It's confession time. This one's bad.
Back in the 80's I was working for the Falcons as an usher, a dream job where I got paid $35 to basically watch the game. This was before the Dome, in an arena we called the Fulton County Wind Tunnel because it was so poorly designed, it made Atlanta games cold.
Football was my religion back then and my favorite teams were Atlanta (hometown), Washington (team I learned to watch football with, when my dad was working in DC), and the Forty-Niners (they were nice to us when our high school band played during a Falcons halftime and the Falcons gave us seats behind the Niners' bench).
San Francisco was the current Super Bowl dynasty. Atlanta was whatever is the opposite of that. We still loved our Birds (and our crazy high draft picks) but the Niners were rock stars. And they were in our house today. I was fangirling before they let us in the gate.
I had to get there early, so I was standing in a crowd talking to some hardcore fans. They said they knew where to meet the players after the game. As they gave details, I began to realize I was about to quit my very cool job. I would use my crew pass to get in, then not show up for work. It was the next-to-last game of the season, so I'd had a good run as faithful employee. Time to be a hardcore fan.
Told you this one's bad.
We first met the Falcons. I remember meeting Scott Case and others, at some sort of tailgating thing where someone was grilling food and the rest of us were getting autographs. Then we met the Niners as they were exiting. Jerry Rice never stopped but he did sign my paper and he was smiling the whole time. Probably because they won.
That year, I got something in the mail from the stadium. When I worked there before, I'd gotten a Christmas card from the Braves because the stadium was actually theirs and they employed us. This year, I did not get a card. I got an offer to purchase Falcon tickets for next year.
Well played, management.
How far have you gone to meet an idol? Fess up.
It was my first time in the Georgia Dome. The Falcons had a meet and greet for fans with Falcons legends. You could walk on the astroturf and get autographs. My friend and I saw an old-timer, a player we really admired, so we waited patiently as another fan talked with him.
We were both a bit nervous, so we just said hi and handed over our autograph books.
He let out a sigh and in a tired voice said, "Do you even know who I am?"
"Yes! You're (name withheld to protect the jaded)! I've been a fan for years." My friend offered further confirmation to this weary soul.
He consented and signed, but that exchange left a mark. Here's someone who was a household name to us, but he knew his star was already fading. He knew his fame was more about the jersey and how he performed in it, than about the guy whose name was stitched on the back.
It is a hard thing to be known for what you do.
Have you met any jaded stars?
My second fandom was the 70's New Mickey Mouse Club and Lisa Whelchel was my favorite Mouseketeer.
Years later when I became a Christian, I ran across her first book and was thrilled to learn she was a believer, too, even when she was on the show at age 12.
Eventually she wrote a memoir and I met her on that book tour. I'd met some famous people before, but nothing prepared me for meeting Lisa for the first time.
I was in line at the bookstore signing and could hear her voice across the room. Tears welled and I started shaking. Mind you, I was a grown woman, with a faith and a calling and a full realization that this was a normal woman with a family and a life. But it was Lisa.
This was the kid whose talent had given me hope as a middle schooler, when our newly blended family had moved to another town. There was a peace about Lisa that I wanted. She was a calming presence. And the show inspired me to go into junior high theater, where I got to act, direct, and even write.
Now I was in full-time ministry and so was she, and it was all just too much. I gathered myself enough to have a normal conversation with her at the signing table. We took a picture and she signed my book, and I showed her a keychain I had with the 70's Mouseketeer ears on them. I'd gotten it while at Disneyland, when my high school band was in California to perform in the Rose Bowl Parade. It was a prized possession, and quite rare.
Lisa said she'd never seen one like it and spent time looking it over and feeling the details.
"You can have it!" I gushed. I wanted to connect, and in some way give back to her for the creative world she'd opened up to me. I gave her the keychain and a book I'd made for her (geek) and said my goodbyes. I got to my car before bursting into tears.
After that profound life moment, and a couple more book signings, I got to volunteer twice for Lisa's Momtime ministry, where I spent time behind the scenes working with the whole family. By this time I knew them all from her blog. I was watching her kids grow up like I'd watched her grow up. And I loved how Lisa interacted with her kids. Now I wasn't fangirling. I was just meeting her family and hoping to bless them.
I'm deeply thankful for that season because Lisa is no longer writing or hosting retreats, and I will likely not meet her again. So I just follow her entire family on Instagram.
That's normal, right?