Estimated Reading Time: 8 Minutes

Foot-in-mouth disease: An affliction where one has the tendency to slip up in a conversation and eat their own words. (Credit: Urban Dictionary.)

“What if I told you Joe insulted a top-tier college basketball coach in front of his daughter? That he had a bad case of foot-in-mouth disease?”

Cartoon of Man Inserting Football

Turns out, New York City is a very small city. Frequently, I run into friends, or I bump into old flings that didn’t end well. I somehow always run into someone I know walking among the 8 million people who call NYC home.

And, every so often, I rip apart a well known sports figure and his offspring, unbeknownst to me, is within earshot.

The Setting

Let me paint the scene…

Nice bar at italian restaurant

I was at work. I’m a bartender/server at an Italian restaurant on the Upper East Side. For those not familiar with the city, the Upper East Side is filled with people who were born with a silver spoon in their mouth or married rich. I’m sure there are people who actually worked their way up but the clientele at my restaurant would tell you otherwise.

The restaurant is a neighborhood joint with a family atmosphere. Lunch looks like a retirement home while dinner is filled with spoiled kids and their inattentive parents. The restaurant resides in an old townhouse with two floors. Tan and maroon are the color scheme and the walls are covered in photos of Tuscany taken by the owner during a vacation many years back. The employees wear all black, but that’s as fancy as it gets. Portion sizes are massive and prices for entrees range from $25-$35, which is reasonable for a restaurant in not only that area, but all of Manhattan.

I typically work behind the bar, pouring wine and making classic cocktails (my old fashioned is unofficially the best in the city). The bar seats 10. It’s small and intimate. Sound travels easily, anything said at the bar is heard throughout the first floor of the restaurant…

…which is what happened this past April.

The Incident

The Incident between Duke and North Carolina

It was a Saturday night. I was creeping towards the last quarter of my shift. It had been a lucrative shift; I was going to walk away with good money. There were a handful of people eating throughout the restaurant when one of my regulars, we can call her Mary for the sake of the story, came in. She sat at her usual seat, which looks out onto the rest of the bar/restaurant, its back facing the door.

Now before I can continue this story, there are a few things you should know about Mary.

Something about Mary

Cameron Diaz as Mary in There's Something About Mary

She’s in her 70s and is a huge fan of the booze. She once drank a whole bottle of a 1974 Barolo that had went bad and said it tasted good. Sometimes, she’ll ask for biscotti and will dip it in her wine as if she was dunking Oreos in milk. Quite often, on Sundays, she will sit in her seat from 3pm (which is around when she typically wakes up) until the restaurant closes at 10, drinking continuously.

Where she got her money is unknown. She was born in Germany and moved to the United States for college. The only jobs I know she has occupied were that of an actor and a journalist, neither of which pay well (I know firsthand…). She has mentioned she gets an allowance from her home country, but she won’t say how much. She comes in 6-7 times a week and spends upwards of $100 each time. How she affords it baffles me.

She knows nothing about sports and claims sports are dumb. Yet, she still will ask a million questions about what ever sporting event is on the television. She once looked at the score on the television, then looked at me and asked who was winning. She doesn’t retain any of the information either. A week later, she will ask the same question.

The idea that she knows nothing about sports is important as this story moves forward. If it weren’t for her, none of what I’m about to tell you would have happened. 

Back to The Incident

As Mary settles down, huffing and puffing as if she just ran the NYC marathon, she orders her usual red wine. While I pour her the drink, she tells me she thought about me today. I reply, “Oh really?” She nonverbally confirms and takes a gulp of her drink. It takes her a moment to fully settle in. Once she does she continues the conversation saying that she just watched a documentary about John Calipari. It appeared she had just watched the 30 for 30 about him on ESPN. She asked me if I knew who he was…

Of course I know who John Calipari is.

John Calipari sucking air.

I have some very strong feelings about the coach of Kentucky. The word “loathe” is an excellent word to describe how I feel about this coach.

Calipari is notorious for having his wins vacated from two schools, UMASS and Memphis, because his top players were ruled ineligible after receiving illegal benefits. Calipari denies he had any knowledge of his players’ wrong-doing. But am I really to believe that.  In my experience, the coach knows everything. A coach is worse than Santa when it comes to knowing if you’re sleeping or awake, bad or good. He’s got eyes and ears everywhere. My high school baseball team had to run a whole practice because my coach found out another player was drinking at some party, a party I knew nothing about. Coaches who claim they didn’t know something was happening within their locker room are liars. Just look at Rick Pitino, Art Briles, or Joe Paterno.

As I was telling Mary this, I, in so many words, called him a “cheat,” a “crook,” and “scum of the earth.” I firmly stated he wasn’t a good coach. If he was, he would’ve won more championships with the teams he’s been able to recruit at Kentucky. I also told Mary how I hated how he relies on the one and done concept. He rarely plays upperclassmen and essentially, just creates farm teams for the NBA.

However, to my credit, and I want this to be noted (Editor’s Note: duly noted), I did say that he wasn’t the worst coach in the NCAA. (That title belongs to Rick Pitino).

A New Character Enters

As my rant continued, a woman sitting in a booth behind Mary, turned toward me and asked who I thought was a good coach. First guy to pop to my head was Mike Kryzewski.

Coach K cutting down the net

Ok, yes I am a Duke fan but that’s not significant for this story.

She snickered at that statement and then proceeded to say Coach K can’t even get out of the first round of March Madness. I rebutted but she continued by bringing up Mercer, VCU, Lehigh. Not wanting to be remembered of previous heartbreaks, I cut her off by asking if she was UNC fan. I was ready to take her on in an epic debate about college basketball, knowing no UNC fan was a match for me. What she said next was completely unexpected.

“No, I’m John Calipari’s daughter.”

If only I could’ve seen my facial expression. The whole world stopped for a split second. Not being able to say anything, I turned away stunned. Was she lying or was she telling the truth? It seemed odd for someone on the Upper East Side to impersonate a college basketball coach. The only way to know for sure was to ask my good friend, Google.

Right there, after searching John Calipari’s daughter was a twitter account with an avatar that looked exactly like the woman in the booth. After I clicked on it, I received confirmation.

Like the good millennial I am, I twitted back at her apologizing. She “lolled” and we went on our merry ways. No harm, no foul. She was very cool about it and she didn’t need to be. She could’ve easily ripped me apart like I had just done to her dad. Instead she sat there silently, waiting to strike like a predator stalking its prey. Her poise and delivery were fantastic. All that was missing was a microphone to drop.

What are the odds?

The odds of this actually happening were astronomical. There are thousands upon thousands of restaurants in NYC. Calipari’s daughter picked the one I worked in that night. We have 30 plus tables, which fit a 120 people, separated on two floors. His daughter picked the table directly behind Mary’s bar stool. Mary rarely, if ever, brings up sports without being instigated. She decided to bring up a controversial college basketball coach while his daughter was enjoying her chicken parmesan right next to us. The most perfect storm had to happen for this to occur. Somehow it did.

After embarrassing myself in front of John Calipari’s daughter, I’m more cautious when bringing up sports figures at work now. I try not to say anything bad about a coach or player and if I do, I check my surroundings first. You can never be safe enough when sharing your hot takes. (Unless, you are writing for a sports blog and have two senior writers who encourage hot takes.)

It’s a small world after all, and I learned that the hard way.

small world ride

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