Has anyone else noticed that former Badger Joe Thomas made the Pro Bowl? As a rookie? I always theorized that the Cleveland Browns\’ surprising season was due in large part to Thomas\’ blocking, and it turns out other people may have noticed that, too. Then again, I\’m a homer, so it\’s hard to tell.

Last spring, after he was drafted, my friends and I went to a bar here in Madison. Late that night, I actually ended up sitting on bench right next to Thomas. As it turns out, he went to the same high school as my wife. During his career here, I always figured that if I ever met him, that would be my opening line. But sitting a foot away from his 6 foot 8 frame, that conversation starter seemed like pretty weak sauce. So I just kept quiet. (Incidentally, he seemed like a great guy.)

You see, I have this thing about meeting famous people. I generally try to think of what my opening line will be well in advance of actually meeting them, even if no such meeting is planned. So I have something in my back pocket just in case I run into, say, Barry Alvarez at the grocery store. (I realize how irrational this is, given the fact that most famous people don\’t hang out near my couch, where I spend most of my time.)

Not adhering to this practice almost got me in trouble a few months ago. I was heading down to the Wisconsin Public TV studios to tape my little commentary, when I got news that Tammy Baldwin was on the show. So I thought there was a chance she\’d be there at the studio. Then I realized that I have no line for Tammy Baldwin. The \”Baldwin File\” in my brain was empty. So I panicked, thinking we\’d meet, and I\’d just stand there like a dope. (Fortunately, she did her interview via feed from DC, so embarrassment saved. Although I still need a good one – suggestions are welcome.)

This got me to thinking about which people would be immune to opening lines. The people who you\’d be so nervous meeting, you couldn\’t spit out a word. Then you\’d feel stupid, and it would wreck your life for all eternity. Here\’s my (admittedly, eclectic) list:

1. George Will

2. Michael Jordan

3. Michael Stipe

4. Tom Wolfe

5. Brett Favre

I asked some friends for their lists of people they\’d be nervous meeting. I got answers like Paul McCartney, Charles Manson, Jessica Alba, George Bush, Pope Benedict, and James Hetfield of Metallica. (Five bucks for anyone who can get all those people together in a hot tub.) Two of my friends separately said they\’d be nervous meeting Bill Parcells, since they thought he\’d yell at them. A female friend said her list was Osama bin Laden, Brad Pitt, and George Clooney – which means if bin Laden shows up in \”Ocean\’s Fourteen,\” she might have a stroke.