Admittedly, I have nothing else to write about. The Mariners are the most boring team in the history of baseball, and the Pac-10 Plus Colorado just invited Utah to come out and play. These are topics barely worth mentioning, let alone devoting an entire article to. So instead, I give you my Darrell Jackson story. I’ve been saving this for a rainy day, and frankly it’s pouring right now. Enjoy.
Once upon a time, I used to work at Champs Sports in the Bellevue Square Mall. Frequent visitors of the site already know this, but you might be new, and so I welcome you to the Seattle Sportsnet family by providing that little bit of context.
Further context: I was a loyal Champs team member from 2001 to 2005, age 17 to age 21. These were the prime years of my life and I wasted them inside an air-conditioned shoe and apparel store just so I’d have stories like this to give you. You already know that most writers wouldn’t do that for their fan base. But I care about you guys. You’re my heart and soul. And so I know now, years later, that going through the trials and tribulations of working retail was meant to serve one solitary purpose: to entertain my readership.
But I digress. Let’s get on with this story.
So the setting, as we previously established, is Champs Sports in the Bellevue Square Mall. It’s a Sunday morning in the fall, about 10:30 a.m. The mall doesn’t open until 11:00 on Sundays, but we have to get there early to prep the store for opening.
There are three of us at work on this particular morning. Our assistant manager, Mike, is at the register, counting out cash for the till. Another employee is messing with the hat wall on one end of the store, while I fold t-shirts at the other end. At this point in my life, my career goal is to be the first person to get to the good folding board (context: there is such a thing as a bad folding board, and for those of you unfamiliar with retail, folding boards help make those shirts on display look crisp) so I can tackle the t-shirts and therefore avoid having to do any real work. You can tell that I was a super motivated kid back then.
As I’m folding t-shirts, a dark figure walks up to our gate (being that the store was closed, we had our entrance gate pulled down) and starts shouting at us.
“Hey! What time you guys open?” he asks.
“We don’t open ’til 11,” Mike shouts back.
“Well I need you guys to open up now,” the dude replies. “I got somewhere I need to be.”
Now let me just pause for a second to give you a little background on Mike. At the time, he’s a college student at the University of Washington. He’s in the business school. He’s close to graduating and he’s a pretty smart kid. He’s sensible, and he realizes well enough that he’s already over-qualified for this job. In a few months time, he’ll get his degree and get a job in finance. He’ll quit Champs. He’ll move onto a career that actually has potential, and likely one where he doesn’t get cussed at by morons. The next time we see him, he’ll have a smoking hot girlfriend on his arm. We’ll never see him again after that point. These are all facts. Some commentary real quick. I always liked Mike. Me and him thought alike, attended the same school, and had higher education to fall back on. I also watched the guy drink five Dr. Peppers at Red Robin in about twenty minutes once. That was pretty cool.
Mike ponders this customer’s request, then shouts back, “Sorry, man, it’s only 10:30. Come back in a half-hour and we’ll be open.”
The dude at the gate isn’t happy with this reply. He’s shaking his head, walking away, pacing. This guy doesn’t deal with rejection very well, I think.
Finally the dude stops, leans up against our gate again and says, “Man, don’t you know who I am?” His voice rises as he says this. Goes up about an octave by the time he hits the “am.” Like not knowing who he is should be a crime or something.
The three of us in the store look at each other. We look back at the dude. It’s a sunny day and rays of light are shining through the mall’s skylights as we try to catch a glimpse of this figure we’re supposed to know. He’s wearing a cap. He’s dark. The light is hitting him just well enough that we can’t see his face. We reconvene with glances back at one another. The looks on my coworkers’ faces tell me they don’t know who this guy is, and neither do I.
Mike yells back at the dude. “Nah, man. Sorry. We don’t know who you are.”
The dude is in disbelief. Cannot fathom that we wouldn’t know who he is. He’s huffing and puffing like Rod Tidwell at this point. His ego has taken a massive shot to the nuts after this encounter.
“I’m Darrell Jack-son,” he says, drawing his last name out for emphasis. “I play for the Seahawks. And I got a game this afternoon. So I can’t wait ’til 11. You gotta open up now. I need some hats.”
Of course, we all know Darrell Jackson. We just didn’t know that Darrell Jackson considered himself to be the next Jerry Rice. Nor did we know that Darrell Jackson had such an affinity for hats.
Mike looks at me. I shrug. Maybe we should let him in, I think. Mike doesn’t want to let him in, though. I can tell. Letting this guy in, even if he is Darrell Jack-son, would be a sign of weakness. Why kowtow to yet another customer with attitude? That’s the curse of retail.
But then Mike breaks. “Okay, man,” he sighs to the receiver, “we’ll let you in.”
Let me pause for yet another brief moment to explain the Champs Sports policy on celebrities, or even pseudo-celebrities like Jackson. When it comes to Champs Sports, celebrities have the right-of-way. The company is so desperate for the cash that these guys will drop, that short of murdering someone, a celebrity can do just about whatever he wants in a Champs location. Dozens of athletes used to come into our store and buy the latest Jordan kicks days before they were released to the public. The manager would sell the shoes under the table, then inventory the product on the day of its actual release. It was a shady tactic that could have terminated the contract that Nike held with Foot Locker, Inc., parent company of Champs, had it been discovered. But the money — and the continued business of these famous millionaires — was seemingly more important.
Mike unlocks the gate and allows Jackson entry. Jackson walks over to the hat wall, spots our third coworker, and says, “Get me eight hats.”
Confused, our third coworker replies, “Which eight hats?”
“Any eight hats,” says Jackson, “so long as they’re New Era. Size seven-and-a-half.” New Era, for those of you who don’t know, is the company that makes all the caps for Major League Baseball.
“Uh, okay,” says our coworker. And tentatively he sets out on a task to find eight hats that would suit a diva wideout.
Upon locating eight hats that meet the criteria, he turns the results of his search over to Jackson. Without auditing the loot, Jackson grabs his new headwear and heads to the counter.
Mike opens the register and rings up our first customer of the day. Jackson quietly pays for his hats. He gets his receipt. He scoops up his hats. He leaves.
Later that afternoon, Jackson plays in a football game, as promised. A few weeks later, he comes back in during normal business hours. Once again, he buys eight hats. Any eight hats. So long as they’re New Era. Size seven-and-a-half.
But on that particular Sunday morning, as the former Seahawk leaves our store and exits the mall, I can’t help but be a little surprised at what has just occurred. Not only has a B-list celebrity used the “Do you know who I am?” line on us, but in addition he has just dropped close to $300 on hats that he could care less about. Within four years, Jackson will be out of the NFL. He’ll earn millions of dollars during his playing career, but likely spend a good portion of that on material goods that just don’t matter. Like hats. In groups of eight.
Where is D-Jack now? That’s a damn good question. I have no idea, but I can promise you that I won’t soon forget the guy. He gave me the ultimate WTF moment a few years ago and for that, he gets his very own article on a day when I have little else to write about. Congratulations, Darrell. I hope you’re still enjoying your hats. And yes, I know who you are.