The Day (Back In)

Who Is That? How’s It Spelled?

For a few years, I worked a relatively dead-end job at a custom framing store. Besides getting many things of my own nicely framed, I got a story or two to tell.


The store I worked at had a contract with the San Francisco 49ers, in which all of their framing needs (which were a lot more than you might think) would be done by us. During the football season, autographed photos and memorabilia, along with action shots from the team’s photographer, came through the store on a seemingly endless conveyor belt of red and gold. The store’s owner was more of a guy’s guy than me (as are most men, most photographs of men and most symbols on men’s room doors) and would fawn over each picture with an enthusiasm I couldn’t understand.

"When I finish knitting this personalized elbow pads for pop's jersey, he'll know I'm no weirdo about sports."
“When I finish knitting these personalized elbow pads for pop’s jersey, he’ll know I’m no weirdo about sports.”

“This is so-and-so!” he’d point out. “Last season, he went for a * insert a slew of numbers and yardage that means something in football * and had * some number * touchdowns in only two seasons!”

It got to where I could recognize some of the players by face only, a great feat for someone whose lack of interest in sports as a child was cause for concern over a severe case of sissy-ism to a few relatives. To my boss, these football players and their jersey numbers were as basic of facts as the names of his own kids. To me, there was white guy with the gigantic forehead, black guy with the enormous fingers, ugly dude, really handsome guy that has zero body fat and so on.

"I'm bad with names, so I'm just gonna call you Guy With Weird Teeth or Funny Nose Dude."
“I’m bad with names, so I’m just gonna call you Guy With Weird Teeth or Circumcised Dude.”

Over time, I met several of these players, as well as folks from the business-end hierarchy side of things. To me, they were just people and I treated them like normal people. To be fair, they were always really nice and never came off as prima donnas (no, not Optimus Prime’s younger sister) and really only one stands out to me.

The player, whom I’ll refer to only as B, came in to get some artwork framed for his new McMansion (standard things that so many people feel obligated to hang in their home. That’s right, I’m looking at you, Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss). He stood about roughly 13 feet tall with Paul Bunyan shoulders and a neck that shared the circumference of the Alaskan Pipeline.

As we began discussing color schemes, etc., his ear picked up on the radio that was playing from the back room. “Who’s that song by?” he asked.

“Oh, that’s * whoever it was *,” I said.

Grabbing a piece of scrap paper from his pocket, he asked, “How d’ya spell that?” He wrote it down, then said, “I’m trying to listen to diff’rent stuff. My wife likes music, but I never know what she’s talkin’ about, so I wanna make my taste in musical,… in music songs, ya know, more bigger. I’m gonna download some o’these to listen to.”

"Wait, what song am I singing in the shower? It'd be just my luck that my wife'll ask."
“Wait, what song am I singing in the shower? It’d be just my luck that my wife’ll ask.”

After a few minutes, another song came on and B asked, “Who’s that song?”

I told him and he put pen to paper. “How d’ya spell that?”

This went on for a few more songs. He’d hear it, ask what it was, then write it on his list of songs that his wife may or may not listen to.

As he was leaving, he glanced toward the back room. “Who is this song?”

“AFI,” I said.

Pulling the paper back out, he asked, “How do you spell that?”

As tempting as the thought was of this guy going home, logging onto his computer and doing a search for A-Y-E-P-H-E-Y-E, I didn’t have the heart to do it.

He was too nice of a guy and (for the moment, at least) I wasn’t that evil.

On the assignment that was to copy the words 'Tens' and 'Ones', Allison received an F.
On the assignment that consisted entirely of copying the words ‘Tens’ and ‘Ones’, Allison received an F.

63 thoughts on “Who Is That? How’s It Spelled?”

  1. this is more of an indictment on college athletics than that particular individual, who – should his name have actually been “B” – might still have had trouble spelling it.


  2. Very kind of you to take pity on the guy.

    Worked at a restaurant in a hotel near Madison Square Garden that had the contract for visiting hockey and basketball teams.
    I had no idea who any of them were either.


    1. My wife has a really great story involving a dinner out she and a few friends had with Emmett Smith (sp?). She had to look up who he was because she didn’t understand why her friends were so excited.


  3. Fun post — I love the captions with the vintage visuals. Even though I’ve lived in New York for thirty years, the 49ers are still my team. I was born and raised in San Francisco. My father was a huge football fan. In fact, he still is at age 85. We had season tickets and I probably saw every game with my siblings and him from the age of four until I moved east nineteen years later. I know football (and baseball) quite well. I’m not a stats-spewer, but it takes me about a nanosecond to get into watching a game. Comprehending what is going on on the field is embedded in my DNA. That said, considering how much pounding the players take in their heads, I’m surprised that more of them don’t sign their name with a thumb print. I have very mixed feelings about this sport today, even though I still find it highly entertaining. Consider it a guilty pleasure.


    1. I got tickets to a few games from my boss, but always gave them away because I just had no real interest. I’m broken. To this day, despite it being explained to me on several occasions, I have no lasting comprehension of 1st downs or how a 4th down becomes a 1st down again.

      I didn’t know you were from the Bay Area. Where did you grow up?


  4. *sigh* – Good thing there was no “X” playing – that would have been a toughie to spell. I’m with ya – I have nothing of knowledge for sports (except hockey – but only to play and I like to watch but I’ve got no stats memorized) – and detest football, baseball & basketball….


  5. Love this story, Calahan. Unfortunately, my family handed me a football on the way out of the womb. Now I’m stuck with it – cursed even – as a cleveland sports fan.
    What’s the weirdest print (thing) you had to custom frame?


    1. One of the stranger things was a Beavis and Butthead blotter sheet of acid.

      My sister did softball, so that made my parents happy. I did T-ball for one season and actually struck out. Twice. A story which did not make it into that year’s Christmas cards.

      As far as sports fandom goes, how does someone even relate to one team over another? What about a particular team appeals to an individual, especially if it isn’t their local, big-league franchise? It’s all so alien to me.


      1. Oh, man – you wore gloves to frame that blotter acid, right?

        You should give t-ball another shot. Try a new thing. Redeem yourself – make it in the xmas card.

        I know it was somewhat rhetorical, but there are three tiers to sports fandom:
        1. Cheers for the local team because of family (not dissimilar to traditional religious adherence)
        2. Cheers for one particular player on a team, and by default, becomes a fan of said team
        3. The worst kind of fan; one that cheers for a team only because they win aka a bandwagon fan.

        That’s it.


        1. I did wear gloves, but the guy claimed it wasn’t actually treated.

          It’s really the fanaticism of some fans, like Raiders fans, that I don’t get. When you’re willing to get into fights with someone who favors another team. That’s nuts! That would be like Star Wars fans beating the hell out Star Trek fans who said Kirk was better than Luke. Or Italian opera vs. German opera.


  6. Hahahaha Wonderful story! Love your way with words. I was never into sports. I work in an airport and some of the other bartenders will drool over football players or boxers or basketball players that occasionally come in. And I’m over here like, “huh?”. Then they comp the entire check and try to contain themselves if they get a handshake….then they practically lick the $2 tip they get (if they’re lucky).


    1. And that $2 tip is something they’ll carry around like some lost Incan treasure. “Guess who gave me this. You’ll never guess! Alright, let me start at the beginning…”


  7. I knew diddly about football until I met Mr. Weebles, who has taught me all the finer points of the game. So now I can pretend to know what’s going on when I watch a game. This story reminds me of a time when I was working with a graphic artist who was a really sweet woman but a few pancakes short of a full stack. I told her to put “FPO” on a piece “for placement only.” She put “PFO” instead. I told her “FPO” wasn’t spelled correctly, and she said, “Well, how do you spell it, then?”


  8. I love your B.L.O.G. and it’s quirky tales. It would be hard to not resist letting your footballer go off with just an A-Y-E-P-H-E-Y-E for reference. I was laughing thinking this was the end of the story, but your kindness overcame all and your evil quickly dissipated. I shed a tear.


        1. I don’t wear a jersey. Can I just make it a potholder? I will use it more and think of you more often. Of course, I can sew it to my denim jacket, if that will make you feel better. It will probably actually have snap-on/snap-off action because I really need a potholder, not a patch.


  9. It was probably best to be nice to the guy. Not only is it good karma, you don’t want to be on the receiving end of a ‘roid rage incident. And if you think about it, the guy was trying to improve himself for his wife, which is always commendable.

    Also, mixing up initials for words is pretty common. I understand (and this may be apocryphal) that the rock group INXS was originally called “In Excess,” but a promoter or somesuch misunderstood. As a person who goes by his initials in real life, I’m amazed at how often people ask me to spell that.

    “Really? It’s just two letters.”


  10. Exactly. What he was doing was a sweet gesture toward his wife and that’s pretty endearing.

    I always wanted to go by initials when I was little. I thought it sounded cool, but my initials don’t lend themselves to becoming a two letter name.


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