The Most Surreal Experience of My Life
It was the most surreal experience of my life.
It's not often that a person has the opportunity to meet their doppelganger (defined as a ghostly counterpart of a living person), but on July 17th, 2011 at approximately 2:30pm, I met mine. Meeting my celebrity look-alike was an eye-opening experience, but the circumstances which lead to our paths crossing were positively incredible.
THE BACKGROUND: Tim Howard is the goalie for the US men's national soccer team and has been a popular player on the national and international scene for over a decade. In the last several years, and especially during last summer's World Cup, I have been told by hundreds of people that we have a resemblance that can only be described as "uncanny". I agreed, and while I've never had the chance to meet Howard, I have been linked to him before:
- The first linking of me and Howard was in 2005 on ESPN's Page 2 website feature "Here's Lookin' at You"
- I was also confused for being Howard when I was on the red carpet at the ESPY awards in 2007
- He was my Halloween costume in 2010
In between have been hundreds of comments, texts, e-mails etc... about our resemblance, but never an opportunity to meet.
THE ENCOUNTER: I was traveling back from Nashville after a three-day bachelor party which left me uncertain what my name was. I was with two good friends, Mike and Ryan, and Nelson - a stuffed animal horse head on a stick that we used as a bar prop (it was genius). We were layed-over in Memphis and decided to hop into a sports bar to watch the Women's World Cup Final. During the broadcast, an advertisement which featured Howard, appeared on the network of TV's in the sports bar. The bartender even asked me, "Hey - what are you doing on TV?"
His comments forced comparison stares and laughs from the people in the establishment who were within shouting distance. I joked with a few patrons about my past links to the talented goalie and that was it...or so I thought.
About 30 minutes later, having found out our flight to Milwaukee was delayed, we dipped into another sports bar to watch the second half of the game. The same advertisement with Howard aired, and Ryan, Mike and I started chuckling again at my unquestionable likeness to Howard. I also received a couple more texts. About three minutes later, Ryan, who used to play soccer for UW-Milwaukee, looked over my shoulder and said, "excuse me, are you Tim Howard?"
Confused, I turned to look at the man who was five feet behind me eating a salad and drinking a Blue Moon - it was the real TIM HOWARD!
I've been around professional athletes for the majority of my professional career, so I understand the etiquette when approaching them. That all went out the window when I realized my celebrity look-alike was near arms-reach away from me.
"Holy sh**!" I said. "I'm you!!" (nice one Greg).
I introduced myself, shook his hand, explained how we have been linked in years past, and showed him the ESPN Page 2 web site on my IPad. He absolutely loved it! He seemed most amused that I dressed as him for Halloween - he even asked for pictures.
We let him finish his salad, but continued chatting from our table about the women's game, the bachelor party (he asked about Nelson and was impressed), and what he was doing in Memphis. Apparently he lives there during his limited time off, and was heading to Philadelphia. He also explained that he heard us talking about my likeness and was waiting for me to turn around so he could judge.
"That's pretty wild," Howard said.
He was cool enough to pose candidly for a few pictures - I absolutely needed to see a couple side by sides of us together.
HOW THE DAY GOT LONGER: It was about 3:00pm when we shook hands with Howard and exited the sports bar. Ryan had been receiving text messages from Delta saying our flight was delayed until 3:30. We walked down to the gate - still beaming and stunned from what just happened - only to find nothing but tumbleweed blowing around.
"Ma'am?" Mike said, "Where are all the people for the Milwaukee flight?"
"On the plane," she explained as she pointed to the plane that was pulling away from the jet bridge.
We froze. She wouldn't allow us on the plane that was 50 yards away - we even offered her Nelson for the opportunity to board. She declined without amusement.
"You're supposed to stay in the gate area because things can change," she explained as she began re-booking us on another flight.
We were in shock, but realized that what had just happened with Howard made the usual frustration of a flight mishap tolerable. We walked back to the sports bar to watch the rest of the women's match. Howard was still there. We explained to him and the wait staff what had happened - they all laughed.
I was still giddy about the whole thing and started creating Twitter and Facebook buzz immediately. After a taking a shot of Jameson and receiving about 400 messages, my phone was dead, as was the women's team. Japan had won on penalty kicks.
Finally, at about 7:00pm, Mike, Ryan, Nelson and I boarded our flight back to Milwaukee and returned safely about 8:45, ending an incredibly long, and whirlwind day - all spent at an airport in Memphis, TN.
One never knows the circumstances that will lead to an incredible trip, but I don't even know where to start with this one. Just when I thought things couldn't get any more interesting, and began reflecting on a great few days with 18 great friends - from golf, to shooting dice, to piggy back races down Broadway Street after bar-time - the Howard thing happened.
It may have been the most surreal experience of my life.