I Was A Dennis Scott Hot Shot: An Essay About a Poem About a Dead Bird That Won an Award that was a Basketball Commercial
I wrote a poem about a dead bird in the 6th grade and it won an award. I mean, I wrote a poem about a dead bird and my teacher liked it so she submitted it to a contest for me without asking. It was a very bad poem about a crow that asphyxiated outside my bedroom window — I wrote it because I thought I was a poet, even though what I knew about poets was that they wrote about things that died, so I thought things being dead made a poem beautiful. This particular poem talked about how the dead crow glimmered and shook in the sunlight. I wrote this awful poem and gave it to a teacher at my middle school who then submitted it to a literary contest hosted by the Orlando Magic and Dennis Scott. It won the contest; it is possible I won because no one else at my Central Florida middle school submitted a poem. Nobody at my school liked reading or writing. People thought it was weird to hold a book.
The poem won and I was awarded the honor of Dennis Scott Hot Shot.
I did not exactly know what this meant, but they announced it over the intercom in the morning and people all turned to look at me, which I absolutely did not like. My poem, about a dead bird, was the grand prize winner. The prize was that I could attend an Orlando Magic Basketball game and meet Dennis Scott, who would shake my hand and give me a certificate that lauded my emerging literary talent. This was all very stressful, as I basically lived life as a church affiliated hermit, so I said “okay” and imagined what it would be like to die before this actually happened so I could get out of it.
I did not die.
My mother helped me choose my outfit for this commercial. It was a shirt we created together, meaning it was a long sleeve deep green t-shirt and we applied an iron-on appliqué to the front. The appliqué was of a large tree with a bunch of birds nesting in it. This seemed appropriate because my poem was about a dead bird, so this would remind people of the fact I wrote an Award Winning Poem. My parents dropped me off directly outside the arena where my Vice Principal was waiting to escort me. He was a very tall blonde man who I did not know; a man who seemed ill equipped to deal with me and looked sweaty. He constantly asked if I was having a good time. I was not having a good time. We walked inside the arena and he very kindly told me I could have any snack I wanted. When I said I would like a soft pretzel, he told me I would have to wait for my snack until after the interview.
“Interview?” I asked, because I was told I would not have to speak to anyone aside from my Vice Principal, who was weird and could not form a sentence that didn’t have the word “cool” in it.
“For the commercial,” he replied, and then dragged me through the arena all the way to the court.
There were a bunch of men warming up in track suits. I stood awkwardly beside my Vice Principal as he tried to flag down anybody in order to tell them I had written a Poem about a Dead Bird that had Won an Award. Weirdly, no one seemed to care or understand I had won a poetry award. Nobody on that basketball court wanted to talk to us about my dead bird poem. We stood there for a horrifically long time before someone finally came up and asked what the hell we thought we were doing on the court.
“It’s about a poem,” replied my Vice Principal. “She is an award winner.”
The man who asked why the hell we were there sized me up and looked away quickly. He waved over to someone, a large someone, and then a very tall man came over and stood beside me. He shook my hand and hugged me around the shoulders. He said “Great Job” and then hugged me around the shoulders again. I understood this was Dennis Scott—the nicest person I had probably ever met. He said “are you ready to be in a commercial” and I said “sure” because I did not want to tell this very nice man that I did not want to be in a commercial or talk to anybody ever in my entire life.
We stood in the middle of the court and he wrapped his arm around me again. He told me he liked my shirt. He said, “don’t be nervous, it always feels like this,” which is what I think about now any time I get embarrassed or weirded out about anything — that even someone as cool as Dennis Scott thought being in front of a camera was terrible. I stood beside him and yelled into a camera “I’M A DENNIS SCOTT HOT SHOT” and gave a thumbs up and then we were done.
I walked off the court and back to my Vice Principal, who said I did fine, and then we watched the game in some nosebleed seats. The Magic lost that game. I remember because people were leaving the stands right after halftime and nobody was in a very good mood. My Vice Principal bought me a non-fat vanilla frozen yogurt with no toppings that I would have never chosen for myself and then he drove me home in his very small black Porsche that he had a very hard time driving.
I put this on my writing resume because I think it’s important people know I was, at one time, a very bad poet, but also that Dennis Scott supported my work and found something to love in a shitty poem about dead birds.