My Moment With Andre Agassi
November 15, 2009 · Print This Article
It is Saturday morning on an unexpectedly warm day in Toronto. I receive a call at 9:00am from my mother saying she has arrived at my condo and is waiting patiently downstairs. We were supposed to meet at 9:45 but I guess my mother was too excited and didn’t want to be late (she loves Agassi even more than me). By the time I figured out what to wear and programmed the GPS it was now 9:30am. The destination was about 45 mins away in a wealthy little town called Oakville located west of Toronto. Andre had a book signing the night before in downtown Toronto and reportedly over 700 people showed up. I was not one of those 700 because of work and other obligations so I decided we would drive a little further and see him on Saturday. The plan was to be there for 10:30am and we arrived a few minutes earlier and were greeted by two Chapters employees at the door asking if we were here for the signing. I guess they didn’t either see or understand my shirt with the Agassi as a stick figure and the number of slams he won flying off his racket like one of his blistering returns back in his prime.
The Chapters employee took us to the lineup and to my surprise we weren’t the first people there. The book signing was slated for 2pm and we were there over 3.5 hours before. When I asked the nice girl at the front of the line what time she arrived she said she was here before the doors were even open. We chatted a bit and in the first 30 seconds I could see that she was obsessed with Andre more than anyone I had ever met before.
In the week since the book had been released, she claimed to have read it several times cover-to-back and could nearly quote any page. When I asked her what it was that made her so gaga for Andre she simply said, “It’s Andre.”
There were no seats provided at the event which was a bummer but quite understandable considering they were expected another 700 people today. The aerial view of the lineup must have looked like a countryside road in Italy with all the twists and bends in-and-out of the bookshelves. We were the 10th and 11th people in line so we knew everything was going to happen pretty fast. To my chagrin, I noticed that the Starbucks in this particular location had shutdown which meant no coffee for Dan on a Saturday morning. I had to find other ways to stay awake so I picked up a few magazines, talked to a few other people in the line and ate some of the packed lunch my dear mother prepared for our journey. Overall the time passed quickly and the staff at the event were quite nice. They passed around Hershey Kisses (why not coffee!) and even provided a band who seemed to only play 80’s tracks.
Finally, around 2pm you could feel a buzz in the air. Everyone knew that at any moment Agassi would be walking through the back entrance and through the security guards who had already made a clearing.
2:05pm came by …..nothing. 2:10pm…..still nothing. Finally, around 2:13pm Andre walked in and the crowd erupted as if he had just won Roland Garros again. He walked directly into a back room to discuss things over with the store on how everything was going to go down. We barely managed to catch a glimpse because of the crowd and the massive bookcase obstructing my view.
After a few minutes he started to walk his way through the crowd shaking hands and smiling with the people. He even stopped and laughed at some of the new friends we met in line who had dressed up in blond wigs and Nike headbands. As he was walking closer and closer I saw my mother’s eyes light up. She wanted to get closer and closer and by doing so (my 5′1″, 63 year old mother), knocked over the 6′3″ gentlemen next to us. I had warned him before hand but he didn’t believe me. Lesson: don’t doubt a little Italian women’s strength!
A had a few friends that went to the Toronto event the night before so they gave me the 411 on how the whole signing would go down. There was no memorabilia signing…garbage! He would only sign a certain page in the book… ok I guess. There was no personalizing the autograph… what the heck was that about… and finally, no posing for photos!
I knew these restrictions were set by the store so that he could get through the whole crowd in the allotted 2 hour time frame, but it did make us feel as if we were gipped a bit.
I had a decision to make. How could I make sure that I got that perfect picture with Andre? I decided to set my Canon SD700 to “continuous” mode which I knew would downgrade the quality but I would also be able to have many more photos to choose from.
Throughout the days leading up to the event I had remained fairly calm telling everyone that I was mostly going to this event for my mother, to say thanks for all the times she brought me to see Agassi when I was a child.
Even as he walked in front of me to get to his chair I had remained unfazed.
We have interviewed Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Roddick and many others so this should be a piece of cake.
I didn’t have to worry about thinking of anything clever to say, I just needed to get this book signed and tell to Andre that it was an honor to meet him and move on. As I became the next person in line something happened to my body. My legs started to get nervous and I began to shake a bit.
A feeling like I was going to play Agassi at the US Open came over me (I know, stupid, but I couldn’t help it).
A friend that went to the signing yesterday told me that when you speak to Andre he looks right at you, and the moment becomes surreal in a split second. I listened to him and believed him, but I did not truly understand what he meant until I experienced it myself.
Andre: “Hello, how are you?”
Why is Andre Agassi, winner of 8 Grand Slam titles, asking me how I am?
Dan: “Um, I am good Andre. It is truly an honor to meet you.”
Andre: “Thanks, have you read the book yet?”
Dan: “Yes I have. It is amazing and incredibly funny.”
Andre: ” Thanks man. You don’t know how much that means to me.”
It was completely irrelevant to me whether or not Agassi truly meant what he said—he made me believe it was important to him. He looked at me in the eyes and made me feel as if there was no place that he would rather be than here with his fans.
I wanted to stay and talk but of course I was being whisked away by security.
That was my moment and no one can take that away from me. I know to many it may sound corny and even when I think about it myself, I sometimes wonder why we feel a deep connection to people we have never met before?
Is it because we wish we lived their lives or that we want their glory? Is it because we like their clothes or their fame? I don’t know the exact answer but I know that the answer runs deep in all of us.
It is something inside the soul, something that is placed in us as a child and causes us to act 9 years old when we are in fact 29 years old.
Andre went through a lot of criticism when the revelation of his book became public, but when seeing all those people here you could see that they didn’t care. These were his true fans. The people that waited hours in line for just one moment.
The moment to tell a person that they have watched for years on t.v., a person that they have bought numerous clothes, cameras, and cereal boxes of, “thanks for the memories, we will always be your fans.”
Long live the Radicals.