Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Golfing with a Blue

Yesterday was the 2nd annual TouchPoint Invitational golf tournament benefiting, well, TouchPoint. I was asked to show up to fill in for an empty spot on any of the teams of four. I was told to be there at 11 so I showed up at 10:15.

When I arrived at the Meadowbrook Country Club there weren't that many people there and I had no idea where to go. I got out of my car and walked to the club house but didn't see anyone. In moments like this I panic because I don't know what to do. That being so I walked back to my car and got out my phone and played some chess on the chess.com iPhone app.

After about 15 minutes of making some horrible chess moves (I'm not all that good) I got out of my car again and headed back to the club house. In situations like this I am hoping to find someone who will talk to me and tell me where to go or what to do. There is a really big sense of fear in this because I am deathly afraid of going into the wrong room or being yelled at for being in a place that I'm not supposed to be. Has this ever happened to me? No, but the fear is still ever present.

I made another pass of the club house and I saw the TouchPoint banners, but again I saw no one. Was anyone there? I didn't know, so I was all prepared for another beating at chess when a car pulled in and a person with a TouchPoint shirt got out. Success! I now had a person to follow blindly and they would show me where to go.

I learned, after following this person, that I was in the right spot all along and all I had to do was to enter the doors by the banners. That ma sound easy, but I am so afraid of making that one mistake. If I don't know exactly what to do my usual response is to do nothing and wait for direction.

With the issues of where to go out of the way I now waited to find out what to do once again. I glanced at a sheet that had the players names on it and I began to worry as my name wasn't on it. I went outside to the registration desk to ask and they said they didn't have me as well. My response to this was to walk around aimlessly as I planned my next course of action. Truly I was a dart without feathers, or a speeding car without steering. The "positional warfare" was in full swing and my expressions were as bland as could be. While my exterior may have looked just slightly uncomfortable the internal strife was high.

A few minutes after I began to walk aimlessly I was told a team wasn't showing up and that I would be filling in. I didn't know who I would be playing with which wasn't an issue at this point in time as I was just thrilled to get the chance to participate in the event once again.

As the minutes ticked by I learned the team would be comprised of TouchPoint's IT director and director of HR. When I learned there was a team I went to my car and got my clubs and as I got to the bag drop I realized I need to invest in a new golf bag. It's one thing to play with clubs older than myself (I was the only one on the course with an actual wood driver) but my bag I use was purchased for $5 at a garage sale in Gordon, Nebraska and it is the heaviest, most lopsided bag in the world. Looking at other bags I felt severely outclassed.

Lunch was served and then it was time to play. Right before we started though we were told we did have a fourth player. This player wasn't another person from TouchPoint, but rather Alex Pietrangelo of the Saint Louis Blues. 

To be honest I was instantly nervous. I knew what to expect from my TouchPoint team, but now we had a NHL player on the team. I didn't know what to expect and have never had any exposure to a sports player at all except in passing. On top of that a hockey player! Hockey is a very physical sport and I worried that our newly acquired teammate would be brash, aggressive, and rude.

As we were introduced all my fears were for not. Alex was just like anyone else. There was nothing "NHL" about him and his attitude was not that I would expect of someone who plays sports for a living. Again, I haven't been around anyone famous before and was going in blind, but as we drove to the 1st tee he was just like anyone else.

It was now time to begin and the format was a four person scramble. I warned my team that the last two times I played golf I managed to irritate a whole bunch of old men, and I also warned them that my drives off the tee-box have been awful. I teed off last and with all the pressure on me on not wanting to totally humiliate myself I swung my vintage driver and out drove all the members of the team. "I don't know where that came from" I said and from that hole on I couldn't drive at all.

The round of golf continued on and as a team we interacted. It was so neat just talking to an NHL player like he's just anyone, and that's the way he was. We weren't shooting the best, but the talk and banter was awesome.

In my book I talk about my "game theory" which states that in a game I am more talkative thanks to the environment. I felt so free during that round and had I been in that same group, say, at dinner there would have been much fewer words spoken by me. In fact, I even got the nerve to ask a question about hockey (I almost never ask a question about anything!) regarding something I noticed at a game I went to back in December. I was the high bidder on two front row tickets behind the goal and I noticed that the refs, on faceoffs, were constantly talking. I was extremely curious as to what they were saying and I asked this of Alex and he told me that he wasn't fully sure because he is a defensemen, but chances were the ref was stating to move a skate a certain way and other things of the like to make sure it is an even draw. Also, he said the refs talk much more than people would expect.

I wanted to ask that question from the on-set of the round but I didn't know if it was appropriate. It took me until the 15th hole to get the nerve to ask the question. I didn't think the question would be offensive at all, but would he want to think about hockey while playing golf? I weighed the evidence as to the if it would be offensive or not and three hours later I did ask the question.

I had another dilemma during the round and it was the same dilemma I faced last year. In the inaugural TouchPoint Invitational Joe Micheletti, a former player and now announcer, donated a trip to New York to visit him in the broadcast booth. I wanted to thank him for his support by giving him a book of mine, but I was unable to. After about four holes yesterday I came to the conclusion that I wanted to give Alex a book, but how would I go about doing this?

The logical way to give someone a book is to say, "Hey, would you like a book?" but that requires asking the question. Again I pondered and dwelled on if it were appropriate to give a person a book like this. I struggle with this and last year, if you remember, it was a high intensity time when I tried to give NASCAR driver Jamie McMurray a book.

Hole after hole went by and I kept waiting for the right moment to ask. To some people this might be easy, to however it was an adrenaline inducing panic. "Just ask, Aaron" was what was going through my mind but I always came back with, "but it would be rude, right? He's here to play golf, not get a book, but it's not like he's buying it, I mean, who would refuse a free book? But again, it would be rude, right?" This vicious cycle of logic did not yield until the next to last hole.

It was time. It was now or never. The goodbyes were already beginning and we were thanking him for carrying us on the course (he is a very capable golfer). With a surge of adrenaline and fear much like when one almost gets t-boned crossing an intersection in a car (that is not an exaggeration! That's the only thing I can compare the amount of mortal fear that went into asking the question) I asked, "Would you mind if I gave you a book at the end?"

The tone in my voice was much weak and fearful as if the question I was asking would have lifetime ramifications because, to me, I was just scared out of my mind. Alex responded, "Oh my yes! I was at Barnes and Noble yesterday and found nothing so that would be great!" As usual I found out my fears were unjustified.

When we were done I went to my car and got a book out, and signed it, and handed it to Alex. I felt as if I just scored an OT goal in game 7 because asking that question, and giving him a book is something that last year I failed at. You may be reading this thinking that something so small should not give me such a feeling of elation, but how else could I feel? To overcome such a fear and to overcome something I was unable to do a year prior is a major event in my mind.

We shook hands and he wished me luck and I wished him the same in the NHL and I went into the clubhouse for the evening dinner program. As elated as I was I came back to Earth as the positional warfare set in as I didn't recognize anyone and didn't know where to go. Thankfully Ron Ekstrand, CEO of TouchPoint, walked in and I walked his way and talked about my day.

As we talked people came and people went and eventually I came across a person who had me at a book club earlier this year and she had another person with her and I got to talking and she asked me what I had done since that book club and I talked about my April tour of Missouri for Autism Awareness Month and once again I was flying high. I was back in my comfort zone and I explained the need I feel the education system has for autism awareness and we kept talking right past the time dinner was served.

All in all in was an amazing day. There were times of stress, and times of elation. I told Ron that, "if my day wasn't filled with at least some strife how exciting would my blog be?" I learned yesterday that people that play sports aren't as mean as I envisioned them and that they are just real people like anyone else, but I also learned that in the time from last year I must have grown. It may have taken a whole round of golf to get up the nerve, but this year I didn't drive home sad as I gave that book to Alex Pietrangelo.

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