Monday, January 21, 2013

Sign the Hat

Shortly before Christmas the company I work for invited a number of athletes from professional teams that it sponsors to sign free autographs for employees. I got excited about it because a.) a colleague and I had randomly met a few of the listed athletes at sushi place a few months ago and b.) we still needed a Christmas gift for my hot sister-in-law who really likes sports. 
At the appointed time, the same colleague and I walked over my company's reception area; grabbed the free gear that was being handed out for autographs, and then started to hand it over to the athletes standing behind two standing tables. There was a scarf and a hat and some photos of the athletes. The scarf and the hat were blue and white and had some writing on then; the pictures were not. 
You know where this is going, right?

I dully handed over the swag first to two tall, rather thin guys standing at the first table. They were nice, made some (forced - they were Germans after all) small talk, and signed the blue and white hat and the scarf. 

When I turned to the second table, I saw a familiar face. It was one of the athletes we'd met at the sushi place. My colleague and I smiled, greeted him, reminded him of how we'd all met, and then I handed over the swag. 

Ready for this? 
The guy, Canadian, not quite as tall as the other guys, and far more muscular, paused, looked at me a little strange, and then shrugged. While he continued making (rather smooth - he was Canadian after all) small talk, he dutifully signed the blue and white hat and then handed it back to me with a small smile. Then he graciously signed a picture of himself in his uniform. He even jumped onto a joke and signed it “To Sexy Sxxx” perfecting the gift for my (really) hot sister-in-law.
Then my colleague and I turned to go back to our offices. As soon as we got out of the reception area, I realized what had just happened and turned bright, bright, bright red. I had just embarrassed myself. Big time.
How big, you ask? This big:

There were two different tables for a reason. And those two tables had different swag on them for the same, excellent reason. What reason you might ask? Well, here is a hint: the company I work at sponsors two teams - who play totally different sports. As in: football (soccer) and hockey (ice hockey). 
Get it yet?
Yup, that’s right, dear readers. I asked a professional hockey player to sign a hat for a professional soccer team.
Oh, lord. The shame....
And, yet, not. I mean, he signed it. Sure, it was embarrassing for me. Really, really embarrassing. But it was also a wonderful lesson. It was one of those Big Moments when I can learn something. Because, while he is a professional athlete and part of his job is signing autographs (though I'm guessing this is the first time he's ever been asked to put his autograph on another team's - another sport's - swag), he was a gentleman about the whole thing. He never pointed out what an idiot I was being and still signed "To Sexy Sxxx" after the hat thing.

There were so many ways that this guy could have reacted. So many ways that most people would have reacted. For example, like me. Just earlier that same day I had been asked to language review another document because I'm an 'English native speaker' when in fact I am an experienced and senior change management expert who should have been asked to review it for content and as a favor for language. I was insulted and while I remained professional, I didn’t remain kind. And I didn't review the document.
In other words, I didn't sign the hat.

I’m not saying that people should just do anything or accept being treated ‘less’…but there are indeed times and places when its best to act with character, with grace, and allow someone else to walk away with dignity, and, maybe, even an excellent Christmas gift. There are times that we all have the opportunity to suck up our egos and sign the hat.
So, thanks Ken Magowan. I've since learned that you are a really good player (oh the shame!) as well as being a decent guy to a goofy stranger. Thanks for signing the hat. Christmas was even more fun because of you.

My hot sister-in-law with her swag.


1 comment:

MrsJ said...

=] You are your sister's sister!

Awesome gift and great story to go along with it!

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