Spending a few hours enjoying a rare, nationally televised afternoon Twins game or having a brief encounter with a former Packer in a local grocery store. Normally, when faced with such a choice, this Viking fan would be on the couch, remote in hand before you could say "Packerena". As it was, however, I found myself rushing to Copps Food Center on Thursday morning in hopes of attending LeRoy Butler's book signing. Not only were the Twins playing a less than enjoyable brand of baseball of late, but I also sensed that the literary event would offer ample material for an article. And who better to document the action than Page 3's most grunge writer? Also, as many of you know, LeRoy is Sarah's favorite Packer, and when an opportunity like this arises, at least one of her fellow Page 3 staffers should be there to share in the fun.
As it turns out, we didn't need to be there a full 3 hours before the scheduled time of the signing. Looking back on it, I wonder whether a LeRoy Butler bobblehead would've commanded a longer wait than the prospect of meeting the actual person. Regardless, Jeremy, Sarah, and I decided to grab a bite at Jimmy John's before Jeremy departed for work.
Back at Copps with about two hours until Butler's scheduled appearance, Sarah and I sat in her car, listening to the Twins and reading LeRoy's book. I have to say I enjoyed his book quite a bit. It turns out LeRoy is a bit of a real life Forrest Gump, wearing braces on his legs as a child and going on to athletic success. Also interesting was Butler's retelling of his childhood experiences. He grew up in poverty in Jacksonville Florida, raised by a single mother. Though this is sadly not an uncommon tale these days, it is nonetheless still quite interesting and thought provoking. Perhaps the highlight of the book for me however, was seeing a mention of my friend's dad and a mention of a church that a few of my friends attend. It's not a huge deal, but cool regardless.
At about 1:30 (an hour before the scheduled start of the book signing) Sarah and I went into the store and received our numbers which represented our spots in line. For the record, the Copps people told us they would begin handing out numbers at 2:00. We received numbers 40 and 41.
I was now one step closer to my "interview" with LeRoy. I knew I wouldn't have much time - probably just enough for one question. Knowing this, I'd put a fair amount of thought into what I would ask. I wanted to avoid any clichés, of course, as well as any behavior that would make me come off as some sort of novelty act (the kind you see during media day before the Super Bowl). So that ruled out questions like "Do you miss playing?" as well as questions such as "Do you like root beer?" I wanted something of substance. I wanted to deliver something to the readers of Page 3 that would be worth reading. So, after learning he was an alum of Florida State, I figured I'd use that as an angle. I considered asking him about Bobby Bowden, the possibility of coaching, even Deion (though I really didn't think that would be a great question). Ultimately I figured the best question would be to ask him how he felt about Miami moving to the ACC. The question may be a little obscure and not real "edgy", but it's a current issue on which he would probably have some good perspective. Also, I was simply interested to hear what he had to say.
Along with our books and our personal interaction with LeRoy, Sarah and I figured we'd get a few souvenirs in the form of some photographs of the event. For this task, we had Page 3's official digital camera (also known as Jeremy's camera).
Just before our time with LeRoy was upon us, I took hold of the camera in order to snap a few pictures of our surroundings and ultimately to get a picture of Sarah and LeRoy. As we were at the front of the line, I took a picture of LeRoy signing some books and noticed that I could probably get a better shot if I zoomed in. Sarah was up within a few seconds so I hit the zoom a couple times, looked through the standard, non-digital, viewfinder and took the picture of Sarah and LeRoy. I realized almost immediately that the zoom hadn't changed the view from the viewfinder and I probably messed up the picture. You can take a look at the finished product on the left [Editor's note: pictures now appear on the right side of the page]. Sarah is the one on the faaaaar right and LeRoy's head is on the faaaaaaar left. Sorry Sarah.
Well at this point it's my turn to go. I've just taken a bad picture of Sarah and her favorite athlete, I'm holding a camera and a book and suddenly everything unfolds in about a second. We waited all day for this and when the moment finally arrived, I handed over my book, LeRoy acknowledged me with something like, "how ya doing?" (he may or may not have made eye contact, I don't remember), I responded by mumbling something like "hi...good," and in the blink of an eye my book and I were handed over to Butler's co-author.
No interview. No photo op. No celebrity endorsement of Page 3. Just a sheepish "hi...good." Our exchange would probably qualify as meaningful and exciting if he and I were in sixth grade, of the opposite sex, and late for homeroom, but as it is, this was hardly the interview I had hoped for.
I guess I was just expecting LeRoy to be a bit more engaging. The way it all went down, I felt like I would be bothering him by speaking to him any further. The fact is, though, I really can't be that disappointed. We were at a book signing, and I got my book signed. LeRoy Butler really didn't owe me anything beyond that. Whatever else I expected aside from that was simply my own expectation.
We capped off our time at Copps with a few more pictures and a bit of loitering. I tried to make up for my photographic mishap by getting a picture of Sarah with LeRoy in the background. Not exactly the picture she had hoped for, but looking back on the day, it is, in some ways, kind of fitting.
Click here for a transcript of Jon's interview. (Word Doc)
The nervous stomachaches started 2 days before. I was meeting my man on July 24th at a grocery store. This would be better than meeting "President" Bush. I ran through my mind what I was going to say. I definitely wanted to say that he was my all time favorite Packer. Which got me to thinking about who are my favorite Packers, and these came to me right off the top of my head: Butler, Henderson, Franks, KGB, and Brown, and in that order. In case you didn't notice, I am missing one extremely important person. A well known man by the name of Brett Favre. If my list was about the best Packers or most important Packers, then obviously Favre would top those lists. I have much respect and a deep appreciation for the guy. In fact when they get a DVD together of all the awe inspiring plays he's had, believe me I will be first in line. But this article isn't about Favre, it's about DA man, LeRoy Butler. So anyway, I was hoping we could have a nice short conversation and I would get his autograph.
I wanted to be there by 11:30 because the signing of his book was at 2:30 and I am just made to wait in lines, as evidenced by my days of bobbledheading it.
Since Jon and I are the true most beloved writers of Page 3 we were assigned the task of covering this assignment. Many other media agents would be there, but we were hoping for an exclusive interview. Jon was to be my accomplice today, but Jeremy showed up for a bit before he had to go to work. We found out they were not letting people line up and would be giving out numbers at 2:00. It was slightly disappointing to hear that because waiting in line is half the fun. With nothing to do but wait someplace other than where we wanted to be we headed to Jimmy John's. After a delicious Slim #2 with mayo all I could do was wait. And wait I did. In my air conditioned car, reading my brand new book, The LeRoy Butler Story From Wheelchair to The Lambeau Leap. He grew up in the worst projects of Jacksonville and was determined to stay away from drugs and violence. He prevailed by getting into sports and that in turn led to a free ride to college which then led to getting picked in the draft by the Green Bay Packers. The story is truly inspirational. If everyone who grew up in a place where Butler did and turned out the way he did, I think we could have world peace. I even had tears when he rehashed his account of his retirement. He's just a great guy who's willing to give money to foundations and is willing to give autographs to anyone because he feels he needs to give back to his fans.
All this time I kept watching the parking lot to see when we should go inside. At 1:30 I saw cars starting to come at a high rate and decided we had to act now. With books in hand we headed in where we picked up our numbers. (not 2:00!!) Jon got 40 and I then got 41. Since they were giving out 600 numbers, we did pretty well. Having to wait in line for an hour was nothing. We figured since there were two of us we'd get twice as much face time with him. A girl who had number 38 came to the line and said she had just gotten out of her car and who was right next to her but Butler! "You're so lucky," I said breathlessly.
And then he was there.
We rounded the corner and then Jon let me graciously go in front of him. I managed to squeak out a Hi, but he didn't respond. I turned for a picture that Jon took which ended up being a crap-shot and then it was over. No conversation, barely even eye contact. Jon got a "what's up" from him. That I have to admit is slightly disappointing. We stood around and took some pictures. (Pictures that actually turned out.) I was at work by 3:05.
On a side note, I saw a kid wearing a Chmura jersey and I was saddened by the whole thing. I was a huge Chmura fan but I really don't think people should be wearing the jersey of a guy who likes partying and having sex with 17 year olds. But, maybe that's just entirely me.
Even though I repelled him from talking to me, I still can't believe that I met LeRoy Butler. When I got to work I was practically jumping up and down because of the adrenaline that was still in me. It was a great moment and I hope he shows up on the Packer sideline this season. When he's just on a screen well then I can talk to him all that I want to.
-Jon and Sarah are Page 3's literary authorities.
Our Butler Encounter
|Sarah - So's your face|
I can't believe no one's commented on this article! I'm bumping it up after reading a Bill Simmons' mailbag:
"Q: I was wondering if there is an official, or unofficial for that matter, set of rules for what to do when a random person meets a sports star, musician, actor, etc. For instance I was recently returning from an NHL game (go Devils!) and stopped at an interstate rest stop. It was myself and one other person in the whole bathroom -- I look up and it's Barry Melrose, who lives in upstate New York. I have never met Barry -- but as a diehard hockey fan I absolutely love the guy and his passion for the game as well as his own personal flair. I locked up and didn't say a thing even though we stood in a bathroom washing hands next to each other -- as the moment was happening I thought, "The Sports Guy should have some rules on what to do" so the random fans don't screw up these chances. This question seems perfect for you so … yah got any ideas?
-- Peter Applebee, Albany, N.Y.
SG: You should have waited until you were out of the restroom, then pounced on him. There is no steadfast rulebook for celebrity interactions; it totally depends on the situation and the location. The only real rule is to keep them as short as possible. In the past 12 months, I met two celebrities that I had always wanted to meet (Lorne Michaels and Larry Bird). And each time, I executed the same game plan fairly successfully:
5. If you try to get to second base (posing for a picture with them), just make sure someone takes it who knows how your camera works. You don't want a Larry Bird photo where he's smiling grimly because you just made him stand there for 53 seconds as your Aunt Marge repeatedly tried to take an iPhone picture but kept taping video instead. That's also an incredibly long time to stand there with your arm around a stranger's back. It could undermine the whole exchange. So be prepared."
You also don't want to wind up with a pic of half of your head and a bit of a random arm that you'll have to try to convince to other people is LeRoy Butler's.
|Matt - Ombudsman|
I read the mailbag and also thought of this moment.
Good news for Jon though, he has now been vindicated by none other than Bill Simmons. Sorry Sarah.
|Sarah - 4091 Posts|
|So I should've asked for credentials? I thought all NutCan Staffers had to have a way with words and a camera... we are a media juggernaut after all.|
|Matt - Washington Bureau Chief|
|Looking at the picture on the main page, it seems we need to get Mr. Butler a new hat.|
|Jon - Nutcan.com's kitten expert|
Matt Wrote - Today @ 10:22:08 AM
Looking at the picture on the main page, it seems we need to get Mr. Butler a new hat.
We do need to send him a new hat, but we can't go changing history. He obviously wore a Page 3 hat when that picture was taken.
Though if we could change history, maybe I'd take a better picture for Sarah.
|Jeremy - Broadcast in stunning 1080i|
|The doc file of Jon's interview transcript with 2 lines in it seems to have gone missing over the years, but really I think it's almost funnier as a 404 error meta joke.|