Exit 45. Who is this guy, and why am I taking my picture with him?

I recently attended the Sacramento Kings Team Breakfast, an event for season ticket holders.  In addition to the free food that gave the event its name, there was a raffle, face painting for the kids, and locker room tours.  Fans also had the opportunity to line up in several spots to take pictures with one or two players and a team dancer, and kids had the opportunity to line up and shoot baskets with players and coaches.  The event ended with radio announcer Gary Gerould hosting a question-and-answer session with new coach George Karl and most of the players.

The players involved in the photo opportunities rotated every few minutes, probably to avoid a situation where everyone would line up at the same spot to take their picture with the big names, but that had the side effect that fans didn’t know who they would get to meet when they lined up.  I stood in line for about 20-30 minutes, and when I first got far enough in line to see who was posing for pictures on the court, it was Nik Stauskas and Derrick Williams.  Then after a few minutes, Ben McLemore and Ray McCallum rotated in for pictures.  They were both draft picks from the year I became a season ticket holder, I’ve been watching them for their whole careers, so I was excited about that opportunity.  They rotated out before I got to the front of the line, but Rudy Gay took their spot.  I was excited about that; he is one of the team’s big scoring threats, and he is a two-time FIBA World Cup gold medalist with Team USA.  I was next in line to get my picture taken with Rudy Gay when something happened.

In order to get through the line more quickly, they opened up a second spot to take photos on the court, with people alternating between the two.  An arena staff member pushed me to the second photo station to get my picture taken with some other guy I didn’t recognize.  The person waiting behind me got to meet Rudy Gay instead.  Who is this guy, and why am I taking my picture with him?

“How are you doing?” the guy said.  “Good,” I replied, but I was so stunned at what happened that he could probably feel the disappointment in my voice.  I asked three staff members who he was once I was out of earshot, and none of them knew either.

I found out later, during the question-and-answer session when they introduced all the players participating, that the guy I was photographed with was Eric Moreland.  Eric Moreland is an undrafted rookie who the Kings signed this year.  He had gone back and forth several times between the Kings active roster and their D-League team, the Reno Bighorns (for you who don’t follow basketball, that’s basically the minor league team for players who are still developing their skills), until he got hurt a couple months into the season.  He had surgery in January and will miss the rest of the season.

Once my mind finished processing everything that had happened, I realized that I had acted like kind of a jerk.  I felt bad for not recognizing Eric Moreland, and I felt bad for not being more excited at the chance to take my picture with him.  Being an undrafted rookie dealing with an injury, he probably doesn’t get many opportunities like this to be in the spotlight.  I was the first fan in that line who got to meet him, and I acted disappointed.  How would I feel if I were in his situation?  I finally get to take pictures with fans, and the first one to come along acts like he wants to be photographed with the other guy instead.  I sure wouldn’t like that.  If I ever again get the chance to meet Eric Moreland, I’m going to apologize.  And if he heals from this injury and plays for the Kings again, I’m going to cheer for him like crazy.

I’ve also learned that if they ever do this event again, if I want to be photographed with players, I should get in that line early, so I have time to get more than one picture with a player.  In fact, I’ll skip the food entirely and eat what’s left on the way out.