Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade doesn't wear a seat belt.
At least he didn't remember to fasten it for about the first eight minutes of his car ride to his Wade's World Foundation charity event Saturday at Boomer's, a family recreation center outside Miami. "Safety first," he said as he clicked it in.
How do I know this? Because I was there in the car with him. Well, not literally, of course. Wade was live for around six hours on his Ustream account Saturday, and these are the kind of intimate details you can learn about a guy when every waking moment of his life on a weekend afternoon are live on the Internet.
Wade took questions from fans watching him live in the car. He goofed out the window, and showed us how recent rain in the Miami area left some roads a bit flooded. He talked about his mother's church. He even called one fan from Nashville, Tenn., after those following along started dropping their phone numbers, and gave advice to her 6-year-old daughter about her burgeoning basketball game.
We saw Wade bowl, shoot Pop-a-shot and play laser tag and air hockey. We took a ride on the cameraman's go-kart as he followed Wade around the track. (Wade outclassed the camera car, of course.)
Sure, this was some nice manufactured PR for Wade. He didn't take us into his nightlife world (though he did show off some dance moves on a few occasions); rather, it was a Saturday afternoon at his foundation's event. With a number of cameras from the traditional media already snapping pictures and kids within earshot of his every word, Wade was certainly on his guard. He's a pro at this stuff. He knows how to operate.
But there were also some really authentic moments. When a camera is glued to you for hours and hours and hours, it's bound to happen. As Wade exited the go-kart track, he carried his son, 7-year-old Zaire, off it. The Ustream crew who was documenting his every move grabbed him to check in on-camera and tell his fans how it went for the millionth time that day, and Wade appeared irked.
And on the car ride home after the event on his way to prepare some food with his chef at his self-proclaimed getaway home, with Zaire bouncing around in the seat next to him and another child in the back bopping around, as well, Wade and his assistant instituted a silent game for the kids. And as most 7-year-olds do, Wade's son had trouble sitting still and keeping quiet. Of course, this problem only magnifies with a camera in dad's face and Zaire posturing and cheesing for it.
So we saw Dwyane Wade -- NBA champion, NBA All-Star, Olympic gold medal winner, T-Mobile and Jordan pitchman -- play the role of father. Sure, he goofed around a bit with Zaire during his silent time, trying to bait him into losing the game. But he was also visibly tired as he put his hands to his face, shut his eyes quick and peered down at his BlackBerry. It was a long day, and after being active with countless kids and his own son for hours on end, he just wanted a little peace and quiet, and when he wasn't getting it, he become a bit frustrated, annoyed even. All parents get like this in moments like these, no matter how much they love their children. Hard not to. No camera in your face is going to change that.
It was a real moment of vulnerability. A sign that yes, Wade lives his life on a higher plane than most of us, but that doesn't mean he doesn't also experience the same highs and lows of adulthood, of parenthood.
"I try to be as private as I can, you know, I try to give y'all a little bit of me without giving y'all too much -- got to keep some minds still wondering," Wade said during that drive back to his place.
And during this Saturday in December, he did just that.
Ryan Corazza is a freelance writer and Web designer based in Chicago.