This morning—about an hour ago—I was blown off by a professional athlete.
Well, maybe not blown off. We were scheduled to meet in the city. I got a text—he can’t come. I’d already spent $14 on a train ticket, had been walking to the spot. But, and this is important, I’m not mad. He texted me 1 1/2 hours before our scheduled time, had a fair reason, whatever, whatever. No biggie. I’m eating a scone, happy.
That said, I haven’t been blown off in a long time. Back when I was a young writer for Sports Illustrated, covering Major League Baseball, it would happen all the time. Some of it was about scheduling, but most was a combination of ego and societal indifference. These guys were pampered millionaires. I was a geeky guy in a bad hat. If someone decided, last minute, he didn’t want to talk, well, he just wouldn’t show up. Period.
The worst offender, from my career, was Delino DeShields, which is sorta funny—because I genuinely liked the guy. We both had Delaware ties, he was v-e-r-y intelligent, had many interests outside of baseball. In short, he was my type of guy.
Well, for many moons I’d been pitching a DeShields piece to my editors, and they finally bit. So I flew to Arlington, where Delino’s Orioles were playing the Rangers, and arranged a meeting time in the lobby of the team hotel. I arrived early, tape recorder by my side, new batteries installed. I had much I wanted to discuss—and he never showed. He told me he forgot, so we re-scheduled for the following day. Again—failed to show.
When, the following afternoon, I approached in the clubhouse to ask why, his excuse was something along the lines of, “Yeah, I thought about it. And … no.”
Don’t worry that I just wasted three days of my life—three days I’ll never have back. Don’t worry that the magazine paid for my flight, my hotel, my meals. You just decided … no. So, hey.
Here’s the funny thing: I was young and somewhat intimidated, and I meekly nodded, as if it were all OK. Were that to happen now, I’d say something along the lines of, “Just to be clear—are you fucking kidding me?”
Alas, I was a kid.
I flew home, sans article.