Cafe 227

Monday, February 12, 2007

The New York Rangers at the Sports Club/LA

I joined the Sports Club/LA several years ago, mostly for the basketball courts. (Indeed, Johnny Shades fancies himself to be quite the basketball player.) About a year ago, the club was acquired, and the new management team has been changing things around ever since. Some changes are welcome - for instance, the new carpet, with its relaxing neutral tones, brings me a sense of inner purpose as I trudge that extra mile on the elliptical machine. Other changes are unforgiveable - namely, the conversion of the basketball court into a cardio room, which has served to undermine the only justifiable excuse I had for paying such exorbitant membership fees in the first place.

So, why don't I just quit and join, say, the much cheaper Vida Fitness Center? Because of the random celebrity run-ins.

I've had several notable random celebrity run-ins as the Sports Club/LA. Sure, everyone's heard the story about George Clooney playing basketball there while he was in town filming "K Street." But how many people can say they've been inappropriately ogled by a half-naked John Travolta (in town for a premier of "Ladder 49") in the locker room? How many people can say that they've inappropriately ogled Eva Longoria (in town filming "The Sentinal") as she did the butterfly press machine? How many people can say that former Dolphins runningback Karim-Abdul Jabbar is a personal trainer at their gym? I can answer affirmatively to all three.

This past weekend, though, I had my most bizarre random celebrity run-in ever.

It was Saturday morning, around 11am. I swung by the gym for a quick run before heading to the office for a fun-filled day of work. But it was really hard to find a free machine, mostly because the New York Rangers were working out.

Now I assume they were in town to play the Caps, and were staying at the Ritz Carlton (in which the Sports Club/LA is located). No surprise there - professional athletic teams stay at the Ritz all the time. What was surprising was the following:

  • Here you have a team of professional athletes working out at what is essentially a gym for (1) World Bank/IMF development nerds and (2) the trophy wives of lawyers and lobbyists. It just didn't seem to be the best venue for them to have a productive pre-game workout.
  • Have you ever seen a professional athlete in person and thought to yourself, "Wow, he's a lot bigger/stronger/faster-looking in real life than I imagined?" This has happened to me serveral times. For instance, when I saw Tom Brady and Donavan McNabb at the White House Correspondent's Dinner two years ago, I couldn't believe how tall they were. And when I ran into Popeye Jones at Dream nightclub a few years ago, I was astounded by how ugly he was in real life. But the Rangers - none of them struck me as larger-than-life. With the exception of Marek Malik, who resembles a Carpathian tree-ogre, they all kind of just looked like fairly athletic, normal people. In fact, I mistook them for a collegiate rugby team traveling in the United States at first.
  • How did I eventually figure out they were the New York Rangers, you ask? Well, they were all wearing the same grey ringer T-shirt that said "Be a Ranger," with the NHL logo emblazoned on the top. But with an exceedingly clever twist - "Be a Ranger" was written in different languages, depending on the nationality of the player. (i.e., Martin Straka's T-shirt was written in Czech, Jaromir Jagr's was written in incomprehensible pidgeon English, etc.) I found this whole thing odd - don't professional athletes generally try to remain inconspicuous in public so as not to attract the attention of the adoring masses?
  • Not that it mattered - not one person at the gym seemed to pay them any mind at all, despite their apparent attention-seeking behavior. As if we needed more proof that the NHL is no longer culturally relevant. I mean, 12 years ago, Jaromir Jagr couldn't grab a drink at Chauncy's in Pittsburgh without being mobbed by dozens of doe-eyed, mulleted, yinzer-chicks looking to jump his bones. But as he walked through the gym on Saturday morning, no one batted an eye. I was seriously considering asking for his autograph out of pity.
The 'burgh will always love you, Jaromir...


Post a Comment

<< Home