I Saw Ladanian Tomlinson in a Starbucks and Acted So Cool that I Didn’t Get this Picture
I had taken to really accentuating my first name at Starbucks since I was getting tired of getting my cups back with “Rick” or “Jack” scrawled on them. It seemed to work.
A Familiar Drawl
I walked up to that little rounded waiting area where Barista’s place the drinks, yelling names and coffee orders and where people steal each others drinks. It was then that I heard a familiar voice ordering a Grande Mocha.
I knew that voice instantly. It was a soft spoken Southern Texas accent. I had heard that voice many times before. I turned around and could not believe my eyes. It was Ladanian Tomlinson. Right before my eyes. There he was.
If you have never heard of “LT” before than you are neither a Football Fan nor a San Diegan. LT, the all-time leading rusher for the San Diego Chargers holds no fewer than 59 separate NFL records. He is simply the most amazing rusher of all time.
The Deep Freeze Up
My heart raced to 140 beats per minute. “Calm Down Frank”, I said to myself. I focused on slowing my breathing down and even held my breath a bit. Ok now I was dizzy. Hold on give me a minute.
“Get your act together LOSER”, I screamed again to myself as I fumbled with my phone trying to appear disinterested and distracted. My mind was racing. This was my big chance to meet my hero.
There he was, just me and him in Starbucks. No distractions. No one else. Just me and the guy that I had watched every Sunday for 9 years when he was a Charger. I might as well have been in Starbucks with Jesus.
It was hopeless I was frozen up. I couldn’t talk, let alone think of something interesting or heartfelt to say to him.
1,000 Scenarios in my Mind
Suddenly, LT was literally standing inches from me waiting for his coffee. I fumbled with my phone rapidly reading and writing fake emails. Maybe he would think I was a busy important person and say something engaging to me. I was acting so much like a non-fan that it must have blown him away, intrigued him in a way he had never seen before.
I glanced his way quickly and nonchalantly as I could but realized it must have looked as if I had torret syndrome since I jerked back violently. I could not even squeak out a feeble “Hello sir..”
I quickly raced to things I could say to him. I had a thousand scenarios – my best of LT moments that I could draw from. I had to use one of them.
The Sunday after the Fires
“LT, you brought San Diego up when it needed it most” That is what I was going to say. I thought back to that Sunday that Pete, Irish and Charlie sat up in Qualcomm and watched LT race on the field with the American Flag.
The city was decimated by wild fires that destroyed thousands of homes. When LT raced on the field with the flag, the crowd erupted. We were San Diego, and that was OUR LT. Damn what a moment.
One of the All Time Greatest Moment in San Diego History
Killing the Donkeys
Or maybe, I would tell him, “Sir I want to Thank you for letting us witness your greatness”. I would be shamelessly stealing that line from Hank Bauer (Former Charger and Current Announcer) but it would work perfectly.
I remember when LT set the NFL record. We were there and it was another one of the finest moments of my life.
Getting Traded by A-Hole or Working with Norv
“AJ Smith is an A-Hole”, I would say and lead into a tirade about how AJ Smith traded him away to the Jets. Or how Norv Turner, lost the locker room and confidence and put an end to the LT – Era in San Diego.
Nothing pissed me off more than when they released LT from the Chargers.
That dumb ass look Norv would give literally all the time
They didn’t even say his name. The barista yelled, “Grande Mocha” and LT clutched the suit he was carrying in one arm and grabbed his mocha with the other. Time had run out.
LT was walking away and I had missed my chance. I watched him walk away and wondered to myself if he appreciated my coolness. How I didn’t treat him like a celebrity. How I didn’t gush over him. Maybe he walked away thinking, “Man that guy was cool I wish everyone would be cool like him”
A bobble-headed me and LT. I cannot believe how much taller, how much more gallant I am here than him.
The Ultimate Choke
Maybe I never got that picture with LT. Well damn, I spent 4 minutes with the guy alone in Starbucks and didn’t even utter a peep. I was so busy trying to be cool, that I ended up with nothing. It was the ultimate choke.
Well, maybe that isn’t exactly true. I did end up with a great memory and a great story – How I didn’t meet my hero and I did nothing.
But more than that, I got a chance to re-live some of the greatest moments of my life – those times on those Sundays when I watched LT – my heart racing when I would watch him gallup down the sideline into the end zone.
Now 5 years later he was still making my heart race, even if he was just ordering a Grande Mocha in Starbucks.
“Well, I guess something just never change”, I thought to myself as I looked down at my Starbucks cup. The Barista had scrawled “Rick” on it.