South Portland, Maine — Growing up in Michigan following in my father's footsteps, I loved sports, especially football, baseball and hockey. In high school, I was in awe of stars of the Detroit Tigers, Lions and Red Wings.
My favorites were Al Kaline, Lem Barney and Gordie Howe. Hockey was the sport I was most in love with. I remember going to chemistry class at Adelphian Academy and fooling my teacher, Carl Hansen, by propping my text book up on my desk intently focused on the inside of my book. But unbeknownst to Mr. Hansen, I was memorizing Gordie Howe's statistics in the Detroit Red Wings Year Book which was taped to the inside of my chemistry book. Later in life I confessed this story to Mr. Hansen who forgave me with a warm smile.
I had always dreamed of meeting a true superstar, especially Gordie Howe. In my junior year, I was sure my dreams were going to come true as one of my new classmates lived next to Gordie Howe and baby sat for his family. She promised to match up a meeting but sadly never delivered.
In 2018 the Boston Red Sox won the World Series. One of the Red Sox stars is Mookie Betts, who was the American League MVP in 2018 with a .346 batting average and 129 runs. Mookie Betts started with the Portland Maine Sea Dogs, a minor league affiliate of the Red Sox. His debut with Boston came in 2014.
The first week of December, while Ubering one evening in Portland, I responded to a ride request from a "Claudia." When I pulled up to the address on a cul-de-sac, there was a short black gentleman in a Red Sox sweat shirt standing in the driveway who opened my vehicle's front passenger door. As he was getting in the front seat next to me, he said, "My wife Claudia ordered the ride. I'm headed to the Sports Restaurant in South Portland. Do you know who I am?"
"No" I replied, as I hit the Start Ride bar on the Uber app.
"I'm Mookie Betts. Do you know who Mookie Betts is?"
"Of course,” I said.
Even though it was dark out, he could see the flummoxed look on my face. As if it was his mission in life to convince me of his authenticity, while we were still parked, he went into an extensive description of the six cars on his lot including a Lamborghini.
While this guy looks like Mookie, I'm still skeptical and so I decide to give him a test. "How do you like your new general manager?"
"Oh, Dave's a great guy to work for,” he replied. Wow, he passed this test as I knew the general manager of the Red Sox was Dave Dombrowski, who had just come from Detroit.
While this story may have a funny and innocent ending, there are, unfortunately, many examples in today's world where fake stories are being used to defame the innocent in not so humorous way.
To complete the sales pitch, he reaches over and gives me "the brother" handshake. Like Susan in "Miracle on 34th St.," I began saying to myself, “I believe, I believe!”
Finally, we start the ride and on the way to the restaurant he asked me if I would be interested in doing private transports during the season taking him from Portland to Fenway Park in Boston. Would I?!
As we approached the restaurant, he asked me to join him with his friends who were watching the Sunday night football game. "I don't drink alcohol, but I'd love some fruit juice,” I said.
We walked into the restaurant and he spotted the corner where his friends were watching the game on a big screen. Approaching the corner, I was shocked to see that one of the friends was Rich, an acquaintance of mine who manages a restaurant in Portland.
This iced it for me. I now had no question that I had a new friend — Mookie Betts. After Mookie ordered a mango juice for me, I asked Rich to take a picture of us with my phone. As I couldn't stay very long, Mookie and I exchanged cell numbers and he announced to the group that Theodore was a new friend.
When I got home that evening, I sent a copy of the pic to a couple of my friends with the caption: My New Friend — Mookie Betts. I thought I might get a text from Mookie that week but nothing came.
A few days later I began looking for a restaurant that would be open for Christmas, so I stopped by to see my friend Rich. While there, I said, “I haven't heard from Mookie yet.”
As he began laughing, Rich said, “Ted, that's not Mookie. He looks so much like him, he has fun impersonating him sometimes.”
As I looked at that picture again, I thought of a couple things that, in hindsight, should have raised my suspicions. First, when I asked my friend to take the picture, "Mookie" pulled other people to join us. Secondly, professional athletes usually don't wear their team jerseys when they are not at work.
I tried my best to hold my composure as I left the restaurant. Ted you've been faked out by a fake story! In this case no harm was done, and I was able to get a good laugh at myself.
Alas, however, my dream still eludes me! While this story may have a funny and innocent ending, there are, unfortunately, many examples in today's world where fake stories are being used to defame the innocent in not so humorous way. It would be wise to remember the words of Solomon in Proverbs 12:19: "Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue is for a moment.”
Theodore Lewis, former CEO of the Guam Memorial Hospital, is now based on Maine, where he is exploring Uber adventures and collecting stories about life. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.