The question: “If you could have dinner with one person, who would it be?” is one that has been asked of me many times. Through different stages in my life I’ve had different answers, but most recently it’s been an easy answer: Andy Roddick.
This Sunday, I got to have my lunch.
Now I don’t know if it was the fact my birthday was this week or if karma just had my number, but at our opening meeting for a class covering the Special Olympics, our teachers informed us of a tennis demo/exhibition by Roddick this weekend.
At the time, I saw it all play out in my head. I’d cover the event and get to meet him, and it’d be the time of my life.
Little did I know that’s exactly how it would turn out.
I started with shooting pictures and videos from the perimeter, but then I was asked by one of the media relations staff to be one of the two media members from our class to step inside the fence and record the event.
I got to follow Roddick around as he finished the skills demo with the athletes, then stand court side as he took part in three exhibition tiebreakers. The opportunity was a photographer’s dream by itself, but it just so happened the subject was my favorite athlete in the world of sports.
What made it so great, however, wasn’t getting to see him play up close and personal, or even when I met his supermodel wife (Brooklyn Decker); it was getting to see his sense of humor and charismatic personality on full display.
From making jokes with the officials, to noting his opponent’s aggressiveness against his serve, Roddick made the event special for the athletes and spectators.
He gave the Special Olympic athletes a chance to play with and against him, rather than just watching from afar. He even took time to sign autographs when he could and came out for more meet and greet time with fans. He proved that he wasn’t just a world class athlete, but a good person who genuinely cared about making an impact for a great cause.
On a personal level, it was a great feeling to see Roddick being Roddick for myself. In a world where athletes’ personal lives are filled with negative headlines about drug use, sex and guns, it couldn’t be more rewarding as a sports fan to know the guy you cheer for is a good guy.
It’s nice to read stories about his antics with his fellow players, but it’s on a totally different level to be able to stand five feet away and hear him joking around and having fun with everyone around. I not only got to have my picture taken with him (by Decker ), but he put it on his Twitter page as a way to say thanks. Overall, it was an experience I don’t think I’ll probably ever have again, but that’s OK.
Once was enough.