I must have interviewed a thousand people during my years in the journalism trenches.
The most famous would’ve been *Wilt Chamberlain and H. Ross Perot — the long and short of my journalism career.
Fact: if you stood this blog on Perot’s shoulders, we’d almost be able to look Wilt in the eye.
I had two goals when interviewing Wilton Norman Chamberlain:
1) Try not to be a douche – this was my FIRST interview ever for the university newspaper;
2) Get his autograph for my childhood friend (the mediocre basketball player formerly known as Steve).
I succeeded, at least on the second goal during the interview, which took place in 1979 or so in Arlington.
By then, the NBA great had long since retired from basketball. He was an old giant, at 7-1, with a gray goatee and age in his eyes.
Wilt was touring his volleyball team across America in an attempt to position volleyball as the next BIG pro sport.
I wasn’t convinced this was Wilt’s brightest investment, but he did convince me volleyball was a real sport.
I was sitting in the bleachers at one end of the gym when he and his teammates warmed up.
A player came up to me and suggested that I move off to the side. But, being a studly member of the Fourth Estate, and a douche, I had no intention of vacating my chosen vantage point. I was where I was, volleyball man, so deal with it.
They commenced a spiking drill at half court, sending volleyballs blasting directly at my head at, conservatively, 17,000 miles per hour.
After one incoming missile knocked my pen and notebook out of my hand, I made the strategic decision to relocate, as nonchalantly as is possible with my tail between my journalistic legs.
I remember two things from my interview with Wilt.
First, while standing next to him and shaking his MASSIVE paw, I felt like a widdle biddy kid.
Second, I remember him explaining that he’d named one of his pet Great Danes “Kareem”, not in honor of fellow NBA great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, but because “he was kind of a creamy color.”
OK, Wilt was a basketball player, not a brain surgeon. But duh.
H. Ross Perot — Half & Twice the Man
I remember a lot more about the time I interviewed H. Ross Perot in Waco about 1981.
While Wilt dwarfed me, Perot and I were about the same height; almost book-ends.
Perot was being honored at a dinner held in the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum for leading Texas’ “War on Drugs”.
Somewhere in my archives, there is a photo of me interviewing Perot.
As I recall, it featured my very first mustache and Perot’s laser-like gaze.
No kidding, the guy was so intense, even at this outdoor awards dinner, I could actually feel his gaze on me.
It might have been the closest I ever felt to being intimidated by someone I was interviewing.
Afterwards, I vividly remember a prototypical Texas Ranger strolling up to Perot, and I mean “strolling up like John Wayne strolled up”.
The Ranger was huge, maybe 6-5 and 300 pounds, which justified the Rangers’ unofficial motto – “One Riot, One Ranger.”
The huge Ranger wrapped both of his cinderblock maws around Perot’s midget hand, excitedly pumped it up and down while saying: “Mr. Perot, you are the biggest man I ever met!”
Perot’s face looked like he’d just bitten into a lemon.
He signaled his chopper pilot (ex-Vietnam Special Forces), who quickly escorted Perot through a sea of fawning Texas Rangers, then they roared off.
So, who was the bigger man, Wilt “don’t call me The Stilt” Chamberlain or H. Ross Perot?
— 21.5 inches taller than this blog (click that link to see Wilt standing by legendary jockey Willie Shoemaker)
— scored 100 points in an NBA game (still a record)
— scored 31,419 career points (30.07 avg. per game), fourth on the NBA’s all-time list behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, and Michael Jordan
— grabbed 23,924 career rebounds (22.9 per game), the all-time NBA leader
— claims to have bedded over 20,000 women
H. Ross Perot:
— 1.5 inches taller than the blog
— president of his class at the Naval Academy
— founded and sold EDS and Perot Systems making him a multibillionnaire
— ran for President in 1992 and 1996
— was brilliantly portrayed on Saturday Night Live by Dana Carvey, who is four inches taller than the blog.
Although Wilt revolutionized the way a big man played center, if he and Perot were playing one-on-one, in their prime, Perot would have kicked his butt.
He was a scary little mother, and he had the Special Forces on his side.