Last week, Shaq tossed up a few choice words that basically turned NBA FanHouse upside down. The sentence -- "I'm at the fashion sq mall, any1 touches me gets 2 tickets, tag me and say yur twit u hv 20 min."
Twenty minutes. That was when, for me, the race began.
See, one of the NBA writers sent this message harmlessly to the e-mail thread we so closely monitor and I happen to live about three blocks from Fashion Square in Scottsdale. I asked apathetically to the group, "Should i go up there and check it out?" The response, from one Will Brinson, said all I needed to know. "GOGOGOGOGOGOOGOGOGOGO."
And with that, the race began.
Because I'm a blogger, I spent 45 seconds throwing on a pair of pants (I guess Fashion Square is fairly strict on the no-pants policy). I jumped in my navy blue Chevrolet Trailblazer and gunned (okay, cautiously drove) it to the mall. Down Camelback I zoomed, swinging around the corner of the light by Borders Books, parking in the secret west parking lot on the bottom floor of Nordstroms and jumping out of the car like a SWAT team. I thought to myself as I was whipping through the mall crowds, "Where would Shaquille O'Neal be hanging in a mall?"
The great Tom Ziller answered my thought via an e-mail to my Blackberry. "He has to be in the food court or an electronic store. Unless there's a SUPER Big and Tall, or Casual Male XXXXXXXL."
Matthew Watson sent me another idea. "What about the Build-a-Bear workshop?"
I was walking around the three story mall like parents during tax free weekend. I ducked my head into Tiffany's. I walked enough times by Louis Vuitton that I thought the security guard was going to come after me. I rambled near Lacoste, Neiman Marcus, Gucci and even Salvatore Ferragamo. I kept thinking to myself, "How am I not finding a 7-foot black man in Scottsdale?!"
The loyal NBA-ers were not letting me down.
"I never thought Shane Bacon visiting a mall would have me on the edge of my seat ...," Ziller e-mailed.
"I've had to go to the bathroom for like 30 minutes but have just been holding it," Brinson spouted while crossing his legs.
"I am stunned he's not in the food court. Did you check to make sure he's not upside down in the ice cream bin?" Matt Moore joked.
I swung back around to Nordstroms, since just a few years previous I had bought a bottle of cologne there next to Barry Bonds (the saleswoman, incidentally, had no idea who he was. Welcome to Scottsdale).
I decided I needed to be more conspicuous so I hung out in the second floor banister overlooking the food court and most of the stores. If the man with 30 nicknames was around, this was the perch I'd find him. At that moment something hit me, and it hurt worse taking a charge from the big man -- the Valet station! Damn!
This quick email hit the group as I hurried towards Kona Grill where all the expensive cars are parked. "Sh**. I totally forgot about the really rich car valet outside the Yardhouse. I'm mall walking my ass there now."
I got to the cars and it was my final disappointment. No big SUV with the driver seat pushed back a couple of extra feet. No Bentley with wheels nicer than anything I own in my life. No big man tipping the lucky kiddo that pulled his car around. Nothing.
Ashamed I lost on my Twitter challenge, and jealous of the kids that were luckier than I at 5 & Diner, I got in my car and pulled away. I wouldn't let this thing die, however. Shaq heard from me, even if he never read it: "@THE_REAL_SHAQ: I just stalked Fash Sq for like an hour. I even checked the food court AND build-a-bear. I'm calling BS on you being there."
Nothing has been sent back. Shaq, you owe me two tickets.