Let’s just get right to it, shall we? Last year I traveled from Los Angeles to Syracuse, NY (#GoOrange). I was in the American Airlines terminal at LAX waiting for my early, early flight to Chicago, enjoying my tasty egg and potato tortilla wrap from La Provence Patisserie, when I saw Ms. Jenner stroll into the gate area. She was hard to miss. I had to talk to her. This was my big #SportBits break! With a mouth full of food I stood up to walk over, but noticed there were no available seats near her. I’d have to stand in front of her if I wanted to talk. Awkward. I hesitated – and before I knew it, she was whisked away and onto the plane. Dangit! It all happened so fast.
I boarded the plane and snapped this shot as I walked through first class on my way to the back, #stalkerpart1.
I spent the next 3 ½ hours irritated that I didn’t act quickly enough in the gate area. What kind of flippin’ wanna-be-journalist was I anyway? Now I needed to figure out how I was going to track her down at O’Hare, #stalkerpart2.
I knew she’d be long gone by the time I got off the plane, so I thought if she had a layover, she’d be hanging in AA Admirals Club. I found the closest club to the gate and paid for a day pass. She wasn’t there. All was not lost however; as Sandra, the kind lady behind the desk, informed me there was a bigger, nicer, Admirals Club two terminals over.
I hightailed it to Terminal K, walked in with my already-paid-for-day-pass and surveyed the scene. Lots of business folks plugged in and on their devices – keeping to themselves (probably what I should have done). Instead, I went to the bar where Emilio made me a perfectly spiced Bloody Mary. I looked around the room and sure enough, there she was. And there were plenty of open seats around her! I walked to the row in front of her and sat down. I was sweating, and hoping I didn’t smell after the potato wrap and the rapid race across two terminals. As soon as she finished her phone call I turned as asked, “Ms. Jenner, would you have a moment to answer a few questions?” She couldn’t have been kinder. “Sure, but come back around and sit next to me” she said, and when I got up to walk around and she added, “and don’t forget your drink.”
I sat down in the seat next to Caitlyn and explained #SportBits; how it started after a few mom friends told me they wished they knew more about sports, so they could converse with their kids, spouses, and co-workers. I explained how my passion for sports and knowledge of it helped me build and retain relationships in both my personal and professional life. She loved the idea of #SportBits, and anything that promoted gender equality and women helping women (and this is where she grabbed my arm and looked me right in the eyes) “because we girls have to stick together.”
We girls have to stick together – Caitlyn Jenner
My first question had to do with the upcoming Rio Olympics, and the concern over the spreading of the Zika virus. Knowing how much she traveled throughout her sports career, I wondered if she ever found herself in a similar situation, and if the Olympics were held tomorrow, would she go, knowing the threat the virus posed? Again, she looked me right in the eye and said, “Of course I would go.”
She continued: “You don’t work so hard and train for years for something, and then NOT go because there is a small chance you might get some virus. When you have a passion for something, nothing should stop you.”
She then told me about traveling to Mexico City for the 1975 Pan American Games where she won the decathlon. Soon after she got there, she arrived at the sports facility and saw an athlete being carried up the stairs. Concerned, she asked, “What is wrong with him?” “He drank the water,” she was told. I said I thought getting Montezuma’s Revenge wasn’t on the same level as the Zika virus, but she said it didn’t matter. When you work really hard for something, “Nothing should stop you from trying to achieve it.”
I asked her if she had read that Hope Solo said she wouldn’t go the games if they were held tomorrow. Again, she gave me that look. “Oh,” she said, “I know Hope Solo – and she will be there – no matter what.”
Next came the topic of sports-related concussions, and how they are affecting both men’s and women’s sports, especially in the NFL. I asked if she had a young daughter who wanted to play hockey, or son who wanted to play football, would she allow it? I’m sure you can guess her answer.
“Of course I would. When someone has a passion for something, you have to support that.”
“You wouldn’t worry about the long term impact of trauma to the brain? Especially the developing brain of a teen?”
That look again: “Honey, I’m in my 60’s, and my brain is still developing. Everything you do has some kind of risk involved. If you don’t take risks, you won’t DO anything. You can’t play if you don’t get in the game.”
I was sensing a theme here. This is when I took HER arm and gave her a look of my own: “Yeah, I guess you really haven’t taken many risks lately, have you?” I said.
“Nope, none at all” she laughed. “I’ve just been sitting on my butt for the last year.”
Boy, she was fun – and I was just getting into a rhythm when an AA rep came and told her she needed to leave.
“Noooooooooooo” I screamed in my head. I have more questions:
What is your workout routine these days?
Are you a Laker or a Clipper fan?
Where did you get that KILLER manicure?
But it was not to be. I thanked her for her time, and asked her for a couple selfies, making sure it was OK for me to post and print about our conversation.
“Go for it.” she said, “After all, we girls have to stick together.”
**Check in with me on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook for all the sport scores and highlights I didn’t cover for you this week! And go take a risk today – within reason of course – one that furthers YOUR passion,#norisknoreward.