We stopped at the store on Main Street in Windham, N.Y. yesterday afternoon. Didn’t have an actual reason—the store was just there. Really, that’s what establishments like the Mountain Top Dollar Plus thrive upon … wayward passers-by, blessed with free time and packed wallets after a day of skiing, mesmerized by the potential of hundreds of random items selling for a single dollar.
Not that everything here was, literally, $1. Some trinkets were $2. Some, even $2.50. “It depends on what we get shipped in,” said Mina, the silver-haired Greek émigré who has owned the shop for three years. “Prices vary along with the quality of the merchandise.”
Though demure and understated, Mina seemed proud of her goods, from the 50-cent coffee mugs that read, without explanation, SONS, to the random $1 patches to the plastic toy guns that shoot green ping-pong balls. She was particularly smitten by the ones stacked together in aisle three, neatly displayed near the front of the store. Here, arranged with no particular rhyme or reason, was the world’s strangest collection of sports bobble-head dolls.
Or, to be stated differently: As I sit writing this column, I am staring at my brand-new William Green Cleveland Browns bobble-head. The figurine cost me $2.99 and, according to its base, is No. 665 of 5,000 “Limited Edition Handcrafted Collectibles.” (No lie—I just removed Green from his plastic case and watched as his left arm fell off. One must wonder if the 4,999 others have experienced similar fates).
Although Green came home with me, it was hardly an easy choice. I could have selected the Stephen Davis Carolina Panthers bobble-head. Or the Matt Leinart Arizona Cardinals bobble-head. There was Mark Mulder with the St. Louis Cardinals, Bobby Carpenter with the Dallas Cowboys, Gary Payton with the Miami Heat, Byron Leftwich with the Jacksonville Jaguars. On and on the list goes—once-upon-a-time athletic bigwigs reduced to $2.99 trinkets on Mina’s shelf. “They come here,” the owner admitted, “when there’s nowhere else.”
I evoke my visit to Mountain Top Dollar Plus up not to dog Green (whose disappointing four-year NFL career was plagued by legal and personal problems) and his bargain-basement cohorts, but to offer the members of the NFL’s four remaining playoff teams an invaluable reminder: Seize the day.
No matter how great you think you are, no matter how many fans beg for your autograph, no matter how large the checks and how fine the groupies and how sweet the wine, the odds are strong that one day, not all that long from now, you too will find yourself in Mina’s shop, begging for someone to plunk down $2.99. Actually, scratch that—odds are you won’t find yourself here because, for every Mark Sanchez and Clay Matthews, Jr. and Devin Hester inspiring the world’s bobble-head creators, there are dozens of other Bears, Jets, Packers and Steelers who 99.9 percent of Americans have never heard of. Their football careers will come and go like the wind, brief life stops in between the bliss of college and the punishment of the real world.
So, seriously, cherish this. Embrace this. When you run into the stadiums at Chicago and Pittsburgh this coming weekend, smell the stale beer and feel the vibrations from the cheers and remember the cold winds snapping against your cheeks. The majority of former professional athletes I know cite this as one of their greatest regrets—being too young/naïve/unfocussed to enjoy the moment at hand. When your coaches insist that you pay no attention to the rival fans, well, to hell with that. Pay close attention. When your captain yells, “The only thing that matters is winning!” well, to hell with that, too. You’ve made it here, and anyone who says, “It’s all about the Super Bowl” doesn’t grasp the importance of a journey. Win or lose, this is your journey; your adventure; your life.
This weekend, the real William Green will likely be sitting before a TV inside his home in Absecon, N.J., watching the NFL playoffs with an indescribable emptiness. He will think back to what he had, and wish for one more glorious afternoon in the sun.
One day, you will, too.