Advertising agencies are split into four main departments: Account people, who deal with clients; creative people, who write the ads (I do this); planners, whose role remains unclear to me; and media people, who buy the media where the ads will air. Media people are the ones who get all the free shit from networks and publishers, since they’re the ones who determine where millions of dollars in client money will be spent. They get free tickets to concerts, sporting events, movie premieres, huge parties, etc. One guy I knew even got a weekend at Formula 1 driving school courtesy of Sports Illustrated. Fucker. It’s a pretty sweet gig.
I started out in advertising in New York not as a creative, but as an Assistant Account Executive. That was my formal title. The real title should have been Bitch, because my job was to schedule meetings, set up PowerPoint presentations, do boringass research, and get yelled at by everyone. I EARNED that hour I spent looking at porn on the web every day, and no one can tell me any different. Occasionally, the media people would throw me a bone and give me tickets to some shit they didn’t want to go to (or they had tickets to something even BETTER).
In 1999, the NFL launched its own magazine called NFL Insider. Never heard of it? That’s because I think it lasted a grand total of one year. Reading this magazine was like reading a 100-page version of those “Special Advertising Sections” that litter your SI every week (“State Farm Presents: A History Of Golfing Excellence!”). It was a piece of shit.
But that didn’t matter. What mattered was that they had a launch party for the book the night before the NFL Draft, and all the major draftees would be there, along with current and former players. And Paul in media (who was Finnish) had given me two tickets. I’ll be perfectly honest: the idea of meeting NFL draftees and players was cool, but since I was making only $25,000 a year at the time, I was far more psyched about the prospect of free food and an open bar. The only way you get free food living in Manhattan is if you’re a woman, or if you get an invite to a party like this one. And since I was vaginally disadvantaged, the latter was my only option. No way I was missing this.
The 1999 Draft, if you recall, was the biggest QB draft since 1983. At least, that was the hype. Five QB’s went in the Top 12 picks, and I’m betting you can name all of them: Tim Couch, Donovan McNabb, Akili Smith, Daunte Culpepper, and Cade McNown (who was Rex Grossman before Rex Grossman was Rex Grossman). This was also the Ricky Williams draft. So we’re talking about major (alleged) star power here. My plan was simple: get drunk enough to work up the courage to go up and say hi to as many of them as I could.
The party took place at the Theater at Madison Square Garden, which is also where the draft is held. I brought a friend who was a fellow Viking fan. We immediately headed for the bar. I asked for a Dewar’s on the rocks, then asked for another as I was drinking the first. We hit the buffet. There was a smoked salmon. I took one of those tiny squares of pumpernickel bread and piled about six slices on top (plus one caper). I dipped shrimp two at a time. I swallowed the free cashews whole. If they had had pate, I would have smeared all over myself. Piggish behavior? Fuck you. I was hungry. Servers went around with mushroom puff pastry bites. I stationed myself by the kitchen door, took two at a time, and ordered the server to stay so I could deposit my crumpled napkin on the tray. After a few minutes, the servers were actively trying to avoid me. I don’t blame them.
I had a solid six scotches on the rocks within an hour. I kept a beer in my free hand just in case the interval between new scotches was too long. We took a look around. There was Leonard Marshall (wearing a game jersey, which was odd). There was Kerry Collins (drinking!). And there was Boomer Esiason, the evening’s host. Also, up on the dais (no hoochies) were all five QB’s plus Ricky Williams. They were essentially put up on display for everyone to look at. They were talking to each other, and it was clear that drunken retards like me were not to go up and talk to them. At least, not yet. I nudged my buddy.
-Wanna go say hi to Boomer Esiason?
-You do it.
-Well, I’m not doing it.
-Let’s drink more.
We drank more. Esiason got up on the stage and went into some rehearsed presentation about the introduction of the magazine. We drank even more. By the time Esiason was introducing the draftees, I was so drunk I did that thing where you just stare off into space for minutes at a time before snapping back to reality to say something idiotic (“Wait, did they have brie?”). When Esiason finished, he invited guests to come up and mingle with the draftees. Upon hearing this, Ricky Williams, Couch and McNown immediately bolted, stranding Smith, McNabb, and Culpepper on the stage to deal with the groundlings. I was ready to be “on”.
-I’mma say hi to those motherfuckers.
Going up and talking to a famous person is basically the same as going up and talking a beautiful woman. Except you aren’t trying to get laid. Or are you? There’s an inherent awkwardness involved. You, the normal person, would like to meet someone famous so you can tell your friends, and perhaps have some of their magical African-American athletic ability rub off on you. Whereas the celebrity, understandably, would just like to leave and go somewhere to relax. If only one person in a conversation has an inherent interest in it, a natural exchange can’t possibly emerge. And I was about to deliver hard proof.
-Hi! (shakes my hand, smiles, seems incredibly nice)
-Man, I just wanted to tell you, I hope the Vikings draft you tomorrow.
-Thanks, man. (What else could he say?)
One down. Two to go!
-Hello! (shakes my hand, smiles, seems incredibly nice)
-(exhaling drunken salmon breath) Man, I just wanted to tell you, I hope the Vikings draft you tomorrow.
-Thanks, man. (My prophecy proved true!)
-Hey, uh… Achille
-Hey (shakes my hand, looks off into distance, possibly at the exits)
The truth was, I didn’t want the Vikings to draft any of these men. I wanted the Vikings to draft Lamar King that year. In retrospect, that was probably a bad judgment. I’m quite sure all three of these men found me to be completely and utterly braindead. My tie was off and rolled up in my chest pocket, so it looked like I had one tit. My shirt was untucked. And back then I had a policy of not wearing underwear any time I wore a suit, so there was a good chance the head of my cock was readily visible through my trousers (limp, not erect). Yet all three men were polite, courteous, and nice enough to give me the time of day. So I’ll always look back at them fondly.
As for Williams, Couch, and McNown, well they can go fuck themselves. Especially McNown, who just LOOKED like an asshole. Probably the red hair.
The Vikings ended up drafting Culpepper (who was very good until a spectacular flameout) and Demetrius Underwood (who proved quite adept at attempted self-decapitation). Later that night, I went to Dorrian’s on the Upper East, sang along to current hits from The New Radicals and Len, and threw up in a back alley. And that’s why the 1999 NFL Draft will always be my favorite draft of all time.