Saturday, August 25, 2007

"Michigan Fan Day" or "How I Went Through Hell To Meet Mike Hart."

Today, I achieved a goal which I set for myself a long, long time ago - I met Mike Hart.

Yes, it was only for a few seconds. Yes, he didn't say much to me, or look me in the eye for more than half an instant, or even say thanks after I wished him a great season. But I met Mike Hart, and have proof of this meeting which shall forever be memorialized on an authentic Schutt Pro-Air 2 Michigan football helmet (thanks eBay!) inside UV resistant glass casing fit enough for the Museum of Modern Art.

This was perhaps the longest weekend I've had in a while. Perhaps if Mike Hart knew what I went through to make this 6 second meeting happen, maybe he wouldn't have been so dismissive, and maybe he might have even said something back to me after I told him how thrilled I was to finally meet him in person.

My journey through Hell to meet Mike Hart all started Friday morning when I found out Northwest Airlines had not processed the reservations I made for myself and my girlfriend almost three weeks ago.

(Thanks, idiots.)

I went into a panic at my desk at work after I got off the phone with one of Northwest's customer service peons because the airline was going to screw me out of my only chance to meet my favorite player of all time on his last fan day at the University of Michigan. I scrambled around the internet like Vince Young, racing from one discount travel site to another in hopes of finding 2 semi-affordable plane tickets to Detroit for that very same day.

I managed to score two tickets through United Airlines (ughhhhhhh) at about $400 a pop from Travelocity. The tickets called for a layover in D.C. and the normally 2 hour trip would take 5 hours. But Goddammit, I was meeting Mike Hart no matter what the cost or inconvenience. Besides, I could pack my lunch for work for the next month instead of going out of the office to eat to recoup back the money I splurged on the tickets. It would be worth it just to say hello to him.

So at 4:30 PM on Friday my girlfriend and I started our trek from Brooklyn to La Guardia airport in Queens. This included an hour subway ride, and then we had to transfer to a bus - only the bus never came. (Damn you, NYC public transportation!!!!) By some miracle, I was able to score an empty cab while standing on a highway in Queens during rush hour and get my girlfriend and I to La Guardia airport just in time to make the flight.

An empty cab on a busy NYC highway when I needed a cab more than ever? God was sending me a flashing neon sign that he wanted me to meet Mike Hart. Everybody knows that you don't ignore God when he's acting in mysterious ways. So we got in the cab, and I started to get the feeling that everything was going to be ok. I couldn't have been more wrong.

The plane boarded half an hour late. The cab ride miracle was superfluous. Why was the flight delayed? It turns out some stewardess wasn't where she was supposed to be and held up 200 people from getting to their destinations.

That very same stewardess was quick to provide very complacent and unapologetic answers when people asked if they would be able to make their connecting flight to Detroit because of the delay during boarding.

"Ummm, I don't think so. It's not really realistic. But hey, there's always hope!" she stupidly giggled. I silently swore to myself then and there that if that bitch kept me from meeting Mike Hart, I would tackle her on the runway harder than LaMarr Woodley ever tackled a quarterback in his entire life. Vengeance would be mine. Blood would be spilled. Justice would be served.

Fortunately for the stewardess, the captain of the plane had one hell of a lead foot. We made up 15 minutes in the air, and my goal of meeting Mile Hart was kept alive. My girlfriend and I made our connecting flight.

Next, came two hours of boiling frustration.

The connecting flight to Detroit boarded on time. (A United Airlines miracle!) We taxied to the runway, and then the plane stopped. One of the stewardesses (what is it with these women!) thought she smelled leaking fuel and alerted the captain. The maintenance crew was called to the scene, but they couldn't fix the problem on the runway and the plane had to be towed back to the gate with all the passengers inside. Mike Hart seemed to slip further out of my grasp.

45 minutes later, the leaking fuel problem was solved. But the plane had lost so much gas, we needed to have a fuel truck come over and give us a fill-up. 30 more minutes passed. I was about to explode like Alan Branch did on Anthony Morelli last year.

To top it all off, when the fuel truck was filling the plane, some jackass pilot double parked his jet in back of the plane in which we were riding. I didn't think it was possible to double park a jet aircraft because of all the tower supervision, but apparently the imbeciles at United Airlines had found the secret. 45 more minutes passed while nobody moved the offending aircraft. I was ready to knock some heads like Crable did to Troy Smith 9 months ago. Rage! Rage! Raaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaage!

Long story short, the trip from New York to Detroit took 10 hours. My girlfriend and I arrived at her parents' house (bless their souls for picking us up from the airport at 1:30 AM) at 2:30 AM. We were in bed by 3 AM, and were out the door at 6:45 AM to get to Michigan Stadium and get in line to meet the players. We got 3 hours and forty-five minutes of sleep after that hellacious ordeal. But you know what? I would have went on no sleep at all for the chance to meet Mike Hart.

My girlfriend and I got the stadium by 8 AM, and waited an hour and a half in line to enter the gates. Then we waited an hour in the running backs line.

Seemingly an eternity later, it was my turn to meet Mike Hart. It was the moment of truth. It was the holy grail of the Michigan Fan Day experience.

"It's awesome to meet you Mike!" I said with the excitement of a 5 year old boy on Christmas morning. I handed him my shiny new Michigan football helmet to sign. He quickly scribbled 'Mike H 20" on the side. "Thanks! Have a great season. I'll watch every play." I said.

There was no response from Hart. No "thanks man!" No "alright, see ya later." Hart just nonchalantly handed me back my helmet and motioned for the next fan to come his way so that he could bless whatever Michigan chachki they might present to him. 6 seconds, and it was all over.

If Mike Hart knew what I had went through to meet him, maybe things would have been different this morning. Maybe he would have been happy to meet me too, and maybe he would have said how honored he was that people are willing to come from halfway across the continent just to say a few words to him and have him write his name on some of their stuff.

Am I upset? Not really. How can I be? I realize that this was a hectic day for him, and that he can't concern himself with the troubles of pissant fans like me. He has an entire program to carry. He has thousands of smiles to put on a nation of Maize and Blue faces. He has an archenemy to defeat, a bowl game to win, and a championship to claim. I'm just a grain of sand in the Mike Hart desert. A drop of water in the Mike Hart ocean. A smiling face that he'll probably neither see again nor remember.

Was it all worth it for 6 seconds?


Plus, I also got autographs Donovan Warren and Junior Hemingway before the ushers kicked me out of the stadium. Sweeeeeeeet.


mvictors said...

Great story. You had some stones flying in for this...they were a few rain drops away from cancelling the whole thing! Hope your trek back for a game or two is less ugly.


Shalin said...

Hail to the Cowbell Commander!

Yost said...

Great stuff, C2. Keep up the good work.

Killing My Liver said...

Funny when you meet people you admire, especially in these types of environs. Are you disappointed when they kinda glance over you ? Yes. But as you said, can you blame them ?
I met one of the people I really look up to at the Warped Tour 3 years ago. Lars Frederiksen. He was signing and giving out posters, and I got a pic with him. I relayed a story of how his music helped me deal with some issues, and he gave me a genuine reply. It was really a cool moment.
But, dealing with that 2000 times a day, and then dealing with people that act like you owe them something must get old fast. I can understand how they could get short with people. Anyway, I'm jealous.


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