Year 24, day 1.

The 24th year of my life began like every other day this past month. I woke up, checked my facebook (already flooded with happy birthday messages), got dressed, played a game of Madden (beat the Colts 77-0, on all madden) and went to practice. 

Once I got to the practice facility, things took a turn. There were cameras waiting outside when I got out of the team van. The cameras actually filmed me going into the building. I know that you probably assume that they should want to follow me in, since I am one of nineteen players that they are supposed to film, but Rod Benson is on a lower spot on the totem pole than some of the big time guys, so I was very surprised. 

I got into my gear, had a delicious Gatorade energy shake, and got my ankles taped. I have to reiterate how good these things are, the Gatorade shakes. Every time a baby laughs, I believe that the tears of joy that stream down their faces are collected by Gatorade scientists, mixed together with such wonderful ingredients as uncooked cake batter and sucrose syrup, and put into a wonderful green can. Remember 9/11? Yea, the exact opposite of that. I digress. 

Once everyone was ready for practice, coach Frank called us all in for our usual pre-practice circle talk thing. With everyone paying the utmost attention coach Frank said he had to make an announcement. 

“Guys, when one our own gets recognition, we should all be proud.” 

No way he is talking about me. No way. 

“It just so happens that one of our guys is the very best at what he does.” 

He HAS to be talking about me. Really? 

“Rod Benson…” 

Yes! 

“…has been recognized for having the #1 blog in professional sports. I read it in the newspaper yesterday.” 

Not knowing what to do, I gave a slight fist-pump. It was like MJ in the first quarter or Tiger Woods on the third green. Not the big time fist pump signaling victory, but a subtle, less energetic pump that says “there’s still more work to do.” I wish I was recognized by ESPN as the best basketball player in the history of the world, but blogging would have to do. Right then, in that moment, blogging definitely would do. 

“Furthermore, it is his birthday today. Rookies have to sing happy birthday to him. Who are the rookies? Sean, and who else? I….guess it’s just Sean. Sean, go ahead.” 

“Right now? In front of all the cameras?” Sean obviously didn’t believe coach was serious. Everybody else on the team chimed in, making it pretty serious. 

“Oh yea.” 

“Right now, gotta sing.” 

“Lets go rook. Happy Birthday. Sing it to Rod.” 

All I could do was laugh. It may have been more awkward for me that it was for Sean. I don’t think he really had any problems doing it, because when he finally did, he seemed to enjoy his off-tempo, deep voiced, slightly mis-worded rendition of the birthday tune. 

After practice, we split up into groups of 5 or so for an event called “Paint the Town.” Basically, each group went to a different location and shook hands and signed autographs and whatnot. My group (Krstic, Boone, Ilic, and Armstrong) went to a McDonalds about 20 minutes away from the practice facility. 

We all washed our hands and went to the back. They showed us the fridge and freezer rooms, the rooms where all the happy meal toys are kept, and then had us make a big mac. It took Darrel Armstrong 1 minute, 59 seconds to make one. Boone it took 1:29. Rod Benson got that bad boy done in 1:09. Should I be so celebratory? Yes. I should. 

I would say how long it took Mile to get his done, but he didn’t seem to comprehend too much. He seemed pretty content with the helium tank… 

 

We then got behind the register and made some sales. 

I was working the drive thru. I decided to sprinkle a little sunshine on the drive thru customers by placing a happy meal toy in their bag regardless of their order. I figure they will be so happy to have gotten a toy, that they will always return to that McDonalds. I was showing them that this particular McDonalds knows how business is done. 

Well, as it turns out, the McDonalds people knew that it was my birthday somehow. I was pleasantly surprised to see that they had a cake all set up with candles and whatnot: 

They sat me down in a chair while all the employees and PR people sang happy birthday to me. None of the players sang because only rookies sing. I guess. When the singing ended, one of the employees threw the cake in my face. I couldn’t believe it. There was literally cake coming through my nostrils into my throat. It was gross. They brought me a bunch of napkins and whatnot so I could clean my face off. After about two minutes of wiping, I thought I had it all off… 

 

Wrong. I continued to clean my face off in the bathroom for a few minutes more before it was really all gone. 

I got back to the hotel later and I thought to myself that I had not yet done anything for my birthday. I had to do something. At about 8pm, I got into a cab and went to Wal Mart. What better place to spend an hour or two of my birthday than at the local Wal Mart? It’s full of gifts I can give to myself if the mood strikes. In fact, I did buy a gift for myself. I bought a new digital camera that is “YouTube Approved”. What does this mean to you? It means that my video making is back. A third chapter in the boom tho series? Dont count it out! 

I left Wal Mart feeling satisfied with my purchase. I began to walk around aimlessly, when my brother called me. He informed me that he has now purchased 2 different halloween costumes. His first costume is the king from Burger King. Sounds pretty cool. His second is an inflatable ostrich that, when worn correctly, looks like a man is riding an ostrich with his legs flailing behind him. Looks like lil bro is on the right track to follow my footsteps. He purchased his costumes a month early, he chose funny and inventive costumes, and he chose two of them, obviously understanding that you dont just party once on halloween. Props lil bro, props. I told him that I intend to be the Kanye West bear. You know the bear with the little backpack and whatnot? Yea, that would be costume one. Costume two, the real costume, I figured I would be a fat guy. Like a fat version of Rod Benson. Kind of like Eddie Murphy and the Klumps. I would wear a fat suit, of course, but also get fat face makeup. I assume that I wouldn’t have that much fun being fat and hot with makeup all over my face, but it would be hilarious, which is all I care about. 

After I got off the phone with the bro, I walked past a movie theater. I stopped, thought about it, then walked back to the ticket office to see a movie. The only movie playing at 9pm was Mr. Woodcock. I bought my ticket and walked on in. I think there were about ten screens in this theatre, yet I was the only person in the whole building. Seriously. 3 employees and 1 total customer — me. I went into my actual theatre to see Mr. Woodcock, and nobody else was in there. I’ve never been to a movie by myself before, let alone a 9pm showing with nobody else in attendance. It was kind of like having a private screening or something. 

I yelled out “I guess nobody cares if I leave my ringtone on, right?” Of course there was no response. It was nice in a way. I used my phone, I laughed when things were funny and didnt fall into the trap of mob laughter. You know… laughing when something really isnt funny, but since everyone else is laughing, you get caught up in the moment and give an artificial laugh. No studio audience for me on that night. 

I finished my night off with a call from my mom who said that the NBA TV guys called me intelligent. She then said that she always knew I was smart because I was the only newborn she knew who could hold their own bottle. Interesting. 

Back at my hotel room that night, I did my best to recall every birthday I ever had… 

My 22 other birthdays (minus 1-4, which I dont remember): 

5: Got remote control car, which was cool except my brother got one too.. on my birthday. I never forgave grandma for that. 

6. Got “Contra” on Nintendo. Awesome. 

7. Won the paper airplane contest at day care with a design I learned from older kids the night before. 

8. Dont Remember.. probably because I was consumed with trying to learn my coddamn times tables. 

9. Got “Tecmo Bowl” on Nintendo. Awesome. 

10. Got a new lot of Frank Thomas baseball cards as well as my A-Rod rookie and a Mickey Mantle. 

11. Dont remember. Odd. I will blame excessive amounts of the newly released “Rice Krispies Treats” for this. 

12. Camping with the homies and fishing for trout. Also, got my first AOL screen name and entered chat rooms pretending to be a 14 yr old named Shaun. I had a “14 year old girl named Stacey” sending me letters from Seattle. She loved safeway chicken nuggets, it was what we had in common. It was all good until mom saw a letter and banned me from the computer. 

13. First set of Golf clubs. 

14. Snowboarding in Big Bear. 

15. Broke my wrist snowboarding in Big Bear, thus ending my snowboard career. I was also called out for being the only black guy to go snowbarding, being 6’7” at that, and consequently miss basketball season. After Jeff (my AAU coach) called me out, I quit boarding and focused on hoops. That talk led me to college basketball. 

16. Took a trip to Santa Barbara with our high school girls volleyball team. It was on this trip that I discovered dance music beyond Jock Jams. DJ Sammy – Heaven… get on that. 

17. Dont remember. I blame College recruiters for this. 

18. First day of practice at CAL. I nearly fainted due to exhaustion. 

19. Quiet night rebuilding my computer. 

20. “Rod-Fest” as it was dubbed by my man Prelle. The greatest party ever thrown, basically. People danced on my futon and broke it, and I wasnt mad about it at all. Junior year was the greatest year ever. 

21. Cal vs. UCLA football at the Rose Bowl. Although we lost, it was one of the greatest days in Rod Benson history. 

22. JGant, Clay, Marty, Devon, and many more gettin it done in Berkeley. There are photos of this night, but I wont show them to you. 

A year from now, I will have to do something spectacular. Until then… 

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