Friday, November 16, 2007

The cheap seats

My buddy Matt Shelton and I sit in the cheap seats at UT basketball games. You can almost reach up and touch the ceiling from our spot in 317A.

That's OK by us though. We have quite a bit of space to ourselves during the non-SEC games. We laugh, make inside jokes, clap for Chris Lofton, boo the Keith Urban promos on the big, new scoreboard and long for the days when country music really was country.

Shelton and his wife and son live across town now. I kind of wish they were still about five minutes from my house. But time marches on. That's the way it goes.

It's funny. I look across the way at the luxury boxes and shake my head. I am pretty happy with my seats. I guess I've become that kind of guy in my old age. I used to enjoy playing like I was a celebrity. These days, though, I'm just fine playing the guy down the street, that fella sitting at the end of the bar.

I always figured if I owned a baseball team, I'd sit in the stands with the fans. My favorite type of stories to write at work revolve around some so-called average person who has a particular hobby, or a funny story or some good deed that they do. I let the others blab about the politicians. They always break my heart anyway.

Ernie Pyle is one of my heroes. He worked for Scripps Howard too. But unlike me, Ernie was a star, a writer's writer. He had my dream job before the war, traveling around the country writing about everyday people.

During the big one, of course, Ernie made his name covering the ordinary combat soldier. His wasn't the way of generals and brass. He liked to be out in the trenches with the fellas.

Ernie met his fate in just such a foxhole. Somehow, it seemed a fitting way for that gentle man to pass into the next life.

Me? I'm a pretty simple guy anymore. I like to write and love to laugh. I'm a sucker for big brown eyes and a sweet smile. I enjoy working out on the greenway and watching old movies from the 40s. I love baseball and football and basketball, Hemingway novels and good music on Sunday nights at Barley's.

Everybody thinks I have a big ego and love entertaining and showing off. They might be surprised that deep down inside is buried a shy little guy. The only reason I love playing my role is because I live to see somebody else laugh. A lot of folks grin when they see me coming along. That's the greatest sight in this world.

Otherwise, I'll be the guy sitting in the cheap seats, rooting for the team, tapping my foot to the music, happy as a clam to reside among the only type of folks worth a damn.

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