A week ago today Char and I were coming home from a week-long vacation.
We got up early to catch our flight home and, as a result, arrived at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport before 10:00 a.m.
While riding the escalator to baggage claim we saw a big crowd waiting at the bottom. Then flashes from camera strobes started firing. News people were balancing video cameras on their shoulders, aiming them at the escalator. Someone was holding up a sign that said, “Welcome home, Champ.”
For just a few seconds there, I felt great. This, I thought, is the way I like to return home. Appreciated. Worshipped.
Char was more rational. “I think there must be somebody famous behind us on this escalator,” she said.
We turned and looked.
There we saw a man with the biggest belt buckle you ever saw on the biggest belt you ever saw slung over his shoulder (I’m talking a belt buckle the size of the platter that is serving the turkey in the famous Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving picture). He was two steps behind us on the escalator.
We didn’t know it at the time, but his name is Stipe Miocic.
I am guessing that as of 10 a.m. last Monday you had not ever heard of him either.
I, of course, came home from the airport and almost immediately got online to see if some Clevelander had won something.
There I learned that Mr. Miocic had indeed won something. He was all over the sports page of the Plain Dealer and was being talked about as the first Cleveland champion since the 1964 Browns.
What Stipe Miocic (pronounced STEE-pay Me-OH-Chich) did was win the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) heavyweight division 10 days ago. He did it against the reigning world champion, Fabricio Werdum, from Brazil.
In fact, the fight was held in Brazil, but not for long. A couple of minutes into the first round, Werdum made the mistake of charging wildly toward Miocic where he was greeted by Stipe’s right fist on his jaw. Werdum was knocked out. The fight was over. The Brazilian crowd sat in stunned silence. And a humble Cleveland fireman was the new world champion.
I learned all this online from stories and videos. I am not a UFC fan. In fact, I can’t really even watch it. The sport is mixed martial arts. Nearly bare-fist fighting. Conducted inside a metal cage. It is a brutal sport.
But, as you undoubtedly learned from the countless interviews conducted by Cleveland television news stations last week, Miocic is a really humble, sweet guy. I liked him very much.
But, as I said, we did not know that when we took our escalator ride with him last Monday.
In fact, we didn’t even stop to take a selfie. Or get an autograph. To us, he was just a guy with a big belt buckle. We had no idea he was the toughest dude in the Western Hemisphere. Or, perhaps, world.
It turns out we ended up with something better than a selfie. We ended up on TV. Maybe you saw us. I certainly heard from plenty of you who did.
Our best exposure was on Fox 8 News. On each of their newscasts last Monday and Tuesday they had a Stipe Miocic segment. And almost all of them started with his arrival back in Cleveland. On that escalator. With two clueless people from Norwalk on the step below him.
The first time I saw it, I literally jumped out of my chair. “Look. It’s us,” I shouted. “There we are on the TV news.”
It was very fun to see—on the news both Monday and Tuesday—and really nice to hear from those of you who shared your reactions. Most of them were along the lines of “We were watching the news and all of a sudden I said ‘Wait a minute…isn’t that Jim Busek and his wife?’”
Of course World Champion Miocic was equally unaware of being right behind a man who has a column in a fine little newspaper.
I am taking steps to make sure that does not happen again. I’m going to ask the Reflector for a bigger belt buckle.