The first time Patrick Hodgdon saw Mike Drysch in the lobby of Miami Beach’s upscale Raleigh Hotel last week, he figured there was no way.
The scouting report Hodgdon, a 27-year-old digital strategy manager for Minneapolis-based Bolin Marketing, had received from a Carmex public relations employee a week before he met Drysch was that Drysch’s chances of hitting the shot of a lifetime weren’t good.
Hodgdon agreed, seeing the 50-year-old McHenry resident who lives in an upstairs apartment above a retired carpenter and his wife as someone who was extremely likable, humble and about to miss the $75,000 half-court shot during a Miami Heat contest promotion.
Even Drysch, the man who had devoted a couple of hours each day for the past eight years to entering sweepstakes like the one that landed him in Miami last week, didn’t have high hopes. He left Chicago a week ago today, flying from Midway Airport with his possessions in a green gym bag.
He had packed just enough for a couple of days – a few short-sleeve T-shirts (including a red one with the words Coney Island Hot Dog 5K), a pair of camouflage shorts and open-toed sandals. If nothing else, Drysch figured, he would hit the beach, stay at a nice hotel and see the Heat play.
That plan certainly changed.
In front of 20,000 fans in between the third and fourth quarters of Friday’s Miami Heat-Detroit Pistons game, Drysch drained the half-court shot – with a clumsy-looking sky hook.
The basket, which dropped clean through the net without the aid of the backboard or rim, sparked a spontaneous celebration that included a bear hug from LeBron James. Just like that, Drysch became the envy of every beer-swilling everyday Joe who had dreamed of living out such a moment.
Hodgdon hadn’t planned to work beyond Friday night. Suddenly, he had a good problem, with the star of a video that went viral within moments.
“We really didn’t have a full-blown P.R. plan because nobody expected it to go in,” Hodgdon said in a phone interview Wednesday. “Him hitting the shot was probably a 10-out-of-10, and it probably makes the Top 10 on “SportsCenter” and maybe it’s No. 8 or 9, but LeBron coming on and bear-hugging him to the ground just made it 100 out of 10.”
Over the course of the next 95 hours, life – at least as Drysch and a party of two young professionals who came to be known as his BCE (Big Check Entourage) had come to know it – changed dramatically. There would be a trip to New York, early-morning appearances on Fox News, ABC and CNN, making three perfect strangers inseparable.
Like Hodgdon, Michael Kraabel – a videographer who had been sent to Miami to document the half-court shot for Carmex – wasn’t expecting big things. Having a 9-to-5 office worker take an improbable shot at $75,000 didn’t provide much of a compelling storyline.
But after the shot found its mark and James’ spontaneous response made it an “epic worldwide adventure,” Kraabel knew he was working with gold, promoting what became a whirlwind two-city media tour that made Drysch a household name.
Between the time the half-court shot dropped and Drysch’s traveling party departed Miami on Saturday afternoon, the middle-aged man and his two public relations handlers operated on adrenaline. Everywhere they went, Drysch and his over-sized $75,000 check were recognized by South Beach admirers.
“Hey – you’re THAT guy,” yelled fans, who ran across busy intersections to pose for photos with Drysch, who within hours of his half-court heroics had become one of Miami’s most recognizable faces. It wasn’t long before Hodgdon and Kraabel knew their job was not only promoting what was quickly becoming a national story while also protecting a man they knew wasn’t ready for the rush of attention that awaited him.
“It was like we were triplets born at the same moment,” Kraabel said. “We were just bonded for life. This guy isn’t prepared for this, we’re not prepared for this – we just knew we had to stick together and help each other out and make sure we’re all covered.”
South Beach was far from the life Drysch had become accustomed to. He moved to McHenry three years ago from Lake Forest, where the upscale life and a shortage of money had put Drysch down on his luck. He has worked for American Hotel Register for 15 years – first in information resources before being promoted to the role of computer technician.
So after hitting the shot, all of the attention hit Drysch hard, casting him into a loud, bright-lights environment he hadn’t been in before.
“I’m getting up there in age, and I was just hoping I could hold on for it all,” Drysch said.
Drysch soaked in the attention, loving every instant of his new-found fame. DJ Irie, in his 12th season working as the Heat’s arena emcee, had never encountered anyone quite like Drysch. And when Drysch was escorted to center court as the grand prize winner of the sweepstakes that would change his life, Irie saw what everyone else did.
Never in his wildest dreams did he ever imagine the poster boy for the common man would gain instant notoriety. So before the shot, Irie patted Drysch on the shoulder, reminding him that if the shot happened to go in, everything would change.
“He was just this jolly guy and you’ve got people who are unique and people who are in a class of their own,” Irie said Wednesday. “Michael is in a class of his own.”
Irie, who was working at Mansion Nightclub in South Beach on Friday night, reached Heat media relations employees, telling them he wanted Drysch to be his guest. When Drysch and his party arrived, his celebrity grew in the red-velvet rope environment. He posed for more photos, instantly recognized after his image had been blitzed all over TV the past few hours.
“He ran the club that night, man,” Irie said.
Over a course of days, in Miami and then in New York, Hodgdon remained buried in his phone, setting up one media appearance after another. Between Saturday morning and Tuesday, Drysch appeared on seven nationally syndicated programs while also doing his share of radio and Skype interviews. In between, he took in a Knicks game at Madison Square Garden and saw New York from the top floor of the Empire State building. He sat in the audience of “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon”, continuing to revel in his new-found identity.
Kraabel saw a different side of Drysch come to life.
I think it may have given him a boost of confidence – and it may just help him say, ‘You know what – you may have been a normal guy before, but you accomplished something no one else will ever accomplish.”
Tuesday night, Drysch touched down in Chicago and took a cab back to McHenry. For the first time since he left, he got a full night’s sleep before returning to his Vernon Hills office Wednesday morning. Like everywhere else over the previous 95 hours, he found himself the center of attention in an environment where people were still buzzing about his memorable shot.
Drysch said future appearances on “The Jimmy Kimmel Show” and “Ellen” are still possible. But for the time being, Drysch will settle back into his everyday life. After taxes, Drysch will likely end up with just more than $50,000 – only a small amount of which will be left once he catches up on some bills and travels to Utah to visit his mother.
He will continue to devote a couple of hours a night to entering sweepstakes, anxiously awaiting his next adventure. Of all the things he says he has won in the past – trips to Las Vegas and London, a new pick-up truck and other prizes – the trip to Miami and his encounter with James remain at the top of the list.
Whether his latest win qualifies as life-changing remains to be seen.
“You get used to your lifestyle – going to work, sitting in a cubicle – and if it changes, I won’t mind,” Drysch said. “It’s a 9-to-5 monotonous routine, dead-end (job) and hopefully this turns into something that I can get away from this lifestyle.
“But until then, I’ll go to work and that’s just the way it is.”
MIKE DRYSCH TIMELINE
A detailed look at the past five days for McHenry's Mike Drysch:
FRIDAY, JAN. 25
8:45 p.m.: 50-year-old McHenry resident Mike Drysch is escorted to half court of AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami in between the third and fourth quarter of the Heat-Pistons game. The computer technician connects on a hook shot that wins him $75,000 and earns him a leaping bear hug from Heat star LeBron James. Almost instantly, the video of the shot and the celebration goes viral.
8:50 p.m.: After hitting the shot, Drysch becomes an instant celebrity. He conducts television, radio and newspaper interviews during the fourth quarter before appearing after the game with James on NBA TV.
9:45 p.m.: After finishing interviews with two Miami TV stations, Drysch and representatives from Carmex, The Boys and Girls Club of America and his team of public relations handlers return to the Raleigh Hotel. There, they relax and celebrate at the hotel bar.
11:20 p.m.: Drysch’s party moves to an outdoor sports bar near Ocean Drive on South Beach, where three large projection television screens are showing ESPN’s “SportsCenter” on a continuous loop. Drysch, still wearing a yellow Carmex sweatshirt and camouflage shorts from his appearance, poses for photos with fans. At the bar, footage of Drysch’s shot is shown as part of SportsCenter’s Top 10 and he quickly becomes known around Miami as “That Guy.”
SATURDAY, JAN. 26
12:45 a.m.: Through Heat media relations officials, Drysch learns that DJ Irie – who works as the arena emcee at Heat games – is working at South Beach night club “The Mansion” and wants him to come party there. Drysch arrives despite not meeting the club’s dress code and continues to pose for photos. He quickly becomes the club’s guest of honor, appearing on a table at the front of the club with Irie. Heat owner Micky Arison snaps a photo of Drysch at the club posing with female admirers and tweets it out to his 89,144 followers.
4 a.m. Drysch and his party arrive back at The Raleigh Hotel to retire for the night. They sleep for 21⁄2 hours.
8 a.m.: Drysch tapes two interviews with Miami television stations along with a host of phone and Skype interviews. While waiting to hear back from “Good Morning America,” Patrick Hodgdon – who is handling all of Drysch’s media requests – receives a call from Fox News’ “Fox and Friends,” which wants Drysch to appear Sunday morning on their show in New York.
Noon: Hodgdon negotiates air and hotel accommodations with Fox News, which arranges for a flight that afternoon.
3 p.m.: The party departs Miami for LaGuardia Airport in New York. Drysch manages to catch a cat nap on the flight before arriving in Manhattan on Saturday evening.
SUNDAY, JAN. 27
8:30 a.m.: Drysch appears on “Fox and Friends” making his first national TV appearance.
1:25 p.m.: Drysch, Hodgdon and videographer Michael Kraabel meet with Good Morning America producers, planning Drysch’s appearance the next morning.
3:55 p.m.: The party travels to Madison Square Garden, taking in a Knicks game.
9:48 p.m: The New York tour includes a visit to the Empire State Building, which is also on Drysch’s bucket list of things to see in New York.
MONDAY, JAN. 28
7:30 a.m.: Drysch is interviewed on “Good Morning America”.
8:29 a.m.: Arrives for appearance on “Inside Edition.” Like with Good Morning America, producers want Drysch to re-create the shot from Friday night – he misses on both shows.
10:15 a.m.: Before taping the “Inside Edition” segment, Drysch, Hodgdon and Kraabel travel to the West Side YMCA to practice the half-court shots for “Inside Edition”. Hodgdon connects on a hook shot on his third attempt and then hits a second straight shot before hitting only one more in his next 15-20 attempts.
Drysch is also referred to as “That Guy” by celebrity Dean Cain in Cain’s interview on TMZ. Hodgdon has started to get interest from “Jimmy Kimmel Live” and The “Ellen” Show, both of which tape in Los Angeles.
5:07 p.m.: Drysch, Hodgdon and Kraabel meet in the hotel lobby with producers for a local radio interview that will air that night.
7:30 p.m.: The three eat dinner at Maguro Sushi, crossing another event off Drysch’s New York wish list.
10:26 p.m.: Dessert at Junior’s Cheesecake, a New York staple.
TUESDAY, JAN. 29
7:03 a.m.: Drysch makes appearances on CNN and conducts two radio interviews on what will be his final day in New York.
9:23 a.m.: Drysch travels to Huffington Post Live, winning 75 cents after hitting a re-creation of his shot on a nerf hoop.
11 a.m.: Hodgdon books a flight to Chicago for Tuesday night. He has a Wednesday morning Fox Chicago interview planned. But before they leave, Drysch and his new friends receive free tickets from the hotel for a taping of Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. Fallon does a double-take when he sees Drysch in the crowd. After receiving word that former Illinois Gov. George Ryan has been released from prison, Drysch’s Wednesday morning TV appearance is canceled. Producers from the Kimmel and Ellen show inform Hodgdon that both shows are booked for the week.
7:16 p.m. Hodgdon and Drysch leave New York, posing for one final photo in Times Square.
10:15 p.m: Hodgdon and Drysch land at Midway Airport.
10:28 p.m.: Drysch tweets, wondering if he can get a free cab ride home to McHenry. Instead, he pays for it himself.
WEDNESDAY, JAN. 30
9 a.m.: Drysch returns to work at American Hotel Register in Vernon Hills, prepared to re-start the life he had before the shot.