Saturday, December 26, 2009

Pizza Monger Meets Pizza Mogul

On a recent fateful night at Freedom Hall in Louisville, Ky., the pizza monger finally met the pizza mogul. In retrospect, it probably had to happen sooner or later.

My 7-year-year old son, Clark, is the pizza monger. Whenever we go to University of Louisville basketball games, Clark’s first stop is at the Papa John’s pizza booth. He always orders a pepperoni personal pan pizza. (These are available only at the games, by the way, from what I can tell). Then – and only then – can the fandom begin.

At a recent game, we followed our regular routine: Enter, get personal pizza, find seats. But this game was to be anything but normal. We had just settled in when I looked up and saw the pizza mogul – none other than Papa John’s founder John Schnatter– standing along the rail near my seats. For those of you who don’t know, Schantter is a native of Jeffersonville, Ind., near Louisville, and is a benefactor of the University of Louisville.

As a U of L grad myself and a lifelong Louisville native, I’ve seen “Papa John” around a few times, but never so close. Not being the shy, retiring type, I immediately called out with the catchphrase from Papa’s latest commercial: “Papa John is in the House!” Having heard this probably a billion times, Papa John gave me the requisite lukewarm nod.

Then something extraordinary happened. Papa spotted Clark with his ballgame staple, a Papa John’s pizza. Obviously liking what he saw, the pizza mogul rushed to the pizza monger and requested a high-five. Palms were slapped. Papa John returned to his post. After a couple minutes, Clark looked at me and said nonchalantly, “Daddy, that was the guy on the box.”

As it turned out, Papa John was at Freedom Hall to film a commercial for the pizza chain that will air during March Madness. At halftime, he even hit a half-court shot. To celebrate, he said everyone in the house would get a free pizza with their ticket stub.

A couple days later, we saw Papa John again, except this time it was only on the box.

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