I told Shane Battier I hated him about a year ago. Around a month after the Heat had dealt us a loss in the Finals. It was on top of one of the Wrigley Rooftops neighboring the harbinger of sadness and ivy that rests at that drunken intersection of Clark and Addison in Chicago, IL.
I was there because my friend Charles Pettitt had his family in town to watch him and, as a byproduct of us being in the same class, me graduate from the Second City’s Conservatory. Chuck, who was and is a champion of a person, and I had formed a tight bond over the course of the past year or so since both of us hailed from states (Chuck: Louisiana, Me: Oklahoma) with similar sensibilities. We both liked country music, 2 Chainz’ video for Birthday Song, barbecue, and had semi-frequent hankerings for Sonic. His father, gentleman, scholar, and hero that he is, had gotten rooftop tickets to a Cubs-Reds game and a few of Chuck’s Chicago homies, myself included, were offered the chance to come with.
The game itself was a bit of a wash. The Cubs were a disaster, the one shining star in an otherwise cloudy sky of a game being the opportunity to watch a brand spanking new Anthony Rizzo hit a baseball. The real jam was the entire rooftop atmosphere. All inclusive and all that. Burgers and hot dogs and pretzels and popcorn and drinks, both adult and childish in nature, all for the price of on-the-house. Their dessert game was on point. Brownies and cookies and an ice cream buffet bar that would bring tears to both Ben and Jerry’s diabetic eyes. They had crumbled Butterfinger I could put on my soft serve Twist, man. Don’t tell me God doesn’t exist.
The game, for the most part, was spent infrequently clapping and frequently joking with Chuck about how Jimmy Rollins had a name that really belonged on either a candy bar or a cocktail menu. Rarely did I watch a full inning without making at least one trip down the stairs to the concession area to grab some goodies.
Separating the roof from the public concession area was a special VIP section. This was the, presumably, air conditioned area that housed the especially well off wristbanded folks that probably lived in the Gold Coast of Chicago and were one degree separated from Oprah and Gail and Stedman and all them. There was a raised area that extended out from the glass walls of the VIP spot that the money havers would come out onto to mingle with the commoners and hear the shouts and sights of an American Saturday.
Once, when going down to collect on my Twist + Butterfinger, I spot someone that looks a lot like Shane Battier. I stop dead in the stairs. I look closer. That is Shane Battier.
Why is Shane Battier here?
I’m a Thunder fan. At this point he’s something like thirty days removed from stabbing me in my basketball heart, repeatedly, with every calendar ignoring three-point make and I don’t really like the fact that he’s all smiley and happy and wolfing-down-a-hot-dog-y but I’d probably be living it up too if I was a newly minted champion. We’re in, or at least right outside, the friendly confines of Wrigley so let’s all be friends and enjoy ourselves, I think. No need to be a dick and say something. I walk and get my ice cream and head back up to the rooftop with a story to tell.
Now, it’s hot this day and I’ve been inhaling large amounts of water to stave off dehydration. With that comes many trips to the bathroom. ‘Round about my sixth water I head down the stairs once more to handle business and, as I get to the base of the stairs, my eyes rise up from the ground to meet, who else, Battier. He’s walking toward me, hot dog in hand, trolling the world. Smile bright like seven suns. He’s in a Cubs hat, a pair of camo cargo shorts, and a tuxedo t-shirt.
Yea. Shane “Senator” Battier was wearing camo cargo shorts and a tuxedo t-shirt. I know. I loved it, too. And, at the risk of revealing something terrifyingly personal, the thing about me is, I love camo cargo shorts and was wearing a pair that day. So, like, I gotta say something.
I walk up to him and he sees me coming and probably dies a little inside because he can tell I’m going to say something, but when you’re the Senator you smile and bring heat, handshake-wise. He takes my extended hand and shakes it.
“Nice shorts,” I say.
“I was about to tell you the same thing,” he says.
And I should have left it there. A nice, human exchange with a fellow human being who happens to play the sport I love. Then, like an idiot, I decide to say the dumbest, most self righteous thing I could’ve thought to say.
“Man, I hated you so much a month ago,” I say, “But I respect you.”
I respect you? Really? That’s what you come up with, brain?
Here’s the thing:
A. Nobody cares.
B. What does it matter to Shane Battier if I respect him? He’s Shane Battier. He’s won a National Championship, the Wooden Award, and is now an NBA Champion. What’s he care if some nobody in a Fort Gibson Tiger Basketball t-shirt and crusty, three year old Vans respects him?
C. I sound like some Bruckheimer produced sports movie villain. Like some spiked blonde haired dude named Todd or Spike or Troy who still wears a choker necklace and claims they listen to Lito but really, when you check the Top 10 Most Listened to songs on their iTunes Library, it’s six deep Mraz cuts, “Promise” by Ciara, Bette Midler’s “The Rose”, and two self produced tracks: one an original acoustic number titled “The Leaves Change In The Fall And So Do We (When We Fall)”, and one a cover of Santigold’s “Disparate Youth”, which is actually pretty awesome.
Enough with the digression, though. It’s just so dumb of me, saying that to him. I respect you? Come on, man. You get the ear of a professional athlete who plays the sport you love and that’s what you come up with. I respect you? What’s worse, I said it with so much weigh, you guys. Like, I said it like I was doing him a favor. Like I had the power to make his life better just by saying that.
He nods and tells me thanks and to enjoy the game and I stand there in the Wrigleyville heat wallowing in the awful self importance of that dumb statement. I walk up the stairs slowly and feel like setting myself on fire.
Tyler Parker is a contributor to Daily Thunder and a contributing editor to TrueHoop brother Ballerball. Follow him on Twitter here, natch.