Imagine being able to meet and talk your favorite athletes as a kid for Sports Illustrated, but you don't work for Sports Illustrated, and your dad is just playing the part. That was comedian Gary Vider's childhood.
Gary Vider remembers his father dressing up the part, camera and all, journeying to Madison Square Garden and getting to see Michael Jordan, Phil Jackson, and John Elway. He joins SI to recount his favorite memories and how the legacy brand gave him unforgettable memories.
Read the full transcript below:
Kaitlin O'Toole: It may have been the greatest scam for a sports fan posing as a Sports Illustrated Kids reporter with your dad and getting into all of the games, not to mention the locker rooms, watching your favorite players warm up before the game. Prime seating during and one on one conversations in the locker room after with your photographs and autographs. Joining me now is comedian Gary Vider. Gary, you and your dad and this scam from 1993 to 1997, and it allowed you to talk to and meet players like John Elway, Shaq, even Michael Jordan. You had to tell me more about this and how it worked.
Gary Vider: Cool. Yeah. So, as you said, we started doing it in 1993. And it was all the games that we went to were at Madison Square Garden. And it pretty much involved my dad giving the garden a call up the day of the games and letting them know that Sports Illustrated for kids would be there and I would be going as a reporter. So he would give my name and my dad himself, he would use an alias, usually went by the name of Emmanuel Wolf. But you had a few aliases, but that was one that he used at Madison Square Garden pretty regularly. That was the thing that he would switch up the names and people never even catch on. It's kind of like a game for him in away. But at the same time, we would we'd go to the games, we'd have press passes waiting for us when we arrive. And he would look the part of a photographer. He would have a whole vest and all the proper gear. And I would go with a pad and a pen and a recorder and we'd sit in the press box. A lot of times we'd also have, you know, great seats upfront, just that we're open that my dad would, you know, put me in and he'd be off taking pictures. I'd be by myself just watching the game. And once the game ended, I'd be going into a locker room and interviewing the players. And there are never any questions asked outside of, you know, that's like that's really cool that you do this. And, you know, kind of everybody was really nice to me and stuff. We want to be an easy thing to get away with based on just me being a kid. And that's kind of how it operated. And it was a pretty simple thing. And, you know, it was definitely a cool moment in my life.
Kaitlin O'Toole: I love this so much. It's hard to imagine that you guys got away with this for years and I don't know and ask you guys questions, but you did some question asking. You would talk to some of the athletes afterward. What would you talk to them about? What would you say?
Gary Vider: Absolutely. So I. I was a subscriber for Sports Illustrated for kids. So I would always, you know, read the articles. And a lot of the stuff that they would ask would be, you know, what's your favorite advice to the players or what's your favorite food? And those are the questions I just stuck with, like the natural things a kid would want to ask a sports athlete. So I would ask those questions. And, you know, I would ask when I went to meet Michael Jordan, I asked them, you know, what his favorite food was. And I couldn't remember my other questions outside of that. So, so nervous meeting Michael Jordan. But, you know, aside from interviewing them a lot of times, I was there. I just wanted the pictures and the autographs. So, you know, as unprofessional as I was as a fake kids reporter, I wouldn't even get the job done.
Kaitlin O'Toole: I love that you must have quite the memorabilia collection you've got. Oh, yeah. Oh, favorite memorabilia?
Gary Vider: So my favorite. So this is my favorite. That to me, because I grew up playing hockey. I got an autographed hat from the New York Rangers when they won the Stanley Cup because I was at the game and it was signed by the four all-stars that year, Mark Messier, Mike Richter, Brian Leetch, and Adam Graves. And I got that at Game seven when I went into a locker room and I had them all sign it. And that one means a lot because I feel like nobody else has that autograph. And has it on like an official Stanley Cup hat. So that one means a lot to me. I mean, other than that, it's just a bunch of I have a bunch of sticks and a bunch of basketball shoes, a lot of things my dad would just walk out of a locker room with. So it's just, you know, priceless memorabilia that means a lot. And it's a cool that I have it. And it's yeah. It's pretty awesome and definitely, definitely means a lot, you know, to me that we were able to, you know, get that stuff.
Kaitlin O'Toole: It's incredible. I cannot believe that you guys were able to do what you did. And obviously you've got a lot of priceless memories. And the irony of it all. Here you are years later on Sports Illustrated. Got to give it to you, Gary.
Gary Vider: Yes. So pretty much now I'm doing the job I was supposed to about 25 years ago. So, yeah. I also yeah, I owe Sports Illustrated a lot just for, you know, even wanting to do this. So, you know, to get that story out, it's pretty cool. And you know, I was at the games. You just didn't fulfill my obligation of actually writing the article. But now I did.
Kaitlin O'Toole: You did. All right, Gary, thanks for sharing. Really appreciate it.
Gary Vider: Awesome. Thanks for having me.