Chance Meeting Brings Up Memories Of An Old Friend

You never know where a conversation with a stranger will go.

This one began in a Starbucks line at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York. It's always a long line, and it's full of people schlepping all their stuff before moving on to the gate.

There was a pilot in front of me. He was tall, had a kind face, but I've lived in New York too long to engage with people unprompted. Particularly before my daily caffeine blast.

"Is this coffee really that much better?" he asked. "I've never had a cup of coffee in my life."

"Then you're in the wrong line," I said.

"I'm getting it for my crew."

And that's how it started. The line inched along -- not a great quality for an airport coffee place -- but the conversation passed the time. He now lived in Oregon, commuted cross-country to work. I told him I was a sportswriter on my way to the Super Bowl.

On we inched.

When I said I worked for ESPN, he stopped. Did I know Stuart Scott? Of course I respected Scott, but I hadn't really worked with him. Plenty of people I know well had been absolutely devastated by Scott's death from cancer a year ago at age 49. I mentioned the fundraising done through the V Foundation.

Turns out my pilot said they'd been little league teammates in North Carolina. He said his father, who had been the coach for the team, had recently died, and the pilot had just been home to settle affairs and go through some things.

Courtesy of Jane McManus

There, he'd found an old baseball. It had been signed by the whole team, including Scott. He described it. Maybe he could send us a photo of the ball, I suggested. I asked for his card, and he didn't have one on him but said he'd bring it by the gate before my plane took off.

We ordered coffee and parted. I started thinking about assignments and obligations as I walked to the gate and almost didn't notice him standing there when I got close.

He smiled, and I looked at what he was holding in his hand. There was the ball; he'd brought it with him from his dad's house, and he showed me Scott's signature. You have it, he said. Maybe it can go to his foundation or his daughters. And there was his signature, Kirk Myers.

And so I hugged this stranger in the middle of the airport.

I'm not a big believer in fate, but what if an object like a baseball needed a little help getting home? I'm happy to be of service.

Other things on my mind this week:

Christy Mack will be honored for her advocacy of domestic violence victims by Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence. We profiled Mack last spring, and she spoke about how her work in the adult entertainment industry was a barrier to acceptance in that community, but this award shows that things are shifting. CBS Sports correspondent James Brown is also being honored as the organization's man of the year at the San Diego dinner the night before the Super Bowl.

Lastly, the NFL gives out media gifts every year and this year the grab bag included a travel-size bottle of Head and Shoulders for Men. You might wonder why the media need any gifts at all from the NFL just for showing up at media day -- and the answer is that we don't -- but the choice of men's shampoo really says something, doesn't it?

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