The Sam Jones Anecdote
Okay, this was quite a few years ago, and it represents a type of humor that I'm not a big fan of, especially at work. I was a big advocate of having fun in the workplace through a humorous atmosphere, but please - no pranks. No throwing anything. No messing around expending energy just to be silly. Someone could get hurt. Having said that, let me tell you about a prank I pulled at work one time.
There is a rather large manufacturer of running shoes in this area, and sometimes they gather at hotels. Back in my banquet captain days I would use this opportunity to chat with some big-time sports stars. For example, there was a party attended by Michael Jordan and around 800 others, that was just epic. There was a great funk band wailing away and the energy in the room was spectacular. When Michael walked in wearing a red jumpsuit the place went even crazier. My boss, in one of his better moves, told Michael that if it got out of control he could come back and hang out with us. This was young Michael, around when Detroit was winning their championships - the team with Vinnie the Microwave Johnson on it, whom I heard was also there that night.
Michael took my boss up on the offer and came back and sat at the banquet desk - his life was absolutely nuts back then and he needed the break, so he hung out with us. I'll save the rest for another post but it was one example of how fun my job could be.
Another time at a similar party, I got to chat with the late, great Jimmy Valvano - one of the true live wires of college coaching. I told him I had taken the night off to watch North Carolina State's victory and he was so animated, with that great East Coast accent. He said, "Did you win any money?" He also said from the stage that when he visited the White House, President Reagan had asked, "Is it Valvano or Valvono?" pronouncing it two different ways, so Jimmy said, "Is it Raygun or Reegun?" Jimmy was a live wire.
Anyway, we come to the heart of the story. One day at the convention I saw someone who was a little before my time as a basketball fan but who was clearly a legend: Sam Jones of the Boston Celtics. He played in the Coach Red Auerbach era and was on 10 Championship teams leading the Celtics in scoring for 3 seasons. I left the area and went back to the banquet kitchens where the chef and a half dozen cooks were making sandwiches for the box lunches this client favored. Imagine a line of sandwiches around ten yards long and four feet wide. I said, "Wow, Sam Jones is out there from the old Boston Celtics." Some of them were impressed, others just nodded, but this one cook said, "Aww, so what? I could kick his ass on the basketball court." He mouthed off for a little longer, and later I was walking by again and he was still talking about it: "I could take him to the hoop and dunk over him, etc..." You could tell it was just the talk you do at work when you're involved with making a million sandwiches. But then I had an inspiration.
I walked back out to the convention and saw Sam Jones again. He wasn't hard to find at his NBA height. I must have looked like I had a regular business message for him as I said, "Excuse me, Mr. Jones. There's a cook in the back who's doing some serious trash-talking about you." That was all I said. Sam got it immediately and replied, "Take me to him."
The beautiful part was that all the other cooks looked up as this 6-foot-4 sports star entered the area - everyone except the cook who had been mouthing off. The poor guy still had his head down, making sandwiches. I pointed at him and said in an elevated voice, "There he is, Sam. That's the man who's been talking bad about you." When the cook looked up, you could see the blood drain from his face. His mouth opened but he did not speak. Sam handled it great, going into a pre-fight bounce for a second before stopping and saying, "You know what? Maybe he could beat me." All the other cooks laughed except you know who. The one cook remained in shock for several days. For the rest of that shift, whenever I saw the chef he would just shake his head and say, "Classic, McDonald. That was classic." And there's your Sam Jones anecdote.