Friday, December 16, 2005
An Unexpected Who Dey
You can view a slideshow of the other photos I took standing in line by clicking on the above picture of T.J. Houshmandzadeh.
An Unexpected Who Dey
One Fan's Tale - I've lived in Cincinnati most of my life so I've grown up loving the Reds and the Bengals. This has meant a lot of heartache as far as being a casual fem sports fan goes. It's great now to say that you're a Bengal's fan and have their 10 - 3 record to shut up people who once would have laughed.
I live with a man who is not a big sports fan. I have never had to be a "sports widow" and compete with the sport-of-the-season for his attention. Maybe this is why, when it was obvious that new sheriff was in town (Marvin Lewis rocks!) and he decided to start following the Bengals, I decided I'd watch with him. I hadn't so much left the bandwagon, but I was walking beside it. Now I decided to go along for the ride.
It took me a full season to start understanding the finer points and nuances of the game. By mid second-season I was as well acquainted with the Bengals as any armchair fan could be and vaguely following the progress of our rivals. Most importantly, I had staked out my favorite player.
Touraj Houshmandzadeh, better known as "T.J." or simply "Hoosh" as he is affectionately called at my house, is a stellar player. He has the perfect combination of talent, energy, intelligence and attitude that makes him a joy to watch. Some players are more flashy (coughChadcough) and others get the glory (Carson and Rudy) and others are known for saving our ass time and again (God Bless Shane Graham).
Yet and still, Housh makes his presence felt by completing solid, exciting plays that make your breath catch. I've seen more than one defender back up at the sight of him coming. And he is the Duke of Juke. He has class and presence, yet other teams ignore him and his deceptively laid back attitude at their own peril.
T.J. is not afraid to put other guys in check when they get out of line. Everyone standing in line with me remembers a late hit from last season where T.J. not only bounced right back, ball in hand, but also tossed it back to the defender still on the ground. The message was clear: If you want the ball that bad, you can have it. But only after I'm done with it!
That was the day I became a solid Housh fan.
It also doesn't hurt that he is as handsome as the day is long with a killer smile that makes the ladies sigh.
So, I was pleasantly surprised when a Bengal's store opened up on my regular route to work. I noted the ingeniously simple name BengalStuff.com and hit the website the first chance I got and I got another pleasant shock when I saw that Housh would be singing autographs there on Tuesday, December 13.
While We Waited - Still, I nearly didn't go. With this Christmas thing and that work thing and this shopping thing, I nearly forgot about it. I was abruptly reminded while driving home on the 13th and seeing a line had already formed. Mind you it was already 30 degrees and I hate being cold worse than doing dishes and laundry, so I decided to skip it.
But when I got home, my man asked me if I was going. I stalled a bit and asked my daughter if she would like to meet T.J. She looked at me like I was crazy for even asking and said, "YES!"
So we each put on three layers of clothes and socks, bundled up in jackets, hats, scarves, and gloves and headed out. After a pit stop at McDonalds, we were on our way.
We stood in line for half an hour before we realized that everyone standing in line but us had a jersey, poster, football or some such item for Housh to sign. We had nothing but a battered notebook and empty McDonald's wrappers,
Luckily Walgreen's was across the street. I held our place in line (which had grown exponentially since my drive-by) while my daughter played frogger with the Galbraith Road traffic, not once but twice. Her first trip netted us a Huffy Sports End zone football for $5.99. Second trip got us a disposable camera. A guy in line had a manila file folder full of picks his mother had printed out. He made a killing on them in line, first at $5 and then $10 each. We got one for $2 dollars because I could spell Houshmandzadeh correctly and knew his real first name.
So now that we each had something worth signing, the real wait began. And boy did it get cold. There wasn't much wind, but the temperature dropped as the sunset waned. We did a lot of stamping, dancing, talking and keeping each other's spirits up. It's amazing how well you can get to know complete strangers in line.
My daughter and I had arrived at 4:30. At 5:45, I mentioned that the website had listed the event start time as 5:30. The lady ahead of me in line told me the radio and newspaper spots had said 6:30! I nearly got out of line then, but I asked myself, "Are you a true fan or NOT?!" So I stayed.
It would be 7:15 before T.J. arrived in what I think is his own black Mercedes sports car. He exited the car chatting on a silver cell phone and waved to the cheering crowed, and then he went into the store.
I have no idea what happened in the store, but it took about 15 minutes before the line started to move. But when once it started it moved quickly! I was so pumped my feet started getting warmer from just pure adrenaline.
What I Said - As we started getting closer a lot faster than we had thought possible, we all talked about what we may say to Housh and how we would try to stay sane reasonable people who had actually seen a man before. I think we were kidding ourselves. We knew that whatever we said would be goofy, fannish, and maybe we were crazy. How many people would you wait three hours in the cold for to spend 15 seconds with?
It finally (slowly) dawned upon me that I didn't have to use the camera for just one pic of Housh. I could and should take pictures of everything and duh, didn't I just start a blog?! I wish I could say I planned it all along, but it was a very slow burn and when it hit me, I started snapping pictures of everything and anyone who would stand still long enough.
So what did I finally say to Housh. Well my daughter's turn came first and she was nearly speechless. I had to push her forward. The sheriff standing by had to prompt her to speak. It was hilarious but to her credit I think this is the most famous person she's met to date.
When my turn came, I found that I simply couldn't look into those gorgeous eyes for too long and speak at the same time either. Something of the mom in me must have taken over. I found myself staring at his hands because he had injured one of them a few weeks ago. Suddenly I worried about the toll all the signing would take. One hand (his right) did look a little thinner than the other.
So after all the things I wanted to say and thought I was say, what I ended up saying was: "Write lightly and take care of your hand."
Housh and the guy with him laughed. A genuine laugh. Then he signed my pic. I made the mistake of actually looking at his eyes again and it was five seconds before I remembered my camera. I almost didn't ask, but it was worth annoying him to get the pic. So I asked him to smile and snapped the header photo.
Then I walked away.
We said our goodbyes to our new friends outside. I snapped a few more photos. When I got to the car I asked my daughter what time it was. She said 8:16 and I wrote it down on the camera so I wouldn't forget.
We waited over three hours, mostly in the freezing cold.
It was over in seconds.
It was worth it.
To view a slideshow of the photos click here.
If your pic appears in the slideshow, I'll send you a print of the pic I took of Housh for free. Just email me. Sorry it took so long to get the story and pics up.