The look in his eyes made it seem like it was Christmas morning. He had kind of that glazed over look you only see in a ten-year-old who got exactly what he'd asked for that Christmas, and then got the video game console on top of that.
As SCM reached across the dais and shook Desmond Howard's hand, I couldn't help but think of that scene out of a Christmas Story when Ralphie, with that same glazed over look, finally unwraps his Red Ryder carbine-action, two hundred shot Range Model air rifle with a compass in the stock and a thing which tells time. Throw on a set of round glasses and a crappy 50's haricut, and BOOM, cinema magic.
Standing at the end of the podium, I snapped a dozen photos of the moment. Capturing the moment as best I could for SCM's eventual framing of said moment, which I assume will occur over his fireplace or dining room table in short order, if it hasn't happened already. Walking away, SCM was staring down at the newly signed Heisman Pose special edition SI issue he'd gotten on the way in, smiling like he'd just robbed Vegas and gotten away with it. When he finally looked up, there was that look again. I was fairly confident it would take explosives (or at least a month) to remove the smile from SCM's face.
Like I should talk.
As you can imagine, we get a lot of emails at Maize n Brew asking to "partner" with different companies, link this or that, or to promote something or other. The majority of these emails either get a polite refusal or go directly into the trash bin, because they have nothing to do with Michigan sports or college football. Every now and then you get something special that warrants a mention, a fanpost, or a link on the site because for some reason or another they're germane to Michigan athletics, beer, or our own little interests.
Then there are the emails asking if you want to meet Desmond Howard. Those get framed.
Last Wednesday the good people with the Sports Illustrated Heisman Tour Presented by Nissan shot me an email asking just that. Being the cynical little bastard that I am I thought "what's the catch?", but as I read further I saw that there wasn't one. Which confused me further. Using copy and paste I put the big details up on a fanpost and told my wife, "So, Saturday.... You wanna meet Desmond Howard?"
Her response, predictably, was:
Sure. Will Herstreit be there too?
Damn you Herbstreit, what with your dashing good looks, knowledge of football, and composed demeanor. You are the scourge of every married man whose wife loves college football. Most people would claim that I get to ogle Erin Andrews every Saturday, but, I must say, she doesn't do it for me. So I, and the majority of men who watch Game Day with their spouses/girlfriends/chick-who-stayed-the-night-and-hasn't-left-yet, are left to watch the women in or lives stare intently at the Blonde Buckeye Bastard. But I digress.
No sweetheart. Herbie will not be there.
That's okay. At least I'll get to compliment Desmond on his suits.
Fair enough. It's at times like these that I must remind you, dear readers, that my wife is a Domer. Up until meeting me, she and her friends, reviled Michigan. The fact that she would think to compliment the man who has broken so many Irish hearts over the years is a sign that she loves me and that she is most definitely a bigger person than I am.
Returning to the story, I'm thinking to myself "I get to meet Desmond." Desmond is... well... Desmond. The man is a legend if you are a Michigan fan or a fan of college sports in general. He is responsible for the single most recognizable act in the history of the Heisman Trophy. The Pose is like Bobby Orr's leap, Babe Ruth calling his shot, Dr. J's windmill layup. It's iconic across any sport. Show, anyone, The Pose and they'll know exactly who it is. Desmond hasn't just reached icon status, he's transcended it.
Then it hit me. Crap. I'm "press" now. Does this mean I can't get something signed? I'm going to be inches from a legend and have nothing more than a story out of this? GODDAMMIT. STUPID BLOG! WHY DO YOU TAUNT ME SO!? Calming down, I realized there is always a way around these things. And the simplest was just to ask ahead of time if we could, in fact, get an autograph or two.
Thankfully, the wonderful people at the Sports Illustrated Heisman Tour Presented by Nissan were more than happy to oblige (Yes, I'm spelling the whole thing out, but if you'd just gotten to meet Desmond, wouldn't you?). After all, we're fans, just like everyone else. We get the occasional press pass for a Big Ten event, but I pay for my seats every year, I've never gone to a Michigan press conference, I've never been on the sidelines, and I've got a real day job. I, SCM, Beauford, RememberBo, Kyle, MagnusThunder all have other things going on in our lives. We do this because we're fans. And getting a Desmond autograph is at the top of all of our wish lists, blog or not.
So, Saturday, there we were. Just arrived in Ann Arbor from Chicago and Fort Wayne, and chomping at the bit for the game to begin and the rain to stop. As 2pm rolled around, I started getting a little nervous. It's Desmond. Will this happen? My wife, surprisingly, was a little nervous too. Even so we did our best to enjoy TS tailgate we were at and joke around with our friends before heading over to the Nissan tent. And when we arrived, there was Des.
If there's one thing you'll get from Desmond Howard, it's straight talk. Sitting on the dais, he answered all kinds of questions about Brady Hoke, Rich Rodriguez, Bill Martin, and Dave Brandon directly and apologetically. When asked about Rodriguez, Desmond said point blank that he wasn't in favor of the Rodriguez hire because he was a bad fit from the start. He also pointed out that just because he was a bad fit did not mean that Rodriguez was a bad coach or a bad guy. Des pointedly remarked that while Bill Martin was a brilliant businessman, he really didn't understand athletics, and because of that pursued the hottest name in coaching rather than the right one. Moving forward, he is thrilled with both Brandon and Hoke, and sees Michigan back on its way to prominence because the right people are in charge. And I couldn't agree with him more.
Then the time came, we got in touch with our contact and we were there snapping photos and chatting away. For someone who is as famous and public as Des is, he is remarkably easy going. He just seems like a happy, content dude. He's always smiling. He shakes hands at the drop of a hat. He'll pose for shots, even if he's not supposed to. He's just a good guy.
And that means something. Think about it, how many of your childhood heroes have disgraced themselves? How many athletes have embarrassed their fans or themselves with selfish behavior or dangerous mistakes. Des has never done that. He's always been above that fray. He's always conducted himself well. Dressed and acted the part. Been a Michigan Man. Again, that means something to me, and that's why I was so excited.
As we stood there, Des smiled, laughed and signed a football I'd brought along. SCM tried to capture a good photo of my wife and I smiling with him, but I'd like to think the excitement of the moment got the better of him. Or, simply, we were wet and nasty from the constant rain storm. Probably the latter. But there we were. With a legend.
Walking away after the fact it was hard for any of us to wipe the smiles off our faces. Even my wife's. We'd just met a legend, and had something to prove it. FWIW, that proof is currently sitting on my mantelpiece.
It was just like Christmas morning. Only better.
My thanks again to the Sports Illustrated Heisman Tour Presented By Nissan. You can check out all the tour stops online at www.si.com/heismantour. You can also fill out a Heisman Vote application on their Facebook page, where fans vote to determine how Nissan will cast its official Heisman ballot this season (*cough* Vote for Denard Robinson *cough*). That URL is: http://on.fb.me/qMHSWK!