I like Rich Eisen’s saying “Punters are people, too.” The phrase, really, could be expanded to all who are in sports, as it can be easy to forget that the people on fields and courts don’t just live there. Players are people, too. They’re real humans with real lives, real concerns, real hobbies and real thoughts.
Dak Prescott doesn’t just have some underground tunnel connecting the practice facility to Davis Wade Stadium so he can never leave. It’s a particularly true thing for college athletes whose livelihood is likely not going to be dependent on sports in a few years. At the very least, while they consider their sports to be something of a job, they’re not getting paid for it. They’re still college kids who have to study for tests and are interested in making friends and sometimes making more than friends.
So yeah, of course athletes have interests outside of their sport. Some athletes like to hunt. They are people, after all. Some enjoy cooking, designing or building things. They like romantic comedies or mafia dramas. They watch re-runs of The Office just like the rest of us.
And many of them, especially the current ones who grew up on it, love Harry Potter. As they should.
I found out early on in his baseball career at MSU that outfielder Jacob Robson is into all things Potter. Being of like mind, I naturally gravitated toward him. In fact, we did an entire interview one day talking purely about The Boy Who Lived and the qualities that make Robson a perfect member of the Gryffindor House. If none of this makes sense, that’s perfectly fine.
Robson, however, understands it fully, which is why we joined together Tuesday night as the Mississippi State Student Association put on a Harry Potter trivia night. It was what we were born to do. Robson could’ve joined the group of his baseball teammates who formed their own trivia team, but he was kind enough to be the fourth member of my group.
“They’re not real competition, anyway,” Robson told me as he looked over at them. “They won’t even place.”
However, he did confess there was one possible advantage the team of baseball players could have. Jack Kruger, a new player who had tremendous numbers in fall ball for MSU, is also a speed-reader, Robson told me. It’s entirely possible he read through all seven of the Harry Potter books over the weekend and has them fresh on his mind. Pair Kruger with sophomore infielder Ryan Gridley who has seen the movies several times each, and it was possible the group could become a formidable foe.
They did not, it turned out, but as we waited for the trivia to start, I pointed out a group across the room who was. That trio over there, I told Robson, was our biggest competition. I grew up with two of the members and have memories of one of them standing in the middle of the theater before the premier of one of the Harry Potter movies and asking for everyone’s silence as, dressed in full Hogwarts regalia, she made a toast to Albus Dumbledore, “the greatest wizard who ever lived.”
Fair to say, they’re into it. One of them saw me and came over to talk, saying she didn’t know I was there and that she’s nervous because she’s rusty on her Potter trivia.
After she wished us luck, she walked away and the competitiveness of an SEC athlete came out in Robson.
“She knew you were here the whole time,” he told me. “And she’s not rusty.”
Again, Robson was right. At least about the rust part.
But, as should have been expected, our team – The Supreme Mugwumps – rose to the top. Third place was announced after the tabulations were through, the trio across the room. Second place, another unworthy opponent. Then as first place was announced, our fists went into the air and our team of four erupted in cheers. We were the Triwizard Trivia Champions, just as we had been destined to become.
And Robson’s teammates, in a show of sportsmanship, were even kind enough to wait on him while he picked up his prizes – a brand new wand, Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Jelly Beans and a glass bottle of cold butterbeer.
His primary focus is to win on the baseball field, but it’s nice to get a victory in regular life, too.