There are countless special moments that make this job fun, but the best ones are those that come when you least expect it.
I'll admit that coming into these London Olympics, women's water polo was not among the sports I was expecting to ardently follow. But here I was last night, joining a group of about 50 people (which included a giant duck) at John Wayne Airport to welcome home gold medal-winning water polo player Courtney Mathewson.
Here's how it all came about:
A couple of weeks ago, we got word from a fan on Twitter that during the NBC telecast of the USA-Spain game on August 1, play-by-play announcer Doc Emrick (who happens to be a legendary hockey announcer) reported that Team USA attacker Courtney Mathewson was a huge Ducks fan who was sporting the team's gear around the Olympic Village. We learned Courtney goes to several games a year with her husband Chris Morinello and his family, who have been season ticket holders since '93.
We attempted to get ahold of Mathewson through her Twitter account (I also messaged Chris on Facebook) to see if we might get a ahold of a picture. Not long afterward, she emailed me this photo, which could hardly have been more perfect.
We posted the photo on Facebook and Twitter, which got a great reaction from Ducks fans. Needless to say, we followed the progress of Courtney and the U.S. team, all the way through their triumph over Spain in the championship game last week, as they captured the first women's water polo gold medal in U.S. history.
Over the weekend, Chris messaged me to let me know they were planning a homecoming for Courtney at John Wayne Airport on Monday night and asked (half-jokingly) if Wild Wing could be there. Of course, we jumped at the chance, and we got Wild Wing to join the large group of friends and family (not to mention more than a few curious onlookers) for the surprise homecoming. The group could hardly have been more enthusiastic, making signs for the occasion, including the letters C-O-U-R-T-N-E-Y, and chanting "USA! USA!" as she came down the escalator to our waiting area.
The look on a tired Courtney's face (she had endured 14 hours of flying from London to Chicago to OC) was priceless, especially when she saw Wild Wing, who presented her with the Ducks jersey with MATHEWSON and her number 7 on the back.
Below is one of the great photos we got of the moment, and click here to see the rest.
Meanwhile, later last night I got this tweet from a gold medalist that pretty much made my summer:
Finally, we got the whole scene on video, which you can watch below. We left out the part in which Courtney reveals that one of the first things she can't wait to do after getting home is eat at Chipotle.
Thank you, once again, to Courtney for being so gracious and representing Ducks fans in one of the cooler ways imaginable. Can't wait to see her again, this time wearing that jersey at Honda Center.