Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hanging out with the greatest sports fans in the world

By Rick Morris

There are certain times in life when you get approached on short notice and rearrange your plans to set new ones with people. This column chronicles one such time just last night.

My new friends “The Prince” Gary Herman (left) and “The King” Mike Casiano (right) of Royalty Tours USA (who attend 350+ sporting events every year and have been to every MLB/NFL/NHL/NBA venue and countless other minor-league and college ones) needed to keep their summer baseball-watching streak alive and from their home base of NYC, that wasn’t going to happen with Hurricane Irene bearing down like a load of bricks. So when Gary texted me that they were coming to town and asked if I’d like to join them for the Indians game Saturday night, I couldn’t say yes fast enough.

As has been previously recounted (in great detail on our FDH LOUNGE fourth-anniversary show, when Gary appeared right after Bob Barker, audio here), I first met the fellas last November when they came to town for the Browns-Jets game. I was sitting in the stands talking with our show contributor Ira Lieberfarb (the Jets superfan who attends every game, home and away, preseason, regular season and postseason) when Ira summoned them over to meet me. A friendship was quickly born, we agreed in principle to the show appearance listed above and we’ve stayed in touch ever since.

A few weeks ago, I missed what I thought would be my only chance to take in a game with them in the next year or so when I was denied the opportunity (the less said about that, the better!) to take in a Wednesday afternoon game that they were catching during a midsummer Midwest swing. Of course, that turned out to be the Ervin Santana no-hitter! I did catch them for breakfast on Saturday when they were driving through Cleveland (from a Friday night game in Detroit to a Saturday nighter in DC) and that was great, but I wanted the full-on Royal Experience. I’m so glad that I got it.

They battled horrific traffic to get here as a bunch of dolts ended up clogging I-80 for most of their journey, and tickets were scarce with Jim Thome having finally come back where he belonged (more about that below), but I was able to snarf up some cheapo Upper Reserve seats and the fellas and I settled in and had fun.

It was very enlightening to talk to Gary and compare notes on our experiences. I’ve been involved with a few other people in trying to look for a documentary or reality show opportunity for these guys because, even though they’ve been going at this pace for well over a decade, the costs are going to wear them down eventually and they need to find a way to solidly profit from this experience to keep it going. While I wouldn’t have immediately recognized how much we had in common, the obstacles he’s facing in his quest are not so completely different from those I am confronting every day in working to lead and build a unique media brand. While such issues are a part of life, ones deliberately created by others do not have to be the case. It is quite comforting to talk to somebody else in the same boat and realize that others also have to battle to avoid being ground down by pettiness and political silliness.

On a personal note, when Jim Thome hit his home run, I’m not going to lie, I was a little unprepared for the rush of emotion. He was one of my mother’s favorite players and we attended so many games together back in the day. The Dolan destruction of the team coincided with my mother’s rapidly failing health. The Dolans greased the skids for him to leave town when she was gravely ill and it was one more area of depression for her – so much for sports as an escape! Seeing him hit that home run in an Indians uniform brought back so many memories and I got immediately choked up when it happened. In an odd kind of way, it seemed to put a little salve on the wound of what his forced departure did to my mom and that felt good. Interestingly enough, Mike saw Thome’s first major-league home run in New York 20 years ago next month. Mike will take in his 7,000th baseball game next June or July and he has seen over 11,000 sporting events overall. The younger Gary is behind Mike in both categories, but still ahead of 99.999% of the population!

On a beautiful summer night, the kind that is way too rare in Cleveland, it was a true pleasure to sample the Royal Sports Experience with my friends. I take inspiration from those who chase their dreams and achieve success. Gary and Mike are a work in progress – they’ve experienced six lifetimes worth of memories thus far, but they’re going to have to get some type of media or endorsement deal to continue this indefinitely. Along with the other friends they’ve met across the way, I want to be of help to them in their journey and I look forward to the day when they are regaling all of America with the stories and anecdotes they have shared with me.

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