Sometime around mid- July, the All Star Major League Baseball event came to downtown Phoenix. Although the downtown area sees a good amount of people on any given day, an event such as this makes any given day look like a ghost town. People were everywhere, cars were everywhere and the light rail seemed to be the easiest way to get the hell out of there.
As I was standing at the light rail platform with a stream of sweat trickling down my face, I breathed a sigh of relief hearing the booming electronic voice which announced “the next train is arriving in approximately 5 minutes.” I turned my head sideways and took notice of a man sitting at the northernmost seat under the shaded shelter.
What struck my attention about this particular character was his attire. Dressed any other way he’d be any random commuter going home from work. But this guy was dressed like an old-school news reporter. He was wearing a fedora with a piece of paper stuck in the band, a lanyard around his neck holding some type of pass, glasses, khaki slacks and a tie. If it had been winter time, I guarantee he would have been wearing an “Inspector Gadget” type of overcoat. If I had to guess, I’d say he was in his early fifties.
I then glanced in the opposite direction partly to see if the train was on its way and also to not act like a creep by staring at someone else waiting for the light rail. Just as I glanced to look for the train, a short dude wearing a baseball cap and square glasses started walking towards me. He was munching on Cheetos and the tips of his fingers were full of orange powder. He stopped right in front of me, blocking my line of sight to spot the train. Even worse, I was staring south and he turned to look north towards old-school reporter guy, so to avoid facing him directly I opted to look straight ahead. But I was not quick enough to avoid verbal contact.
“Who is that” he asked, still munching on his Cheetos.
I reluctantly responded “Huh, who are you talking about?”
“That guy over there”, he pointed with his bright orange finger. “He’s somebody, but I can’t place his name.”
“I don’t know who he is.”
“Hahahahaha!!!” For some reason Mr. Cheetos found this amusing. I was now seriously re-thinking my decision that taking the light rail was my best option to get out of Phoenix. Before I could calculate how fast I could dash over to the express bus stop, he took a pause from deliberately chewing his Cheetos in a circular motion to proclaim the identity of our shared mystery character.
“Excuse me?” I answered, puzzled as ever.
“That… is Bert Sugar! He’s a boxing commentator. He has written for Boxing Illustrated and a bunch of other boxing magazines.”
I don’t know if I was more impressed that a man who eats his Cheetos the way a cow eats cud could identify a boxing reporter or that he was that well read about, well, anything.
“Yup, that’s Bert Sugar all right!” Amused at his ability to spot Bert, Mr. Cheetos actually slapped his own knee, and laughed.
“Wow, okay man, that’s cool” I answered. I didn’t want the guy to get overexcited and choke on his Cheetos. I certainly wasn’t prepared to administer the Heimlich on Mr. Cheetos.
The electronic voice boomed again through the speakers over the light rail platform. The train was arriving. This seemed to distract Mr. Cheetos as he then walked towards the trash can, hurrying to finish his snack before boarding the train.
Mr. Cheetos boarded the train before I did and quickly disappeared into the crowd. Bert was in the train car ahead of ours. Bert Sugar indeed. The name sounded made up to me. Besides, why would a boxing commentator be here covering a baseball event? I was convinced Mr. Cheetos was full of it. Oh well, I thought to myself. At least Mr. Cheetos was nowhere near me now. I’d hate to get orange powered sprinkles on my tote bag. After a few minutes I put the whole conversation out of my head.
It wasn’t until I was home sitting in front of my laptop to check my email that the Bert Sugar incident popped back into my head. I did a quick search, and to my surprise there was indeed a Bert Sugar who was a boxing reporter. In fact, ol’ Bert has his own IMDB page and has been featured in several movies about boxing. Okay, so Mr. Cheetos didn’t make up that part. Also, seems that Bert also writes about baseball as much as he writes about boxing. Suddenly it didn’t seem so far-fetched that man on the light rail could have been Bert Sugar.
It wasn’t hard to find pictures of Bert. He certainly dressed like an old timey reporter with the fedora hat and everything. However, the man at the light rail stop looked to be in his fifties and Bert is close to eighty and does NOT wear glasses. Also, every picture of Bert shows Bert holding a cigar. Although technically smoking isn’t allowed at the light rail platform, something tells me that wouldn’t stop ole Bert from lighting up a stogie while waiting for the train. Other than the hat, there wasn’t much of a resemblance between the real Bert Sugar and the presumed Bert Sugar at the light rail stop.
Bert Sugar indeed. I really should know better than to listen to idle chatter at the light rail.