Monday, October 4, 2010

Playing Hurt and Making Mickey Proud

Wednesday night I had the chills and, every time I rolled onto my stomach, a jolt of pain shot out from my left knee. When I woke up, the knee was gigantic, a glowing, oversized ball of hurt. Against my will, I was escorted to Bassett Hospital for hours of fun, knee-draining (which was cool), multiple blood lettings and an IV bag chock full of antibiotic.

"Stay off that knee," I was warned by my doctor friends. But this weekend was the Hall of Fame Film Festival, and Friday night was a tribute to 61*. Billy Crystal (writer and director), Bob Costas (broadcaster par excellence), Thomas Jane (who played Mickey Mantle in the movie) and Ross Greenburg (head of HBO Sports) were to be in attendance at a reception to be held in the Plaque Gallery, followed by a Q and A and a film showing. Believe me, there was no chance I was going to be home, leg up and cooling under a Ziplock bag of ice cubes. I would be there, pain or not.

Single crutch under my left arm, looking like a World War 1 vet (why did those guys always seem to be single crutched?), I hobbled to the gala. Accompanied by my weekend house guest, Andy Strasberg, Roger Maris fan #1 (look it up) and technical advisor to the movie, I hoped for an introduction to the participants and even brought my book, The Kansas City A's & The Wrong Half of the Yankees, to hand out as a gift. It has Maris on the cover, totally appropriate to the occasion. Plus, I need to improve my self-promotion skills.

I didn't meet Crystal, though Joey, my little Zelig, found his way to the big star.

I didn't pursue Thomas Jane, but as he whooshed by me in his loud plaid suit, I tapped him on the shoulder. He turned and I told him how much I enjoyed his cameo in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Turns out Joey had done the same thing. Jane must've thought it odd that two people mentioned this most minor role.

With Andy off to mingle, I made my own way to Costas and snapped a picture of him with Joey.

"I can see there's no family relationship here," quipped Bob. Joey is a mini-me. I handed my book over to Bob and he was truly interested. Over the course of the evening, Bob Costas would prove to be an authentically good guy.

As was Ross Greenburg. Andy introduced us and, immediately Ross focused on my condition.

"Stay off that knee," he said with great concern. "That's serious stuff." He also looked at the book with real gusto.

The Q and A was funny and lively. Afterwards, the Grandstand Theater emptied and refilled, as the two events were separately ticketed. It took me a while to make my way down to the first floor bathroom and back. As I walked in via the 3rd base side ramp of the theater, Billy was trying to get everyone settled so he could begin his remarks.

He saw me. "Come on, come on," he pleaded.

"You can start," I replied.

"Great, he's got a cane!" Oh, to be mocked by Billy Crystal: it made the injury worthwhile.

After the film, we filed out and, in front of the Hall's offices, Costas and Crystal signed autographs for a waiting group of fans. With Andy by my side, I got to talk with Bob and, again, Ross. It's rare to find public figures, and powerful ones, as genuine as these two. It made the night extra special.

Now, in return, I think I'll subscribe to HBO. It's the least I can do.

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