Wrestling & The PGA Show

I just returned from The PGA Show. It was a lot like The PGA Show of 2004. And 2003. And 2002. There were fewer booths. And fewer people. But, mostly, it was the same. In fact, of all the interactions I had at the show, the single most memorable had nothing to do with it.

It occurred at our hotel on Thursday evening. My sister Kerry and I had just gotten onto the elevator after a long, but entertaining dinner. There were 2 or 3 people already aboard, and as the doors began to close, another person bounced in. When I say “bounced,” I mean he literally spun into the air and landed inside the elevator between us. He was around 26-years-old and wore a purple World Wrestling Federation sweatshirt with baggy shorts. As if his entry weren’t dramatic enough, he also sported a thick silver chain around his neck held together by a large MasterLock. An extremely ornate WWF belt was slung over his right shoulder.

Every jaw in the elevator dropped. Since we had 9 floors to go and I was the closest, I said, “That was quite an entrance.”

“Thanks,” he replied, apparently quite pleased with himself.

“What’s the chain for?” I asked.

“Oh!” he said enthusiastically. “This is the same kind of chain my favorite wrestler wears. And,” he gestured toward his sweatshirt, “this is his slogan. And,” holding up his belt, “this is his belt.”

While the rest of us wondered if he was “special,” he continued to talk with unbridled excitement.

“I just got to see my favorite wrestler at the coliseum! I’d never been before. And it was awesome!”

“Great.” I said as a couple of people got off on their floors.

When the elevator finally opened onto ours, he – and his exuberant conversation – followed. “When did y’all get in?” he asked as we all walked down the hall.

“Last night,” we said. “How bout you?”

“I’ve been here a week – going to school.”

“What are you going to school for?”

“I’ve been studying to be an amusement park ride operator.”

An unexpected answer, but an interesting one.

“Is that through Disney?” I asked, wondering how much farther his room could be.

“No,” he replied with importance, “It’s NATIONAL. You have to be TESTED to be certified.”

“Oh, congratulations!”

“I’m not certified YET,” he said gravely, “I take the test tomorrow.”

Eureka! We had apparently reached his room. We wished him the best of luck on his exam and tried not to burst into audible laughter.

As I reflected on this interaction, I realized that what the guy on the elevator displayed was exactly what the PGA Show was missing. Youthful (or even old-ful) exuberance. He may have been odd. He may have had unusual interests. But he was unquestionably passionate about them. He believed in them. He preached their virtues. He positively beamed with enthusiasm! And it was contagious. I couldn’t say that about many at The PGA Show.

We’ve all met someone with this kind of enthusiasm. (Heck, television evangelists make their living from it.) People who love what they do inspire envy. We want what they’ve got – whether they’re sports anchors, garbage men or even amusement ride operators.

I hope elevator guy got his certification. I’m sure he’ll be as enthusiastic about amusement park rides as he is about wrestling. I only wish he were into golf. A little bit of contagious enthusiasm is exactly what the PGA Show needs.