A Week-End Of Loss

 

He had a laugh that shook the room. Just the way he must have shaken opposing quarterbacks. That 70″s Super Bowl Front Four was a fearsome force . Yet Dwight White was the nicest, friendliest guy you would ever want to meet.  

I had served on a board with his wife, Karen, who is smart, and beautiful, and deeply involved in community, as was her husband. The last time I was with them both was after just such a community event. A cocktail party for an upcoming Mentoring Partnership fundraiser. We went to dinner afterwards with another couple, and we prodded Dwight into regaling us with stories of those legendary teammates, and he even entertained us, in that booming voice,  with his somewhat irreverent observations of current NFL players. We were all in stitches, including Karen. What a caring and courageous guy. Amazing stories like the one in which he came out of the hospital, 18 pounds thinner from pneumonia, to play in the Steelers’ first Super Bowl. Not only to play, but to score the first points, sacking Fran Tarkenton in the end zone. Our hearts go out to those lucky enough to have loved him, played with him, celebrated with him. A life cut short so suddenly. That is what makes it doubly hard for his family and friends. 

 

The very next day, another loss. Someone whom I never met, but who changed my life. Jim McKay was the person who made this Asian Studies grad student, back in the mid 70’s decide she would rather report on sports, then teach pre-modern Chinese history. Watching the tributes to him all week-end, I heard him called a poet by those who knew him and worked with him. It is such an appropriate accolade. I just loved his writing. He was one of the reasons I became obsessed with the Olympics, and my mother and I were huge fans of ABC’s Wide World of Sports. His storytelling pulled you in, took you there, and made you  want to learn– because his empathy and enthusiasm were genuine, not manufactured.  And it was that empathy, and gift of language, that made him the perfect person to tell the world what was happening to 11 Israeli athletes in Munich in 1972. I remember sitting in my dorm room, glued to the TV, praying that the rescue attempt at the airport ended in their successful release, and sobbing when he uttered the words, “They’re all gone.”

Now he is gone. On the day that the sport he loved the most–horse racing–was front and center. Full of controversy and questions. Can you imagine how brilliantly he would have summed up the jaw-dropping performance of Big Brown?  Jim  McKay elevated sports to another level.  I doubt there will be another like him in my lifetime. 

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