One of the perks of fulfilling a famous person's wish to appear in the New York Times crossword is that you might get to meet that person. So it came to pass on Saturday, as I had the pleasure of meeting San Francisco Giants pitcher Brian Wilson before the game that afternoon.
Jeremy Horwitz, my partner in crime, and I met writer Jason Turbow outside AT&T Park that morning, proceeding into the building and getting our temporary media credentials. "The New York Times" was listed as our employer, which I suppose is sort of true. We navigated the catacombs that wind around in the bowels of a ballpark, ending up in the team clubhouse. Not seeing Wilson, we stopped by the dugout and the press room before returning to the clubhouse, where Wilson had appeared, playing dominoes with Pablo Sandoval and others. We waited, which Jason said was a big part of the sportswriter's job.
This place was as nice as you'd expect from a place where professional athletes are supposed to be made comfortable. TVs with crisp pictures hung on the supporting columns. Buckets of Blow Pops and Dubble Bubble lay on a table. To call each player's personal area of the room a "locker" is understating it; they were sort of closets without doors, complete with a small safe and a big inviting office chair bearing the interlocking S and F of the Giants' logo. I further regretted my complete lack of athletic ability in life.
We stood around and chatted, with Jason breaking off from time to time to collect quotes regarding the previous night's contentious events. We also took a detour into manager Bruce Bochy's office for his low-key pregame interview. I felt a little odd standing among the reporters, and I had visions of Bochy looking right at me and saying "Who the hell is this guy?" That didn't happen, though, and shortly our waiting in the clubhouse resumed.
When the play at the dominoes table had ended, Jason went over to Wilson to alert him to our presence, but the pitcher was on his way to the conditioning room, behind a door past which we never journeyed. We feared that he wouldn't emerge until after media members were forced from the clubhouse, but after a few minutes, he and that glorious beard strode towards us. We shook hands and proceeded to talk about the famous puzzle, crosswords in general, my solving speed (he hadn't yet watched Wordplay; hopefully he'll see it soon), and how he might appear in the puzzle in the future. It was a fun conversation; he was very easy to talk to.
Following that very cool experience, we got to watch the game from the press area. I was well aware of the "no cheering" edict in such places, but it was news to Jeremy; he and I managed to keep our Giants fanhood and Phillies hatred, respectively, in check. Following a quick, disappointing 2-1 Giants loss, we elected not to return to the somber home clubhouse, instead thanking Jason for his efforts (seriously, he's the man) and departing.
As for pictures... sorry. The rules regarding photos and autographs and stuff were pretty strict and I didn't want to step on any toes. If you like, watch that show on Showtime and mentally insert me into the clubhouse.
And if you're reading this, Brian Wilson, thanks for your time, great talking to you, and remember that we'd love to have you visit the Google campus in Mountain View!