Tuesday, May 13, 2008

I Saw Ben Olsen in the Purse Department at Target!

I'm still a-tizzy about the whole meeting Ben Olsen business, so bear with the junior high cartoon stars in my eyes. Here are the facts you should know: Ben Olsen is the wide midfielder for DC United - and also the team's soul. He's out this season with a plague of ankle injuries, and there are some (not me) who think his career is over. There are some (me) who think that DC United would start winning again if only Ben Olsen came back. I love Ben Olsen unconditionally. He is also awfully good looking in fuzzy kind of way (I won't get into it; you'll just feel uncomfortable). My friend got me an autographed picture of him, and I insisted that it hang front and center in our dining room, so that if we ever did anything so classy as hold a dinner party, our guests would know we have good taste.

Here's what happened yesterday: the Object of My Affection had some smickety-smackedy nonsense that he needed to take care of at Target. We walked in, and there, standing by the purse department with his brother, was Ben Olsen. Not wanting to seem like slobbering fans, we atrolled up to him with deliberate nonchalance and ever-so-careful cool. The Object, a lobbyist, immediately started schmoozing. I couldn't get a word in edgewise - partly because the Object was speaking for the both of us and too busy working his schmagic to notice that I wanted to chime in, and partly because some primeval, junior high school girl side of me got tongue tied. Not wanting to seem like a tool, the Object finished his remarks and quickly pulled me (still with mouth agape) away to run our errands.

I fretted this way and that, kicking myself for not saying all the stuff to Ben Olsen I'd always wanted to say. It wasn't completely the Object's fault, but I still took the opportunity to blame him. This went on for several minutes as the Object compared prices on iPod armbands or whatever the hell we were there for. I finally gathered my courage, and relying on skills I haven't needed since high school, proceeded to stalk Ben Olsen through the aisles of Target. I finally approached him, apologized for the stalking, and told him what a big fan I am. "And not to sound like a total cliche," I said, "but you're also really helping me out. I'm going through this shitty injury of my own, so it's helped to see you working through yours."

[Yes, it's true. Ben Olsen is a gigantic inspiration to me. He's working through his injury with graceful humanity, and I let that drive me. Going from being an athlete to a gimp is a constant exercise in learning how not to be disappointed in yourself, and the pain doesn't always make for the clearest lenses. So every day when I'm doing my monotonous, hellish, and stupid physical therapy exercises for my hip and clinging to the idea that if I do this long enough, maybe one day I'll get to run again, I look at that picture of Ben Olsen, grit my teeth, and keep going. You can make fun of my Lifetime Movie of the Week tendencies, but I don't limp anymore so the joke's on you. Um, sort of.]

Rather than seeming annoyed or dismissive about the slobbering girl in front of him, Ben broke out into a warm smile and said, "Really? That's cool to hear; thanks." Feeling like less of a Compleat Dork, I eased up, and we started chatting. He mentioned he was buying a fan for his flooded basement, and I exclaimed, "Oh, poor Zach Wells!" (He's the DCU goalie who rents the basement floor of the Olsen's Shaw townhouse, which Ben's brother, Jeremy is doing a hell of a job making gorgeous.)

"Wow, you really have done your homework," replied Ben. Feeling awfully proud of myself, I said, "I told you I'm a serious fan. Our birthdays our even a day apart!"

"So your birthday is May 2nd?" he replied.

"Oops, two days apart."

We ended up chatting about the team and the neighborhood for a little while, then I decided to let them shop for Zach Wells in peace. We patted each other on the back and wished each other well in our respective recuperations, and parted ways. He was a genuinely nice guy and didn't seem harassed at all, qualities I appreciate in the people whom I spend an absurd amount of time obsessing over. You can take the girl out of Chicago, but you can't stop her from being, at heart, an obese, beer-guzzling, sausage-gobbling superfan. You just might need to tweak the details a bit.


Blogger dara said...

I've had a baseball player living a couple doors down from me for over a year, and so far, all we've said to each other is "Hey." I'm so nervous about sounding like a nerdy superfan that I just don't say anything when I see him.

5:04 PM  
Anonymous carijudy said...

I am afraid now that we may never hear the end his greatness. Since he appears to be great!

11:30 AM  

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