When Sports And Fantasy Mix

Sports are fantasy. That's why we love them, sometimes to excess. Many of us have fantasized about holing a 9-iron to win the Masters, of hitting a corner jumper at the buzzer to win the Final Four collegiate basketball tournament, of kicking the winning soccer goal to win the World Cup, of Olympic gold.

Alas, we only hear that seductive roar of the crowd in our dreams. In real life, it roars not for us. In real life, we are 9-to-5 insurance adjusters. In real life, we gaze at the stars and wonder what it's like up there.

But the other day, a fortunate few - approximately 200 - got a rare opportunity not simply to witness an extraordinary joining of sports and fantasy but to be a part of it. It occurred when Detroit Lions fullback Tommy Vardell, Cleveland's No. 1 draft choice in 1992, married Andrea DeNoble, she of dazzling beauty and a Southern drawl stemming from Louisiana roots. The wedding was in the Stanford Memorial Church here, not far from a lot of big-time triumphs when Touchdown Tommy, a Stanford engineering grad, was leading the Cardinal to many splendored things on the football field.

They are both bright, good looking, talented, and their financial future is secure. That's four ways they are different from us.

But the significant part is that the couple, in union with their parents, created a wondrous weekend that had women feeling like Cinderella and men like Masters of the Universe.

Could there be any greater gift to give friends and relatives?

There was terrific food consumed in storybook places. The weather screamed California. There was laughter and good times and limousines and staying up too late. There were the rich and the famous; there were the never been rich and won't ever be famous; there were the young and old; there were the black and white.

There was a cake with a football field on it, complete with No. 44 - that would be Vardell - preparing to spike the ball in the end zone after scoring another touchdown. You'll see this in real life come fall on a television set near you.

Tommy Vardell - son of a long-time special agent for the FBI and a mother who was a model - has been a luminary since his starring days at Granite Hills High School in El Cajon, Calif. Football, he understands, doesn't last forever, usually not even very long, and conceivably not past tomorrow. You never know.

But what does last - maybe - are friends and marriage. That's why so much of the conversation was not about sports but about life, about marriage, about how the couple was introduced by Vardell's agent, legendary Jack Mills, who says he is considering adding a line to his business card that reads, "Agent of Love," about Touchdown Tommy's comedic older brother, Tailgatin' Teddy, about plans and dreams for a couple that seems to have it all within reach.

We'll see.

Maybe Vardell is a Colombia drug runner. Maybe his bride is an embezzler dating from her days working in a bank. You never know.

About half of the marriages end shipwrecked, so this couple has embarked on a perilous journey heading for stormy seas looming out there on a cloudy and uncertain horizon.

For now, however, they are young and rich and in love and optimism for them and by them is unbridled.

The wedding hoopla was grand at every turn. A justice of the peace at Chapel of the Get Married Quick and Cheap could have rendered the same effect for $100 plus tip. But elegance and class and dignity are good.

So is pomp and circumstance. And grandeur. And beauty. And fantasy. We don't have enough of any of this. It all lifts us up. It reminds us how good good can be. It makes us smile.

None among us should grouse about how that money could have been better used for combatting starvation in Africa or homelessness in America or for the Bill Clinton Defense Fund. These young people have done plenty of good for many others and will do much more. The overriding fact is that a dose of fantasy is tonic for those of us who deal with too much fast food and too many self-service gas stations.

Fantasy is why we love sports. It's why we love weddings. When the two join hands, as they did here, it's a spectacular confluence that gives us all hope.

* Douglas S. Looney's e-mail address is looneyd@csps.com

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