" Savage; his greatest thrill was meeting Shel Silverstein; and he is now a certified credit counselor. So there you go.
9. Tommy Lasorda (9). Hall of Fame coach and Slim-Fast spokesperson. Clearly, a top-notch Category 1 encounter. However, I just got his autograph at a coaches' convention when I was 10 (or so). He was talking to some guy, and I didn't want to interrupt, so I stood there, about 10 feet from them, for like 10 minutes. They kept looking over at me, wondering if I was going to stab them or something probably, until finally he asked if he could help me. So I gave him his baseball card, he pulled out a Sharpie and signed it, and now I'm telling the story 17 years later. Actually, that's kind of depressing. Moving on.
8. Herb Kohl (10). My dad was recognized as an excellent teacher by the Kohl Teacher Fellowship program. We went to a luncheon and got a picture taken. He said that Joe, Sam, and I should be playing for the Bucks because we're tall. But we're not that tall, so I think he's kind of losing his mind.
7. Mike Wilbon (13). This is the guy from Pardon the Interruption. I went to Indianapolis to visit my buddy Paul and watch the Final Four a couple years ago, and we saw him at a restaurant. He came over to the table and said hi. Cool guy.
6. Bruce Weber (14). Head coach of the Illinois basketball team. Saw him on the same Indianapolis trip (and in the same restaurant). This encounter eclipses the Wilbon encounter because Weber saw my Brewers hat and said, "Go Brewers!" And he gave me a thumbs-up. If Charlie ends up being a great basketball player, I'm definitely sending him to Illinois.
4 (tie). Dick Bennett (15). Former head coach of the Wisconsin Badgers. But my encounter with him took place when he was the head coach at UW-Green Bay and I went to one of his basketball camps. They had knocked off California in the NCAA tournament the year before, and I showed up to a session one day with a Jason Kidd jersey. (Kidd was, for those of you who don't follow basketball, California's best player that year.) So he called me up in front of everyone and made me do 5 push-ups for wearing it. All in good fun. Heck of a guy. (And a Ripon College graduate, by the way.)
4 (tie). Ben Stein (15). I saw him speak at Ripon one night, which doesn't exactly qualify him for an appearance on this list, but then some baseball buddies and I went out and started calling his hotel room after midnight trying to get him to come out to the bars with us. We probably called like 7 or 8 times, but he never answered. For all I know, the guy at the front desk was connecting us to an empty room. Who knows? Still a good story.
3. Laura Ramsey (16). Kind of low (6) in Category 1, but a 10 in Category 2. If you know her, it's from a) The Real Cancun, b) The Days, or c) She's the Man. When I was at Ripon, I helped to direct a theater production at Laconia High School, and she was one of my actresses. And now she's a big star. You're welcome, Laura.
2. Kenny Chesney (17). Hanging out with my bro in Nashville, I saw him at Subway. The first question my wife asked was, "What did he order?" Sadly, I didn't pay attention. One of the great regrets of my life.
1. Rick Reilly (19). Super-famous because of his work in Sports Illustrated. And an awesome story: I wrote an article for the school paper when I was in high school that criticized the way that some of the basketball players were disrespecting the head coach. It got negative feedback, so I was thinking of dropping the paper. My mom sent my article, along with a short note, to my favorite writer--Rick Reilly. A month later, he called my house and we talked for half an hour. He encouraged me to stick with writing, so I did. And now you have him to thank for this blog.
Upset that you're not on the list? Well, if you're not famous, you need to get more famous. And if you are famous, you need to do cooler stuff with me. That's all there is to it.