Meeting a Childhood Icon

You get to a certain point in your life when you’ve lived in NYC and San Francisco and attended ComicCons, and you meet celebrities, and it’s pretty cool and all, but there’s a thing about meeting actors: they’re really not the people you want to meet. I wanted to meet Spike; I met James Marsters. Which is pretty fantastic. But he’s not ACTUALLY Spike. (I mostly understand that. Mostly.)

But last year, when I went to see Labyrinth with my friends and Brian Henson was there… well, I kind of lost it a little. Because he’s kind of an actor, but he’s also a creator of puppets, and even more important to me, he’s Jim Henson’s son, and Jim Henson was always someone for whom I’d weep if I’d had a chance to meet him. Another person like him? Mr. Rogers. And Judy Blume. These are people whose affect in my life has been far-reaching, deep, shaped me as a person.

I didn’t realize, until tonight, that a professional athlete was also in those ranks. Me, the anti-athlete, who spent most of her life not getting football, but still singing along with the Steelers Polka, apparently had a childhood icon in Franco Harris.

This is me and my friend Dave dancing the Pittsburgh Polka, Steelers version, after Super Bowl XL. This is the jersey.

We’ve already established that the Steelers loomed large in my life. But Franco Harris, especially: he of the Immaculate Reception, he of the Steelers jersey I inherited from my dad (the one my mom shrunk in the wash, which means it’s actually form-fitting and cute on me); he of many Pittsburgh legends; apparently, he was also one of my childhood icons, and I didn’t find this out until I was sitting at the bar of Gullifty’s, and the bartender said, “So Franco Harris just walked in.”

“You’re joking,” I said, three or fifteen times. I went around the corner, and there he was; and then I walked back around the corner and steadied myself, much to the amusement of a waitress. What do I do? I thought. It’s 2012, so, of course! I called my dad.

Only he’s at a board meeting tonight. He’s still there. He doesn’t know how close he came to having a conversation with Franco Harris.

Plan B: I got a napkin and approached him, and apologized for the interruption, and I’ll be damned but he introduced himself to me, as though I didn’t already know who he was–and I’m sure at this point he saw me CRYING, yes, I had tears in my drippy, silly eyes, folks, and that’s when I realized how much Franco Harris meant to me–but he graciously signed the napkin and asked about my dad, and I told him about his 36 years of season tickets, and the woman he was with thought me wearing my dad’s shrunken jersey was hilarious, and I said I’d just moved back to Pittsburgh, and we talked about San Francisco and Stockton declaring bankruptcy, and then I thanked him for his time again, and then Franco Harris shook my hand again and said, “Welcome home! You made my night.”

Hear that, folks? You made my night. I made Franco Harris’ night. That’s the way it’s done, famous people: you made my night.

And good lord, this is a terrible picture of me, and it’s all blurry, but I wasn’t about to ask her for a second one. Besides: he’s still a handsome devil, and that’s what matters.

P.S. My brother is, to say the least, miffed that I’ve been here three months and met a god of Pittsburgh football. All I can say is: nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah!

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