The anchorman said to stay tuned for a story about a special young man who received a big surprise today when he met his favorite football player.
And when I heard that, I said to myself, “Oh shit! Cripple paparazzi ambush!”
The kid looked to be about age 12 or so. He didn’t look crippled but the reporter said he was dealing with some kind of quirky malady. There the kid was, going to the children’s hospital for what he thought was a medical appointment. But when he got there the place was crawling with reporters and TV cameras. And when the poor kid realized what was going on, he stood there with a twisted grin on his face like he walked into a surprise party with his fly wide open or like he got caught picking his nose on the jumbotron.
And I knew exactly how he felt. Most every crippled kid gets ambushed like this at some point. I still have nightmares about it-- business execs standing beside me holding a gigantic cardboard check while we all smile for the flashing cameras. I’m grinning that same grin.
And then someone asked the kid who his favorite football player was. And the kid said who his favorite football player was. And then someone asked if he’d like to meet his favorite football player. And the kid shrugged and said sure. And as the kid and his family were escorted to a bus, he was followed by a parade of reporters like he was some sort of Kardashian or something.
And the bus took everybody to the football stadium, where the kid met his favorite football player. And the football player gave the kid a jersey. And the afternoon surprise played out exactly according to plan, just in time for the evening news.
But I knew what that kid was thinking when I first saw that grin. He was thinking, “Oh my God! Where’s the nearest fire escape?” But then he felt the pressure. He saw the faces of the reporters and their crews, so full of hope and expectation. He couldn’t let them down, not to mention all their viewers. He couldn’t send them home without a story. So he marched ahead.
And when someone asked him if he wanted to meet his favorite football player, I knew what he was thinking then, too. He was thinking, “What if I say no?” The temptation to do so and thus pull the plug everything was probably delicious. But again he felt the pressure. A lot of people were counting on him to see this through, including his favorite football player. If he didn’t react according to plan, he’d ruin it for everybody. To not consent would be like leaving them with blue balls.
So he marched ahead.
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