Elson’s New Sweater

The maximum height a man would want to be is 6’8”. The reason being is that this the height of most doors hung in America. You don’t want to be any taller because you will always been slouching to get into the kitchen. I’m 6’3” and it’s a great height. I’m bigger than most people and I still can shop off the rack at most stores. Being tall has a lot of advantages. People tend to listen to you simply because you stand above them. You rarely get selected last in pick-up games and you usually get the last slice of pizza. Randy Newman has it right when he sang about short people.

There has been academic papers discussing the significance of being tall with regards to leadership. These writers commented that George Washington’s height of 6’2” and Thomas Jefferson’s height of 6’3” gave them instant creditability over John Adams’ meager 5’7”. James Madison was built like a jockey at 5’3”. When Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton met at Weehawken NJ for pistols at dawn, they were equally matched at 5’7”. The founders of early America were composed of violent, drunk, angry diminished men and women for whose propensity for whipping British buttocks was only matched by asking Jefferson to get something off the top shelf.

The obvious downside to being tall is that we don’t do nearly as well in old age as our smaller citizens. Just look how Andre the Giant was cruelly taken from us and Jimmy Hart is still in the wrestling game. Nonetheless, I like meeting tall people. With the average height in the United States at  5’10” I rarely encounter folks taller than me. I fall into the 98% percentile of height in this country. I have an equal chance of meeting a sub-five footer as I do a starting center in the NBA. That’s what made last Friday such a pleasant evening.

I was working at Keys on Main the day after Thanksgiving. This is not a notoriously good bar-night in town. After the madness of Black Friday and a day of leftovers, people are not ready to start debasing their bodies. Compounded it with a home Jazz game against the Lakers, I wasn’t expecting a lot of business that night. However, we had a steady group of customers come through the door. As is the case in a town that doesn’t have a lot of celebrities, when somebody famous (Dick Norris, David Koechner, Swoop) comes into the bar, everybody is quick to point them out. Well, when a seven-footer from the Utah Jazz comes walking into the club it’s hard not to take notice.

Francisco Elson came in late. We were getting ready for last-call when Elson and his three friends come into Keys. They came up to the empty bar and ordered drinks. His friends ordered beers and sodas (Blue Moon and Diet Cokes) and he asked if we had any amaretto. I told him we had DiSarrano. Probably because he is at the beginning of the season and was counting calories, he just had one on the rocks.

When it comes to drinking, my experience is that athletes fall into two camps: beer drinkers and other. Most athletes are like Wade Boggs on a cross-country flight. They knock back beers the way that Wimpy takes on hamburgers. The other group are very methodical in their consumption. They pick something they like and have one. Karl Malone is a great example. Every time I waited on him, he would have a single glass of White Zinfandel. The only exception to the Mailman’s boozing was the night Stockton announced his retirement and he ordered a second glass. For the record, he never touched the second glass.

Because I am a fan of the Jazz and I knew who Elson was. I thought that I would have a little fun at his expense. He was dressed impeccably in dark jeans, pure white sweater and ski cap. He had just paid his tab and I looked at him straight in the eye and said, “You probably get this a lot…” I inserted a long pause as he leaned forward and asked, “but , where did you get your sweater.” I was expecting to throw him for a loop with a non-sequitur question but he gently answered, “Men’s Warehouse in Sugarhouse.”

Instead of being snarky, Elson couldn’t have been nicer. He looked at my barrel-chested frame and probably thought I was actually in the market for a sharp sweater. I felt like a complete heel. I tried to recover by complimenting him on his sweater but the damage was done – we were going to discuss men’s fashion. Short of giving me directions to the store, the person who helped him with his purchase and the money for the sweater, Elson talked about his attire for a good moment. What a guy!

I wished I wasn’t trying to be a jerk. When tall men confer, we should be discussing height related topics but I wished I complimented his resilient play with the Jazz and what a good career he’s had. I like the fact that the Jazz have acquired veteran players and I think his work off the bench will serve Utah well throughout the season. Even with limited minutes, he is a very productive player. His addition to the Jazz roster was a good move and I was excited to meet him. I wished I had just asked for a high-five instead of a shopper’s tour of men’s clothing stores in SLC.

So, I extend an apology to Francisco Elson. Sorry I acted like a Grade-A turkey. Best wishes for the rest of the season and the next time you come to Keys on Main, I’m buying you an amaretto and it’s going to be a double.

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