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Fanatics Authentic Chicago: Meeting Ric Flair & Dr J

By March 23, 2015 No Comments
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This weekend I had an opportunity come across my plate like none I’ve ever had before. Get behind the scenes access at the Fanatics Authentic Sports Spectacular show and meet some of the all-time great legends of the sports world. This is my experience and how it all went down.

I first got a text from my boy John Mathews on Friday around 11:30 am asking if I was interested in heading with him at 5:30 pm to meet Tim Brown, Alan Pinket, Bob Golic, Brady Quinn, Joe Montana, Joe Theismann, Lou Holtz and Tyler Eifert. The catch was that I couldn’t be wasted and needed to be somewhat business professional. Since I was on the train platform about to go to an all you can eat and drink March Madness party I had to begrudgingly decline.

John then sent me a bunch of photos with him and Pedro Martinez, Joe Montana, and Marcus Mariota. What did I just pass up on?

Luckily for me John’s hookup (shout out to Irv) was able to get him backstage access all weekend. The text came later that night asking if I wanted to go the next day. I checked out the March Madness schedule and I’d only be missing the two early games so I was on board and ready to get down.

I really had no idea where we were going or what we were about to do. I just knew that there’d be some athletes kicking it and that we’d get to meet them. We got to the convention center up in Rosement and I find out that it’s a giant sports memorabilia show. Being the sports junky that I am this is right down my alley.

UPDATE (3/24): We just shot a podcast (which you can listen to below) which delves into the stories from the different athletes we met during our Fanatics Authentic backstage experience.

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While we didn’t end up walking the floor of the convention I did run into a gem worth sharing. Say hello to a signed Matt Leinart photo from his storied career with the Arizona Cardinals. No doubt this bad boy will be picked up by a #randomathlete fan in about 10 years.

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This is where they herd the cattle, err where people stand in line for hours to get an autograph.

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This WWE fan brought his own title belt with him to the show. I have a long documented history with loving championship belts as a prop so two thumbs up to this guy.

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Say hello to Greg Faragher, the Founder of DrJStuff.com, a site dedicated to all things Dr J. He created this DIY basketball holder so that he could easily carry three basketballs around, all of which would be signed by Dr. J.

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We are backstage now where all the action takes place. Essentially we just kicked it back here watching athletes sign stuff and when they’d walk around we’d give them dap or take pictures.

I’ve been using a Flag It Tag It penalty flag as a pocket square and been getting tons of love for it (including from Dr. J). It looks cool and it’s super functional because it’s easy to launch when someone does something stupid. I told Ozzie Smith about it and he was all smiles.

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I can now die and go to heaven. When I found out that The Nature Boy Ric Flair was gonna be there I damn near had to change my pants. The first thing I said to Natche was, “my shoes cost more than your house.” He couldn’t have been any awesomer and I give my experience meeting him 10 WOOOO’s!

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Jameis Winston was signing stuff today. Those black Seminoles helmets are dope.

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Some sports memorabilia had sticky notes on them saying stuff. I assume this meant what they were suppose to sign on it.

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Marcus Mariota was also in the house.

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Ozzie Smith’s penmanship was almost as good as this incredible play he made while on the Padres.

So awesome.

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Pedro Martinez has some work to do.

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This Dr. J poster was my favorite. He’s about to posterize Larry Bird and Kevin McHale with authority. We got a chance to shake Dr. J’s hand and his hands were so big he damn near shook my elbow.

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When I saw this Hulk Hogan poster I was praying my little Hulkamania heart out that he was going to be there. Unfortunately he wasn’t scheduled to arrive until the next day. When he did arrive John was there to capture the promo video that Hollywood Hogan and Joakim Noah shot.

It’s little details like “Mean Gene always was on my right” that I enjoy so much about sports.

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I don’t know what the going rate is for a Mouth of the South Jimmy Hart autograph.

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I missed both Jerome Bettis and Antonio Brown’s appearances as they were on Sunday as well. I did love seeing all the Jerome Bettis HOF 2015 post-it notes. Shout out to the Bus. He’s my favorite Steelers player ever and I can’t wait to go to Canton to watch him get inducted.

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Whatever you do Jerome Bettis, do not open the packing of a Starting Lineup Action Figure. That’s gonna pay for some kid’s college one day (or so we all though back in 1997).

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Did you know that Jerome Bettis is from Detroit?

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Friday was Notre Dame reunion day. Notice how both Brady Quinn and Joe Montana have very swoopy signatures. I kinda dig it.

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Now we are upping the ante with this signed Heisman Trophy helmet.

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But take a look at this Heisman Trophy Helmet. Talk about doe boy fresh.

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Charles Haley was a cool dude. I think he wore size 27 boots or something gigantic like that.

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John’s a tech guy so he decided to help Charles Haley with his selfie stick. We all got a good laugh that Charles Haley would need a selfie stick. He could ask almost anyone on the planet at any time and they’d take a picture for him.

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Greg Hardy Tony Romo was gonna be there on Sunday.

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I’ve always been a Jamaal Charles fan because he crushed for my fantasy football team.

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We got a chance to meet him and he was an awesome dude and his style was so fly. John told him that he was a 49ers fan and immediately I flagged him. How the hell you gonna meet Jamaal Charles and tell him you’re a 49ers fan? Well all laughed like bastards.

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Probably for Elvis Grbac.

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John’s guy Irv is the man. He heard I was from Pittsburgh and let me tag along in the car when he went and picked up Dave Parker and his wife from the hotel. Thankfully I didn’t let the yinzer in me out and I behaved.

We are Family!

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Meeting Ric Flair made my year. Seeing a post-it that said “To Brian, These Shoes Cost More Than Your House! WOOO!!” just confirmed that he indeed is a Golden God.

WOOOOO!

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Natche got a bunch of robes to sign. Those Rolex’s don’t grow on trees.

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Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez probably talking about the Expos podcast they are creating. “No, you talk about Cliff Floyd, I’ll talk about Andres Galarraga.”

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There’s a crapton of signatures of NFL Hall of Famers on this Hall of Fame jacket. The guy who owns this goes around to all the sports memorabilia shows and gets new Hall of Fame signatures every time. The first signature was Bart Starr and he saved the flap over the pocket for Joe Namath. I asked him if he’s ever worn the jacket and he said no, not even once. That’s crazy talk. You’d think you’d put it on at least once when you were naked just out of the shower.

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For some reason I went in for a handshake with Brian Urlacher. It’s like we just cut the ribbon at the grand opening of a Jamba Juice or something.

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It was cool to see how big time athletes interacted with each other. And like I said, Jamaal Charles style was on point.

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Ozzie Smith was the friendliest guy on the planet. I can not say enough good things about how cool he was. This is him and the Ice Man George Gervin and some random people I don’t know.

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Someone brought a dog with them back there. I am a dog lover and have one but I had to flag this. What about this environment says bring a dog? I could have let it slide had Fred “The Crime Dog” McGriff been there but no dice.

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Shout out to Famous Dave’s. They were catering the backstage area and their BBQ was out of this world. I’m a big fan of ribs and Famous Dave’s went hard in the paint with three different kinds plus amazing mac n cheese, cornbread, and brisket. They need to get some of this downtown Chicago immediately.

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Dr. J and the Ice Man either talking about finga rolls or how they can’t get enough of Famous Dave’s Legendary Pit Bar-B-Que.

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Shout out to New Era hats. I dig em. Holla at us.

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John is a huge Cardinals fan and was lucky enough to throw out a first pitch at a game last year. He got the photo printed out and wanted Ozzie Smith to sign it. Even though Ozzie Smith just signed his arm off for a couple hours straight, he obliged and did so with a smile. You the man Wizard!

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As Ozzie Smith was signing John’s photo we mentioned to him that Marcus Mariota was walking by. Having never met him before he went right up to him and gave him dap. That’s what Hall of Famers and Heisman Trophy winners do. They give each other dap.

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And look who we found in line ready to get him some Famous Dave’s BBQ, Jameis Winston. Ozzie Smith once again does his thing making people happy. We got a chance to interact with Jameis for about two seconds on two different occasions and this smile that you see here is no lie. He was super friendly and cool. I’ve got nothing but good things to say about my Jameis Winston experience. I’ve been a fan since before people knew who he was (look at bullet point #10).

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Mike Singletary checking out Jameis Winston’s guns. The exchange probably went like this:

Mike Singletary: “Which way’s the gun show?!”

(Singletary squeezes Jameis Winston’s arm and smiles).

Yep, just like that.

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This is my last photo from the Fanatics Authentic Sports Spectacular show and it’s appropriate that Jameis Winston and Mike Singletary are both smiling because I had a permagrin on my face all day. It was sports fan heaven for me and I can’t thank John Mathews and Irv enough.

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Rob Cressy

Rob Cressy

Sports loving free throw specialist and yinzer living in Chicago who is awesome most of the time, has run with the bulls in Spain, and is a graduate of Second City's Improv program.