To be selected as a finalist for an ESPY was hands down one of my biggest honors in my 29yrs on this great Earth. The experience opened the door and gave me a peek of the life that some of our biggest sports stars live each day. Now, I will reveal this world to you in my own unique Aaron way.
If was Monday July 11th and I was on a flight from Toronto, Ontario heading back from a weekend with my fellow Canadian blind folks at Won With One and the Peterborough Half Ironman where I took 4th overall. I arrived into Seattle, WA at 3:30pm and had a scheduled “drug deal” exchange waiting outside of customs. Assistant friend Lauren Summers handed over Ret the Wonder Dog and the “pimp” attire I would need for the week. In exchange, I gave her sweaty race clothes and a huge tandem bike box. I think I scored on that deal! There was no time for messing around. A poop and pee for RET and we were off. Despite countless interruptions from fans of RET The Wonder Dog trying to get a chance to pet him we were able to board our 5:30pm flight to LAX. Ret scratched and pawed his way to stay out of the travel kennel but once inside he found something to chew on and was quite as a mouse the entire flight.
Once in LA, the car service picked the Retster and I up and went directly to The W Hotel Hollywood. As I stepped out of the limo in my cargo short and sweat stained shirt I was greeted by five, “most would say HOT” ESPY greeters, I thought to myself, “do I belong here” and “are these girls greeting me to pet my dog or do they want to talk to me?” Come to find out they checked my name off the list and escorted me to a special room to claim the coveted gift bag. “Gift bag” does not give justice for what this gift bag really includes. Good friend web designer Justin Fales met me to drool at the gift bag treasure valued at $20,000. Trips to Cabo San Lucas, projector screen, helmet cam and loads of gift certificates are just a few of the treasures inside.
After checking into the swanky W Hotel we didn’t have much time before we had to head over to the special ESPY Playboy party. We did allow enough time to take Ret out to poop on a Hollywood star. One thing I do regret is not looking at whose star it was. Ret did it so naturally though. Like he belonged in Hollywood and he deserved his own star. By the reaction that he received each and every time we returned back to The W you would have thought he was a mega star. They even gave him W doggy treats and would take him for walks when we were at the parties.
Everyone wanted to get kisses from the Wonder Dog. One of my favorite moments was when 7,2” Dallas Mavericks center Tyson Chandler came up to pet RET and then said, “I gotta get a picture with this dog. Come on up to my room whenever you want, room 915!” Can you imagine a giant like him with RET on a leash walking around. He would have to get extra long leash just for the leash to reach the ground.
We finally got to the Playboy party to find out the fire marshal said they were over capacity. Evidently not too far over capacity because a few minutes later Amare Stoudemire and Leann Rimes arrived and they were escorted straight through the doors. Those guys were not even part of the ESPY nominees and Leann is not even an athlete. Tired of the special treatment we took matters into our own hands. My manager Carie Goldberg knew about a back door entry and after the fire marshal exited the back door, we did like Bond and snuck in. Inside, Carie and Justin painted a picture for me. Playboy Playmates nude with painted bikinis and traditional bunny costumes. The rest of the club was filled with a few people you may have heard of before. Just to name a few I met that night include Jerome Bettis, Shawne Merriman, Eddie George, Michael Irvin, Leann Rimes, and many more. On a hilarious note, I went up to Michael Irvin thinking he was Emmitt Smith and introduced myself. When I told him I saw his teammate Michael Irvin in the club he replied, “I am ichael Irvin.” This was just another Aaron moment that I laughed and shrugged it off.
We added soon to be ESPY winner Mallory Weggemann to our group and enjoyed FloRida doing his thing up on stage. Goldberg introduced me to some MLS soccer boys and I remembered my dream of playing pro soccer in my younger years. Seattle Sounders fans would not be happy with me but I agreed to wear a Chivas USA jersey when they came to Seattle.
By 2am the party was slowing down and some of the stars (Leann Rimes included) were in prime form. Not far from The W, Justin and I walked back and grabbed RET the Wonder Dog for a night walk. RET was again bombarded by his fans, which could have been super star athletes for all I know as I can’t recognize anyone as seen by my Michael Irvin blunder.
Tuesday morning came and we woke up to glowing ESPY stickers above our bed. The entire W Hotel was rented out by ESPN and ESPY logos filled the halls. On deck for Tuesday was a journey through the gifting suites. Upon signing in to the gifting suites, we were greeted by our very “hot” and “sweet” escort Nancy. We proceeded to enter rooms where companies introduce their products and then put them in your “trick or treat” bag. Some of these products included an HP Touch Pad, 5-day trip to Caribbean, Skull Candy headphones and much much more.
As we walked through I met former World’s Fastest Man Maurice Greene and also hung with star wrestler and finalist in my category Anthony Robles. RET the Wonder dog was so sweet throughout the entire journey. Escort Nancy fell in love with RET and I think Justin fell in love with Escort Nancy.
Later on Tuesday, Matt West arrived on his first class flight from Michigan. This began the packing of my room at the hotel. It wouldn’t be Team Scheidies unless we brought the entire clan and stuffed the room to capacity. Brittney and Lauren joined the army and before we knew it we had a room that looked like a bombs helter. Three people to each bed and suitcases exploded everywhere. It was a paradise playground for RET The Wonder Dog.
Tuesday night was the pre-party and since tickets were a hot commodity, Matt West and I were the only ones able to attend. We walked into the club to be greeted with top shelf drinks and a special candy fairy lady that had cluttered the bar with every candy you could ever want. It looked like a scene from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
From the ceiling, a girl and guy hung from a trapeze and a large cloth and performed maneuvers I didn’t know were possible by the human body. This all led up to performances by YouTube mega star Karman Music and her speedy singing as well as Estelle. We were up close and personal at all the shows. It was like having a personal show brought to you.
Wednesday was the day of the show and I woke up feeling like I was in a dream land. I wasn’t even thinking about winning, I was honored to be there. Team Scheidies multiplied as my aunt and uncle, mom and dad and Matt and hristen Miller joined the gang. My uncle Bob being a sports nut was in heaven just watching the people pass by in the hotel lobby. From out of the chatter I hear “Zebo”. I immediately put my Spartan face on and remember that “Zebo” is former Michigan State basketball star Zach Randolph. In no time I was next to him giving him some Sparty love. Yes, this did include taking my shirt off in the lobby and showing him my Iron Spartan on my back. This was a vivid enough picture that Big Zach said hello Sparty style the next time we were in the elevator together.
The day flew by and before I knew it was time to board the shuttle to the red carpet. My entire entourage took the shuttle, however only Matt West, Carie, Brittney and I could make the special stroll down celebrity lane. As we step onto the red carpet, who better to be playing on the stage than teenage girls dream Justin Bieber. As he made all the little teenager girls go wild, we had our own show on the carpet. I busted out a bag of CDifferentwithAaron Eye chart shirts and began getting the crowd riled up.
As we passed by Cam Newton, I was going to give him a shirt but realized he would bust out of it before he got in it. As a compromise I gave one to his brother that accompanied him. The eye chart shirts were a hit and evidently made it on to the ESPY Red Carpet Show.
On the red carpet we looked like tourists walking around taking pictures of anything as if it were the Grand Temple while most others walked around like this was an everyday activity. We definitely took in the experience as we repeatedly were asked by the security men to keep moving forward. Once inside the Nokia Theatre we made our way to the floor. We were strategically placed right in front of the ESPY winner for Best Bowler, Jason Belmonte. Of the people I wanted to meet at the ESPY’s he was definitely right up near the top so I was super stoked. Well, not really, but congrats to him on his Ten Pin mastery. I was surprised to see that at big awards such as this they still used seat fillers. Hard to imagine that they couldn’t sell out all the seats, especially when I know gobs of people that wanted to come. However, by having seat fillers they are able to control the way the crowd acts and responds such as clapping when they want you to clap and filming exactly who they want to film. Tis is Hollywood at its greatest.
As the show began, Seth Meyers came on and blew it away with his stand up roasts of Brett Favre, Brian Wilson, Dirk Nowitzki and more. Those of you at home got to see the same show as us live minus some of the other ESPY’s which were announced on stage on the commercial breaks. I was super excited for new friend Mallory Weggemann as she won an ESPY for Female Athlete with a Disability. Although the ESPY for my category went to Anthony Robles, I could not feel more honored than to have been runner up to such an amazing athlete. Anthony also won the Jimmy “V” Award for Perseverance. Check out the video of Anthony accepting his award below.
Following the awards, Matt, Carie and I met back up with the clan who were seated in the upper deck. We left the theatre and managed to get a picture with none other than Ron Jeremy. He was no hero in my eyes and as a matter of fact I don’t know if he even knew his name in the state we encountered him. Nonetheless, a story to tell.
From the show we headed to the after party which included a massive spread of any food you could imagine. They even had double-double animal style burgers from In-N-Out Burger. Nothing better for the greatest athletes in the world to eat than one of these. Inside the party on stage some of the acts included Lupe Fiasco and an entertainer that thinks very highly of himself named Cee Lo Greene.
Carie brought a friend named Brett with her to the party. Like Brittney, Brett was also southern and the two of them proceeded to carry on very “southerly” conversation as we dressed up and took goofy photos at the picture booths.
Come 1am it was time to head to the After After Party at DRE’S at the top of The W Hotel. We again only had two tickets for this party but throw in Lauren, Justin, Brett and Carie and we would have to have an alternate plan. Thankfully we had farmer Brett with us and he happened to notice a staff elevator around the corner from the guest elevator. Our whole clan scurried into the staff elevator and when the doors opened at the top we were in the back of the kitchen. Just outside the kitchen doors was a bouncer that stopped us dead in our tracks. No worries though Farmer Brett very confidently was shouting, “We got an ESPY winner here!” There was no way the bouncer was going to deny an ESPY winner and his clan. He let us right through and we were all in.
At this party we chatted with Arthur Ash Award for Courage winner Dewey Bozella and also with hilarious host Seth Meyers. The club was really cool and the floor was an opaque Plexiglas sheet over the swimming pool with lights shining from below. It’s funny because even in parties such as this where nearly everyone there is a big name, there still is VIP/Reserved areas. Most everyone was still dressed in their flashy attire except for one guy who was wearing a crab suit coat with sear sucker shorts. Not sure if he was at the right party or not. Super clutch performer Kemba Walker was trying to mack on some ladies when we strolled by and I am sure messed up his game. He did however take a liking to Brittney which seemed to be a trend for the night among many of the athletes.
By 3:30am, the club stopped serving and people began clearing out. We packed into the elevator and stopped off at the 9th floor. RET the Wonder Dog was waiting to go leave his mark on yet another Hollywood star before we all crashed for the night.
Come morning it was Thursday and ESPN’s reign at The W hotel was coming to an end. Team Scheidies was on the way back home by mid day except for my parents who stayed till the evening so we could spend some time together. After searching everywhere in Hollywood we finally found a patch of grass larger than 10sq ft. for the Wonder Dog to run around and by the time he was done it was time to finish packing and head to the airport.
The experience was something I would have never imagined and I am so thankful for everyone that has supported me and helped me to get where I have thus far. It was so amazing to share this experience with my parents, relatives and friends and I never can thank you all enough for your support.
Congrats to all the ESPY nominees and winners. Also, congratulations to Anthony Robles for his amazing talent and perseverance. Maybe next year I will get another nomination and have the opportunity to be named not just a finalist but an ESPY Winner . :)