Fifteen years ago today a special collector’s issue of Sports Illustrated hit the stands. I happened upon it that day and my life has not been the same since. Two weeks ago I was discussing relationships with my therapist. She said, “We all want to feel needed, valued, important, chosen.” The subject of this piece wanted those things, too. Even bigger: He was those things.
In the fall of 1994, I came out of room 202 and turned left to walk down the hallway towards the restroom for the first time in my new home. I was a freshman at Pittsburg State University and to call the inhabitants of Tanner Hall an interesting mix would be an understatement. My 202 roommate was a 265-pound Mexican named Ernesto Holguin, a wrestler from Newton, Kansas. He liked cable television, menthol cigarettes, and fat white girls. One of the nicest guys I’ve ever met. In room 204, our neighbors to the left, were two dudes as different from one another as Ernesto an I, I being the tie-dye-wearing, long-haired stoner from Kansas City, the only guy in the building with a fake I.D. I got asked to buy beer a lot, and many people in my building were afraid of me in a sense. Not because of my towering five-foot-nine, 145-pound frame, but because people from central and western Kansas -- it turns out -- are afraid of people that are “on drugs.”