Last month I wrote about how I was a last-minute replacement for a co-worker that netted me a trip to Memphis, where I discovered the soul of a city that burns brightly. The lesson learned was, essentially, never to look a gift horse in the mouth, and to enjoy what is given to you.
Well, the fun never ends.
Last week our Marketing Director came to my office and asked if my schedule was open for Friday. When I told her that I had a meeting in the morning, she asked if I could get out of it then handed me a brochure. Knowing I am a golfer, she wanted me to play in a charity golf outing, representing the company. My reply was, ‘Where’s the first tee and what’s the course record?’ She arranged to get me out of my meeting commitment, and I was in. Get the day off, play golf for free.
Well, a closer look uncovered a potentially uncomfortable situation. The event was being run by Max Starks, football player for the….Pittsburgh Steelers. And he had invited a bunch of his teammates to the outing. Now most people would say big deal - you get to rub shoulders with professional athletes. My conundrum was that I am a Cleveland Browns fan, and a rather rabid one at that - how do I play this? Do I even let on that I root for the archrivals of the guy putting on the event? Do I just set loyalties aside and enjoy the day? Seriously - this is the kind of stuff that keeps me up at night.
After bouncing it off of some people, including fellow Browns fans, I got my answer. I would show up wearing my Browns polo & my Browns golf bag tag proudly displayed. Screw ‘em. I arrived expecting much flak from, well, whomever. So off our foursome went, starting on the 13th hole. We were standing in the middle of the 14th fairway when a rather large dude pulls up in a golf cart & says “They told me I was playing with you.” One look told the story - we got a Steeler player joining our foursome.
I introduced myself & he responded in kind - Dorian Brooks, 24-year old backup center for the Stools. Activated the day before the Super Bowl to replace the injured Maurkice Pouncey. What was also evident was that Dorian had never played a round of golf in his life. To just make sure, I asked him and his response was “I’ve never even played Putt-Putt before.”
There's me & Dorian. Anyway, I told Dorian to drop a ball down in the fairway, take out a club & have at it. Four flailing attempts at the ball resulting in three whiffs & a divot a foot behind the ball told me this was going to be a long, hot day. I explained to Dorian that this is a scramble event, and that if he hits a bad shot he can just pick it up. He liked that. After a few more spastic attempts to get the ball in motion, we decided that we would exploit Dorian’s talents on the putting green…only.
About 7 or 8 holes into the round it became evident to Dorian that he was not going to be much help to the team’s cause - his body language screamed ‘Get me the hell off of this sauna disguised as a golf course and away from these white dudes that I have zero in common with.’ This was when I had a stroke of near-genius. We had a three-foot putt left for a par. Simple putt. Dorian was in the cart texting someone when I told our group, ‘Hey hold on - let’s get Dorian to putt this in.’ I then went into Coach-Mode & yelled “Brooks! Grab you putter & get up here! We need you!” Dorian, being the athlete that he is and conditioned to coaches screaming at him, dutifully ran up to the green with a look on his face that would make Ray Lewis require a diaper. Dude was ready. I said “We need you here. You have to make this putt for us.”
Now, the truth of the matter was, we didn’t need him. We had four cracks at making a three-foot putt. But I wasn’t about to tell him that. I wanted him to think that it was all on him - it’s fourth-and-a-foot, and I need YOU to get me that foot. I felt like Al Pacino on Any Given Sunday, giving his halftime speech to the team.
Dorian, after a “Oh Lord” came out of his mouth, nervously address the putt, took the putter back shakily & then gently eased it into the ball…
And rolled it right into the center of the cup.
A relieved “YEAH!’ came from his mouth, high-fives all around. Dorian saved us. And from then on, he was engaged with the team, helping us read greens, trying to understand this crazy game we play. We had a blast. And totally gone was the fact that I was a Browns fan & he was a Steeler player. We were teammates, and that was all that mattered.
After the round, I met Max Starks. He’s not big - he’s mammoth. Six-foot-eight, 350 pounds. I swear the guy is so big he generates his own gravity. I half-expected to see moons orbiting him. I asked for a picture and he obliged, but there was a condition. As he put it, “We gotta do something about that logo on your shirt.” It was at that point that I had forgotten that I was wearing the Browns polo, fresh off the bonding experience with Dorian. And when a man-mountain says ‘We gotta do something’ about it, I was expecting him to rip it off, give me a swirlie or something.
No, he just had a simple condition. He had to put his hand over the logo. Which he did, and here we are:
My Gawd, I look like I'm 12 years old. Anyway, we sat down to eat, when the other 'gift' for the day awaited. A Terrible Towel. Double lovely. Well, as I said, I do not look gift horses in the mouth, but that does not mean I have to accept them either.
I left after I ate. The Terrible Towel stayed there.