But I didn’t know it was him!

pick-up

Here’s a great clip of one of Leo Kottke’s (many) funny stories.  He is without question one of the world’s best and most innovative acoustic guitarists, especially on the 12-string. [Keith Richard of the Rolling Stones was once listening to a Kottke solo piece and reportedly asked who the other guitarists were–not uncommon].  Leo describes there how he once stood around talking to Bob Dylan at a recording studio they were both working at…but without having any idea that it was him!  Which is funny when you realize that Dylan had long been world famous by the time (1970s); Leo was a terrific musician in the general acoustic folk genre, but still relatively unknown.

The story reminded me of a similar experience I had at Ohio State in the 1980s. I was, as usual, out playing a game of pick-up basketball on one of OSU’s outdoor courts. Pick-up ball is always a revolving door of familiar and unfamiliar faces. This day I was guarding an unfamiliar face, and vice versa. I only remember that he was about my size, and was a good leaper and skilled. But that wasn’t a particularly uncommon situation.  We were pretty evenly matched and took turns challenging each other, which is what playground ball is all about in the end.

After we were done, somebody asked me if I knew who I was guarding. I said “no, never seen him here” and he told me that it was Cris Carter. Cris was an All-American wide receiver at Ohio State, who had originally intended to play both sports, but gave up basketball to focus on a likely NFL career. Which happened in a big way: he went on to have a long and distinguished career in the NFL, beginning with a touchdown catch on his very first reception and ending up second in career receptions behind only the incomparable Jerry Rice. About a month ago he received the ultimate honor when he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He has been a television analyst for ESPN for a number of years. So he is now very famous indeed, although at that time he wasn’t.

Still, I thought “man what if I had landed on his foot and broken it?”

Cris Carter

Cris Carter making a circus catch against the usual team of pretenders fielded by a school somewhere north of Ohio.

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