Wednesday, May 19, 2010

I saw Drew Brees last night...

...but most importantly, he saw me.

Near the end of his speech, he talked about how great New Orleans fans were, and I and the Saints fan next to me cheered and held up autographed replica helmets that the guy had brought. “I see some of the Who Dat Nation is in the house!” Drew said, gesturing at us. Drew them pointed at me, smiled and said, "You can't escape them." Big laugh.

Drew was the featured speaker at the 14th annual Boys & Girls Clubs Steak and Steak Dinner in Springfield. Past speakers include Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Bob Gibson, Bob Knight, Dick Vitale and Roy Williams. They get big names each year. The emcee said he wondered how to top them, and also noted that recent speakers had won championships the following year. He then wondered aloud who’d be lucky enough to speak next year. Drew would later suggest he make a repeat appearance.

I sat at one of the assigned individual tables, grouped with others who had bought tickets on their own as opposed to through their companies. The table was on the third row, all the way to the left. Not the best perspective, but there really were no bad seats. I was first at my table, staking out the best vantage chair. I then got up to spit out my gum in a nearby trash can and ran right back. In that time, a woman arrived and commandeered my chair and three others. I was nice enough about it, as was she, but it was clear she expected me to move all of my stuff. And how do YOU do?

That did, however, set me up to sit next to a guy wearing a cool Saints tie who came armed with a full-sized replica Saints helmet and two smaller ones. The two autographed helmets featured signatures by current players including Pierre Thomas, Courtney Roby, Bobby McCray, Troy Evans and past players such as Aaron Brooks (“Probably lowers the value, but I’m never selling it.”) He told me he was a New Orleans-area native who grew up in Springfield and is now based in Joplin. Like me, he works as an editor. Small, awesome world. He, his father and I had a great time swapping Saints (and Vikings) stories.

Prior to Drew’s turn on stage, we watched videos and heard from some of the kids who benefited from the Clubs. One young girl presented to Drew a gift for “Baylen and the mystery baby.” Awwww.

Following that was a live auction, where everything went for ridiculous prices. The auctioneer scanned the audience so thoroughly that several people scratching their heads nearly placed $2,000 bids. I had to be extra-vigilant, especially after the man sitting directly in front of me won a trip to see The Tonight Show with a $1,900 bid (on purpose). “You are the sexiest man in the room right now,” the auctioneer said, I presume to him.

But donors saved the big bucks for the Brees swag, which included two autographed footballs, pictures, hugs and more. A framed Brees jersey - one that Drew himself signed personally for the winner and, as my new friend pointed out, seemed to have upside-down E’s - fetched $4,200.

Drew issued his footballs, hugs and John Hancocks, then took the stage to thunderous applause. He said it was his first time in Springfield, except when he'd drive through from Lafayette to Kansas City. Hey, we have that in common!

He spoke of the need for the Boys & Girls Clubs and, getting personal, talked about the parallel redemptions of New Orleans and himself following Hurricane Katrina and his 2005 injury. No Saints fan is unfamiliar with the story, though it never ages one minute through repeated tellings.

He mentioned how former Mizzou quarterback Chase Daniel was developing strongly as his backup, and that he hopes he can carry on the winning tradition. “But not too soon,” I said to myself.

Drew assured Springfieldians it was OK for them to be Saints fans, and that they could rationalize it conference-wise. “The Chiefs can be your AFC team!”

Drew talked about his son Baylen, and how the best moment of his life was holding him up after the Super Bowl win. He said he looks forward to telling Baylen about that moment, and that “when he’s in first grade, he’ll be waving the Sports Illustrated cover around, like, ‘Yeah yeah. Anybody else?’ I’m gonna have to figure out a way to humble him.”

He also mentioned Coach Sean Payton’s love for Juicy Fruit, and how at the absolute climax of the Super Bowl, Payton wanted a piece. Of course, that exchange is preserved for all time in the NFL Films Super Bowl XLIV segment.

Following the speech, Drew took questions. I was not at all prepared for this, and my new friend and I joked that our questions would resemble those heard on The Chris Farley Show. “Remember...remember when you won the Super Bowl? That...was awesome!”

Nevertheless, my friend shouted the first question: “What is your favorite restaurant in New Orleans?” Drew said he loved the oysters at a restaurant whose name escapes me (crap!), but which brought a huge cheer. I’m sure I’d remember it if you guys named it.

Somebody else asked him about Treme, for some reason.

In response to another question, Drew said just the communication on his helmet mike alone would make for a hilarious and successful TV series.

Afterward, Drew received a standing ovation and hung around for a few minutes. We crept closer to the stage. While we talked to a woman from Baton Rouge dressed in a form-fitting, black-and-gold sequined dress, Drew and his phalanx of suits swept right past us. I didn’t realize this until I noticed the woman had suddenly forgotten we existed. Drew was hustled out the door as if the sight of us Saints fans had freaked him out. Not that I blame him.

“He’s been whisked around all day,” the woman told us.

On my way out, I discovered I hadn’t won the silent auction in which I had bid $50 for an autographed Super Bowl XLIV program (though I had been the highest bidder for as long as I’d kept track). I waited in line for quite a while before glimpsing the bid sheet of the guy behind me, who had a much higher price on that item. Nuts. I’m just grateful that Brees is better at winning championships than I am at winning auctions for things I really, really want.

Anything for the children.

And because some of you asked, here’s a picture of me dressed up for the event. It doesn’t happen often, so savor it. Who Dat!


venessalewis said...

Nice recap....I especially like the story about Braylen's future bragging rights. He sounds like a genuinely nice guy, unlike Emmitt Smith who I almost but didn't get to meet. Hey was the keynote speaker for a big conference in San Antonio a few years back. I was among a handful of people who were getting an award at the ceremony, so we were backstage with him. (Knowing this, Brent strategically placed a copy of the Dallas newspaper with one of the Superbowl win headlines in my bag for him to sign.) So, rather than savoring my moment, I was completely consumed with trying to get hi autograph because I knew how happy it would make hubby. Now, you'd think that since he was giving a motivational speech about achievement, yada yada, he could have the courtesy to walk over and say a few words to us. Nope. Very standoffish. Afterwards I tried to approach him and was sternly brushed off by his handlers. Been soured on him since. Pfft! I guess those people are just so over all the fan adoration, which is hard for us pee-ons to understand. Anyway....sounds like you had a great time though...and your new pic looks great! :)

Ian McGibboney said...

Venessa, this has been my experience with some celebrities as well. I think a lot of it comes down to the nature of the event. I attended a Saints signing at my local mall in 2003, and you could walk up to any of the guys you wanted, including the coach. I actually got to talk to Jim Haslett for a minute or so and take a picture. With some the other, lesser-known guys, they just hang out.

Charity events are a little different. People pay wads of money to be there and there's a definite hierarchy to the privileges. I left that stuff out of my post, but there was a lot of that last night. I got there too early and almost got into the reception, which required another $150 ticket on top of the $150 ticket I had (Funny thing is, the guy at the door almost let me in anyway, but another group of four alongside made him rethink that - guess he wanted to be fair). You can tell who paid more based on where they sit, etc. I knew I had virtually no chance of meeting him, but you have to give it a shot.

(I wish there was a way to proportionalize the giving. I paid $150, which was like donating bone marrow for me, but the millionaires who donated $4,000 and will take the tax deduction really see the perks. I don't know. I guess it can't be any other way.)

It's sometimes written in their contracts to not sign certain items or to interact under certain circumstances (as in, you're a peon). Pretty crummy on our end, but it's often a corporate thing, and sometimes the stars have to be standoffish as a result. Not saying it didn't come naturally to Smith, because it probably did. But I can see how those rules would aggravate that.

Part of it is simply the trappings of celebrity. What is amazing to you (us) is something they see every day.

venessalewis said...

I suppose you are right.'s a bitch. I see Jeremy Shockey is doing a signing in Mandeville this week. Maybe I can hit that know what I mean.

Ian McGibboney said...

I know exactly what you mean.

NOLA Progressive said...

Shockey is an easy sign if you're a lady...Not so much for the dudes. He can be a bit standoffish as well. Brees is well, he's just awesome! No getting around it. He signed all kinds of stuff for my friends and I. Jerseys, footballs, etc... Sounds like a really nice even you all had there in Springfield too.

I just got my season ticket invoice last week, and I'm already chomping at the bit to get back to the Dome Sweet Dome.

Stephanie Bemrose said...

Why would anyone drive through Springfield to go from Lafayette to K.C.?! Really?! Highway 71 is a perfectly great way to travel up north. :)

I'm glad you had a great time. It's too bad you didn't get to see Erin. She was the only one there, no other photographers. She took her own camera in case no photographers could attend.

Did you connect with the editor, permanently, though? You should have networked by exchanging information. You never know when you might connect in a random encounter and have it lead to your next, wonderful job prospect. "I'm just sayin."