WAIL! The CyberBoxingZone Journal
October 2000 issue

Sometimes, Meeting a Hero Isn't a Letdown

By Steve Coughlin

There's a date I'll NEVER forget.  I was on my way home from work
and, because traffic in Chicago is the absolute worst in the country
( sorry LA, Boston & New York, you're rank amateurs ), I was forced to take an alternate route home.  As I approached the local, independent bookstore I noticed a large mob in front of the building.   What could possibly have this many people waiting in line at the Anderson Book Store ? I thought.

When I got closer to the storefront, I could see the reason for the line.   Elmhurst, Illinois is now on the map folks: Big George Foreman is doing a book signing here tonight !

Before I go on, I must tell you that I'm anything but objective when it comes to Big George Foreman.  He is, without a doubt, one of my all-time favorite fighters.  And he just happens to be one of the kindest, nicest people you'll ever be lucky enough to meet.  But I digress ...

I walked in to the store and received  the number 105.  The store manager was standing next to me so I just had to ask her a few questions about the signing.

SC :  "There seems to be a large crowd here tonight, doesn't there?"
Store Manager ( SM ) :  "This is one of the largest we've had for a signing."

SC:  "That's interesting , but if I may ask, who drew more than Mister
SM:  "Well, Deepak Chopra drew around 250 a few months back."

SC: " May I ask you a couple of questions after the event ends?"
SM:  "Sure, I'll be happy to answer them."

SC:  "And how long will Mister Foreman be signing?"
SM:  "He'll be here from 7 'til 8."

Oh great!  George is in this town ONCE and there's no way he'll be able to get through over 100 well-wishers in an hour.  I was resigned to the fact that I wouldn't be able to get his autograph, but at least I'd get treated to his opening speech.

When George Foreman enters a room, there's an excitement that comes over the crowd. Kind of like when the President or a member of the Royal Family enters a room; everyone is fixed on them & them alone. George reached the signing table ( at 7:00 p.m. sharp ) and went right into his "America" speech. He then told the story of the Rumble in the Jungle & the rope-a-dope.  He asked the crowd "You've all heard of the rope-a-dope?  Well, here's the dope!" It took a couple of minutes to let the laughter die down.  He then went on to tell of his second boxing career and how people should always follow their dreams . NEVER let ANYONE talk you out of them.  Then onto his successful career as a product spokesman.  Here's a 50+ year old fighter charming a crowd the way only an actor, musician or gifted politician could.  Damn, can this guy work a room!

Webster's defines the word charisma as " a personal magic of leadership arousing special popular loyalty or enthusiasm for a public figure."  A nice set of words, but they need an accompanying photo for emphasis.  Big George's photo SHOULD be right next to the word.

Everyone in the room was truly excited to meet the man.  Some were fight fans, others were sports fans and some were people who only know of George because of his Lean, Mean, Grillin Machine & were there to get his cookbook.

And when it was time to sign, he noticed the size of his crowd and asked his caretakers if they'd like to step out & grab something to eat ,'cause we'll be here a while.

He greeted EVERYONE as if they were a long lost friend.  The little old ladies who were surprised to learn he was a fighter, little kids telling him that he's their favorite fighter and star-struck Big George fans alike.  He signed anything & everything, as long as it wasn't a photo of him hitting anyone or him being hit.  He took a photo with everyone with a camera and mugged the way the person asked.

It was now 5 minutes to 8 o'clock and the number 75 had just been called.  Oh, well, I got to hear him speak in person & that's good enough for me, I thought.

But Big George just kept on signing.  After what seemed like an eternity, the shop clerk called out "105" and I was now in line to meet MY heavy that "No matter what, become a good student, it opens every door of life for you".  I could see that he had made his point.  The only smile brighter than George's in my turn.  When I approached, he noticed my Foreman  - Moorer official fight T-shirt and the two books I had just purchased for the signing.

"How would you like these to read?" he asked.  Here's a guy who's well past the designated signing time asking ME how I'd like HIM to sign something.

I then asked him if he'd help another 40-year-old guy realize his dream & allow me to interview him for a future issue of the Cyber Boxing Zone.  He laughed and said, "I would be delighted to, just send me a note to my website and remind me that you're the guy who gave me the pen & I'll remember".   Ya know something, I know he'll remember.

At 9:15, over 1 hour & 15 minutes past his scheduled departure, he finished up the last autograph session & thanked the crowd for their kind words.

EVERYONE who had taken the time to come out had received their photo, their autograph & their handshake with the champ.  When he left the room you could feel the energy leaving with him.

As I was leaving the store, I caught up with the store manager again.

SC:  "This went pretty well, don't you think?"
SM:  "Very, very well indeed."

SC:  "How were the book sales this evening?"
SM:  "His books sold VERY well, but we also had a lot of other purchases as a result.  We're very happy with the event."

SC:  "How large would you estimate the crowd to be?"
SM:  "We ran out of numbers at 250!"

SC:  "So if he were on another signing tour you'd ask him back?"
SM:  "He's such a wonderful guy I'd like to have him back next Tuesday!"

At a time when sports figures act like, well, morons, here's the toughest man on the planet treating EVERYONE with respect & dignity.  I guess some people in public life really are heroes & role models after all.  Click in soon ( hopefully next month ) to read my interview with MY Heavyweight Champion, the classy gentleman known as Big George Foreman.

From the cheap seats,
Steve Coughlin

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