If I wasn’t a celebrity, would you be so nice to me?

Part of the thrill of visiting a big city like New York or LA involves the possibility of running into a celebrity. I confess, I am that crazy girl in the Big Apple, keeping my eyes peeled as I trotted through SoHo.

Then there’s the chance times celebrities visit you. When Alabama played LSU in Tuscaloosa last year, celebs invaded my mid-sized hometown for the Game of the Century. Stars included LeBron James, Sela Ward, Lil Wayne and many football greats. Not to mention, the stars of ESPN’s College Game Day set up camp in Tuscaloosa on Thursday. My friend Morgan was able to snag a picture with former Cincinnati Bengal David Pollack.

The excitement of meeting someone famous should be experienced by everyone, even if you’re not a celeb guru like myself. Now don’t go stalker crazy or anything, but if the opportunity for a autograph or picture presents itself, take it.

Though I keep a close watch when traveling, I’ve never met a celeb on a trip. Never. I’ve visited New York and LA a number of times, not to mention London and Paris, and I’ve been unsuccessful. I waited outside what was supposedly The Jonas Brothers’ hotel for about thirty minutes, and that’s the closest I’ve gotten. My recommendation is to look for opportunities near you. You’ll know the area better and most likely have more success.

Last weekend, I visited Barber Motor Sports, a track in the Izod Indy Car series. Patrick Dempsey races there, and my friends Kelsey, Jordan and I were lucky enough to meet him.

Dempsey greeted everyone who was waiting outside his tent, signing autographs and taking pictures. If a group this size spotted him in NYC, for example, he would not have been able to take the time to talk with everyone. For safety reasons, he probably would need to get away as quickly as possible.

So, look for opportunities near you to see the stars. In the South, sports events are some of the best places to meet the rich and famous.


Talking (and listening) for a Living: My Visit with Paul Finebaum

ZZ Top and Aerosmith boomed every morning in my dad’s pickup, but once 2 o’clock rolled around, a droning voice coupled with Southern screams took over the radio waves. As a 6-year-old the endless talking about Alabama and Auburn football on The Paul Finebaum Radio Network tortured me.

I grew to hate Paul Finebaum’s show as his voice continued to dominate road trips and afternoon drives. But, things would change.

When I began studying journalism, I started to understand Finebaum’s impact as a journalist, personality and authority. Love him or hate him, he truly is the voice of the Southeastern Conference. Seeing him in Nick Saban: Gamechangershowcased that he was more than someone who took calls; he was someone who could answer questions.

Though most listeners constantly speculate Finebaum’s bias, I appreciated his honesty in JN 491′s meeting with him last week.

“People say I’m a Saban Worshiper, and I am.” He admires Saban’s way of thinking and coaching, finding him disciplined and obviously effective. With three national championships in SEC football, he appears almost inhuman.

I think Finebaum admires Saban because they are similar. While Finebaum is the voice of the SEC, Saban is the coach of the SEC. Few people feel apathetically to these men. Instead, they pull people’s adoring praise and merciless hate. They represent the insanity that is SEC football.

From the redecorating of Nick Saban’s statue (above) by LSU fans passing through Tuscaloosa to a ‘Bama fan’s touch on I-10 near Slidel, La., (below) things do get pretty crazy here, and Finebaum is in the middle of it.

The hysteria that follows Finebaum is not what makes him successful, though. It is his ability to communicate people. He calls his show “listener-driven.” Some colleagues criticize the nature of his show.

“They’ll ask me why I want to talk to people like that,” he said. But, Finebaum wouldn’t have it any other way. He doesn’t want to work for a larger company, such as ESPN Radio, because they don’t take calls. Instead, their schedule is filled with analysts, and the average listener’s opinion isn’t shared.

Some may only see him as a personality, but Finebaum is one of the greatest sports reporters of our time. He proves that reporting concerns more than good writing or thoughtful questions. It’s about listening, basing your questions off what people are saying.

As someone who rarely takes a vacation or sick day, he does a lot of listening.

More Than A W: My Favorite Sports Memory

Some people might say that it’s important to rest after treatment in an emergency room. Those people might think that sitting on sweaty bleachers in the midst of Florida humidity is bad medicine for stomach cramps and nausea. But, those people probably aren’t ‘Bama football fans.

I was 9 years old when I embarked on my first journey to Gainesville, and severe food poisoning could not keep me away from the Tide. After leaving the ER of the North Florida Regional Medical Center, I changed into my tent of a Shaun Alexander jersey and headed to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. I hated Steve Spurrier because my daddy hated him, and that was reason enough. After four losses in a row to the Gators, the 40-39 overtime victory served as the perfect medicine for my searing stomach pains.

Twelve years later, I traveled back to the Swamp to cheer on a team that could hopefully do more than the 1999 Tide. We wanted a championship. We expected a championship. Most of all, though, we needed a championship. After Cam Newton gloated in Arizona, over what many Alabama fans regard as a game won thanks to cheating, we had to regain our vigor. I admit I was nervous about this SEC matchup, because though we had put Arkansas to shame just a week earlier, I feared Coach Muschamp’s Gators might ruin our quest for the crystal ball. Thankfully, I was wrong as ‘Bama secured a 38-10 victory. Florida simply wasn’t the program it once was after Tim Tebow’s tears were enlarged on the Georgia Dome’s jumbotron.

As much as I enjoy watching the Tide dominate an SEC opponent, another factor set this matchup apart from the nearly 144 games I’ve attended.

Dre Kirkpatrick looked into my eyes.

The 6’3 defensive back sauntered down the sideline before kickoff. Weighing in at 192 pounds and known as the “King of Swagga” after his iconic Signing Day comments, he possessed an intimidating, yet nonchalant, presence. Like Julio Jones before him, Dre seemed like the kind of person who could beat you up without blinking. He was more than a football player. He was a superhuman entity thinly disguising himself as mortal.

My squinty green eyes locked with a pair that were round and deep. On the second row, I was only feet away from him, thanks to a mere 4-foot barricade separating the students from the student-athletes. It was then I knew that this game would be like none before.

I thought Scott Cochran was yelling at me as his booming Louisiana accent carried to the stands. I found it impossible to close my mouth when I realized I was close enough to read Jesse Williams’ tattoo-covered arms. When Michael Bowman motioned to the crowd for more noise, my high-pitched voice bellowed as I stomped my crimson cowgirl boots against the metal bleachers. Near the game’s end, I spotted Trent Richardson and Barrett Jones laughing and talking with each other. The image of the stocky running back flashing his white smile as he looked up to the 6’5 offensive lineman is seared in my brain and always will be.

Everything I had dreamed about the Crimson Tide was a reality. The coaches pushed their players as the players listened intently, showing their love for the game. As the team glanced up to the stands for approval after defeating the Gators, they displayed their love for the fans. While the players interacted and joked with one another, they confirmed my hope. These kids are more than teammates; they’re friends.

Games are about more than wins; they’re about the people who work together to earn those wins. Though this game didn’t end in a trophy ceremony, the emotion between fans and players was something more.

Analysts call it the intangibles, but I call it ‘Bama football.

Florida fans poke at the Toomer's Corner situation