Thursday, August 13, 2009

I have no good memories of Rick Pitino

When I was in middle school, I collected sports cards. Every red cent I could get my hands on went straight to buying packs of cards. I would never buy them individually from the display cases – that was no fun. I had this grand investment scheme wherein I would hoard massive amounts of cards and one day, some years down the road, would part with my collection when it had no more sentimental value to me. Unless this industry makes a serious comeback, I think I am out of money. I wonder if I can get a bailout for that? Maybe call it the “Cash for Cards” program. I mean, Shaquille O’Neal rookie cards have held their value about as well as Joe SixPack’s 1992 Dodge Dakota. It’s simple economics, really. Or something.

As I started growing older (not really “growing up” because that’s not any fun), my interest in accruing a greater number of cards dwindled in comparison to having more valuable ones. And one way to increase the value of cards was to get them autographed. I often envied and still do, to a certain degree, my cousin Ryan who has a rather impressive autograph collection for sports memorabilia. I started at the beginning… writing letters to players with addresses that I found in the back of my sports card pricing magazines. I’d usually throw in a card or two asking for their autograph and telling them about a play that particularly stuck out in my mind that I enjoyed having seen. Check out the fuckin’ sentence construction on that! Many players were happy to oblige.

My favorite memory of getting any correspondence back from a player was from a little known National League pitcher from the 80’s named Dave Dravecky. He wrote a really great book called Comeback about his battle with cancer that I read when I was in seventh grade… Probably while I was listening to Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch’s “Good Vibrations”. This is where I am going to put a picture of Marky Wahlberg in his underpants because chicks like that sort of thing. I wrote him (Dave, not Mark) a letter informing him that I didn’t have any recollection of his playing days in the mid-to-late 80’s and I didn’t have any cards of his to ask for an autograph on but that I really enjoyed his book. Long story short (because I know that few of you come here for touching stories and rather for the snark. Don’t worry… I’ll get there eventually.), he got cancer, had a much ballyhooed and incredibly heartbreaking comeback, and eventually had his left (pitching) arm amputated. Several weeks after sending him a letter, I received a letter back from The Outreach of Hope Foundation. This was particularly exciting for me because being all of twelve or so I was pretty stoked when I got mail of any kind but especially it appeared as though I had received junk mail. I was growing older and I liked it. Similar to that Katy Perry song about kissing a girl and liking it. How’s that for referencing things that were awesome a year ago. Get in line, advertisers willing to give me your money! See the snark? ‘Cause there it is!

I opened this piece of mail that I got and much to my surprise and elation, I received a very nice typed letter from Mr. Dravecky thanking me for my letter. It was quite personalized and even signed! Hot damn! As I continued to read the letter, and search through this rather large envelope, I discovered that Dave had taken the time to dig up some of his old baseball cards and autograph them for me. It was an incredibly nice gesture from an incredibly nice man. I’ve still got those to this day. Maybe sentimentality is harder to kill than I thought it would be.

One of the many sports figures that I sent letters to was Rick Pitino. I remember that distinctly because I sent autograph requests to just two coaches: Rick Pitino and Chuck Daly. I never did hear back from either one of them. Chuck got a pass because he was busy coaching against the dreaded Michael Jordan and had led my beloved Detroit Pistons to back-to-back titles and was out winning Olympic gold medals with the 1992 Dream Team. In all honesty, I think I could have coached that team to gold:

  • Computer Blue!

  • You guys want some Pancakes?

  • Game… Blouses.

And so on… I was a prodigy.

Rick Pitino, however, had no excuse. This was right after his shitty pro coaching stint in New York and just before Kentucky started to get good at hoops again. For some reason, I had always appreciated his coaching style. Maybe it’s because his Knicks could never figure out a way to beat my Pistons in the playoffs. Subconsciously, I bet that had something do with it.

If you follow sports, I’m betting that you’ve probably heard about the current maelstrom surrounding Pitino. I know that Wikipedia is not a credible source but I just wanted to give you the quick and easy version… Just like Pitino would have wanted it!

What? Too soon? Too mean? Balderdash!

I’m not here [today] to drag his name through the mud. He’s doing just fine digging his own grave. I'm doing just fine throing out as many metaphors as I possibly can. I’m here today to tell you about my experiences with sports celebrities. That’s an ugly, awful word: celebrities. But, one of the first memories I have of Pitino was a bad one… Nearly twenty years later, I still have the same impression and now I’m kinda glad I don’t have his autograph.

I wish there were more Dave Draveckys in this world and fewer Rick Pitinos. I’m pretty na├»ve, still… I guess that comes with not growing up.

1 comment:

  1. I met Dave Dravecky about a year after his book came out. I, too, had read and was inspired by his book and he took the time to speak to and visit with everyone who came to see him.


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