Of Fedoras and Ryan

PAX Prime 12 was my second PAX since 09. It was the most fun I had ever had since the previous one I went to. It wasn't the first one where I saw him in person, but it was the first time I truly met Ryan Davis. Little did I know it would also be my last.

As I made the rounds on the show floor, I made it a point to meet as many Bombcast regulars as possible. I had already shaken hands with John Drake and Jeff Green. I was feeling pretty good about all of this when I happened to be passing by the convention center's smoking area when I saw Vinny puffing an American Spirit. Drew and Brad were there chatting with him, Drew holding a tripod and Brad holding the strap of a backpack. Patrick, Jeff, and Ryan were nowhere to be seen. It was an incomplete Bombcrew, but I knew I had to take this opportunity to meet with them. In retrospect, it speaks to my inexperience in dealing with celebrities that I chose to do it that way. Ideally, one shouldn't run up to them on their downtime; one should let them breathe and relax in their scant few opportunities to do so. But none of these thoughts crossed my selfish mind as I stepped outside to introduce myself to them.

And do you know something? I don't remember what I talked about with that trio. What I do remember is that at some point, Ryan, clad in a blue polo, walked up seemingly from out of nowhere. “Mr. Davis?” I said as I reached out for a handshake. Ryan looked at me incredulously. It should be mentioned that PAX12 coincided with a period in my life that I regularly wore fedoras. I knew he hated them, but that didn't stop me. The nerve, the fucking nerve of me to walk up to them wearing that. I might as well have went up to him with a utilikilt, Vibrams, AND Google Glass. Ryan tentatively returned the handshake. As we were shaking hands, I pointed to the black straw fedora and said, “I know.”

At that point Ryan let out his trademark giggle. The others laughed, too. Ryan was nice enough to put up with it, saying “Well, you seem to be going more for the Justin Timberlake look, rather than the typical Indy-style fedora that seems to be the nerd favorite.” Having walked around PAX seeing about 50 of them, I told him “Yeah, I'm beginning to understand your fedora-hatred now.”

They laughed again. “At least he's self aware!” Brad chimed in. I wish I could say I was. I knew Ryan hated fedoras, and walking around Seattle seeing perhaps one in three people wearing them, I started to hate them, too. But their ubiquity is not why people, including Ryan, hate fedoras. It's the quality of the people attached to them. Misogynistic, predatory, self-important douchebags. And that's exactly the kind of person I was, unknown to them. But again, Ryan was willing to put up with something he hated to connect with the people who loved him.

From that point forward, Ryan dominated the conversation in the way that only he could. I told him about how I first heard about Giant Bomb by attending their PAX09 panel. “Yeah, that's the one where the dude tried to sell that Starcraft key, right?” Of course it was. It was the result of an eating contest that was seared into my psyche. There were so many people willing to eat that energy drink-soaked Cup Noodles for prizes that were unclear. I was horrified and disgusted at the time, but as the crew said on the podcast, Ryan had a way of making anything seem like a great idea, and were the opportunity to present itself again, I would jump at the chance just like everyone else. But this formative moment in my Giant Bomb fandom was not the detail that he remembered. There's a line in the Street Fighter movie where M. Bison says “For you, the day Bison graced your village was the most important day of your life. But for me, it was Tuesday.” For Ryan, it was always Tuesday.

I shook all their hands again and let them go do what they needed to. Months later, I was in a deep depression, and one of the things I would ruminate over was this meeting. I wanted to go back to PAX and show him that I had kicked my nasty fedora habit, as well as my nastier misogyny habit. Unfortunately, that'll never happen now. But you know what? In light of recent events, suicide doesn't seem nearly as attractive to me as it once did.

Thanks, Ryan.

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