NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Have I ever told you about the time I got thrown out of the White House? It happened and here’s how it unfolded.
It was 2007 and our bowling team was basking in the thrill of winning Vanderbilt’s first-ever NCAA team championship. My son John is the head coach and one day he walks into my office and says someone at the White House just invited the team to meet President George W. Bush.
We were delighted and excited that we would be the first college bowling team invited to meet the president. John soon received follow-up details with a checklist of security measures, timetables and so forth.
The rules stated that no “reporters” were allowed but since I was the athletic communications director – not a reporter – I didn’t see that as pertaining to me. After all, if I didn’t write about our experience how would most of Vanderbilt Nation know it happened?
The next day I emailed the inviter to see how I would go about filing my story, an inquiry that seemed perfectly reasonable to me. John didn’t think that was very smart but there was nothing we could do now but low-key it and assume all would be ok. We went about preparations to attend. (Incidentally, everyone pays their own way to these things; no taxpayer money is involved.) We scurried to create a “presidential” red, white and blue bowling ball to present to President Bush. It was a beauty and we were proud of it.
Entry to the White House requires a detailed background check and then navigating a gauntlet of impressive and intimidating security personnel that studied each and every attendee with an eagle eye. It was no place for jokes. The guards were packing impressive heat.
We cleared security and gathered just inside the East Wing. As we milled around the foyer waiting instructions, someone from the staff picked up our bowling ball and hauled it off momentarily for inspection.
And about this time, someone called out “Is Rod Williamson present?” I raised my hand and this young man, I’m guessing an intern, said “Follow me.” As he led me around a corner and down a hallway, I assumed he was taking me to meet back up with our gift and chose me as one of the elders in our entourage.
Wrong! The staffer opened a door, beckoned me in an “after you” motion and as I stepped through, the door abruptly slammed behind me. Shocked, I was now alone on the South Lawn and had been cut from the flock. As I wandered in a…