By Michael James Nelson
Published in The National Lampoon
At some point in your life you will have a run-in with a celebrity. What ever the run-in may be, it will always resonate in your mind. And for some of you, with your leather jacket, tight leather pants, shades, and two hundred dollars worth of hair care products, it might get you laid.
For me, it happened around 1993 when I was in seventh grade. I came home to the most unbelievable message on my answering machine. I couldn’t believe it! The message was inviting me to go hog hunting with Orlando Magic superstar center Shaquille O’Neal. After that message I was, to say the very least, flabbergasted.
When I arrived at the hunting camp, I could feel the redneck rays omitted from every motor home, broken down car, and dip-spit cup on the property. It was a peaceful place. A slow place. A place where weather patterns coincided with knee swelling and concepts like the Internet and toilet paper were told with great mystery around campfires. It all fit together like one tranquil puzzle, until… THUMP! “Wait a minute, that wasn’t right.” I said to myself as I scanned the horizon. THUMP! “What the…?” That dominating sound interrupted the flow of peace again. THUMP! What was that? It got closer and closer and then I finally realized what it was.
A couple of luxury cars and an SUV broke the undergrowth and slowly crept towards camp. The sub-woofers installed in the slick looking machines floated only the loudest of beats. I stared at the tinted windows trying to get a glimpse inside one of the cars only to see my reflection, a small white boy with a tucked in Orlando Magic shirt and a bowl cut. Time stopped as the caravan of hip-hop tracks and bling-bling pierced a world coated with restricted views and rust. The caravan came to a halt along with the music. There was absolute silence as both worlds felt each other out. It was reminiscent of Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind, except communication would be executed not in musical notes, but in rapper Little John’s, “What!”
Suddenly, the door of the SUV swung open and out stepped Shaquille O’Neal. He was wearing fatigues, black Reebok pumps, and a black hood over his head. He was massive! Shaq slowly scanned this new world of scruffy white men and flannel. Then, like a commander of a hidden army, he turned and signaled to the luxury cars. Suddenly, Shaq’s posse emptied out. They were not the freshly dressed, iced out “soldiers” you’d expect from an NBA superstar. No Shaq’s entourage was the whitest, lamest posse I could ever imagine. Agents, trainers, lawyers. The Yiddish expressions flowed like the finest Manischewitz.
We stood around for a while and got to know the big guy. He was fresh off an NBA fine for punching a Detroit Pistons’ player in the face, so I kept my distance. And when he playfully grabbed a friend of mine, placed his fist on my friend’s cheek and said the words, “Drum punch. This is where I hit him,” I knew that I was going to have to reinstate the use of diapers in my life. But as time went by, I really liked Shaq and I started to realize that this day would linger in my mind forever. We grabbed our gear, loaded the trucks, and headed out.
To be a seven-foot black man with a three hundred pound bench press puts a damper on your hunting. And a size twenty-two shoe crashing on the forest floor is like a burst of tourettes at Wimbledon right before the serve. Everything about Shaq is loud. His looks, his size, even his whisper. Shaq’s whisper smacked everyone in the face, alerted every animal within a thirty-mile radius, and knocked up one of the guy’s daughters. Let’s just say if Shaq were huddled in the attic with Anne Frank and family, they would have been screwed.
We explored the property for a couple hours and realized that the thick Central Florida humidity was forcing all of the hogs into the shady depths of the forest. Finally, we spotted a family of hogs trotting across a field. Shaq positioned himself on the other side of the truck and the redneck elder threw in his words of approval and encouragement, “Get ‘er done.”
At first, Shaq held a gun like a man who had never held a baby. It was awkward and I remember thinking to myself, “Oh man, this is never going to work.” Shaq concentrated down the barrel of the gun at the family, but it was too late. They had spotted us and ran out of range. We kept on.
The day progressed in a very relaxed and laidback manner with little action expected. People cased up their guns, got out cameras, and just sat back and enjoyed the view. Not Shaq. He was ready. In his mind you could tell he was running through different scenarios, a down-to-the-wire game mentality. Sitting in back of the pick-up, gun ready, Shaq knew we would need a strong fourth quarter to win the day. The sun was low, the bugs were rousing, and the energy of the day was slowly drifting away. Then, like an explosive dunk, it rocked the group out of limbo. A piercing shout: “Hogs!”
I popped up and saw a family of hogs running toward a watering hole. Everyone jumped into position with a lot of excitement. At first I thought Shaq was doing snow angels, being attacked by bees, and posting-up in the bed of the truck. But, then I realized he was having trouble getting up and getting into position to fire. When he finally did, everyone had at it. It was a free-for-all. From the amount of shooting, I expected Paul Revere to haul ass over the hill with the British army in hot pursuit. But, when the smoke cleared, I saw our result: three hogs downed.
Despite mediocre results, the attack was still considered a success. Three dead hogs are more than zero. In celebration, Shaq grabbed a small Magnum and started firing at an Armadillo running by the truck. No dice. Not even close. But, a true champion, he regrouped, reenergized, and focused his attention on the finale of a successful hunt.
The sun was setting and everyone prepared to head home. Shaq signed some of my cards and my basketball and climbed into the SUV. As the cars disappeared, I waved them one last goodbye. I turned around, kicked a rock, and collected my thoughts. “I hope this gets me laid.”