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A cold, hard Sunday

POSTED January 27, 2020
BY Rick Wilson
Twitter: @scribewilson

               It was just another lazy Sunday on the couch with a little golf and basketball. And then the phone rang.

               ‘Hey dad, you watching TV?, “ said my son Jon who is a sophomore at Eastern Connecticut State University.

               “Yeah, what’s up?,” I replied.

                “Kobe just died in a helicopter crash,” he said. “It’s all over Twitter.”

               Immediately I went into the inevitable disbelief mode that follows the horrific. A defense mechanism and refusal to accept what you don’t’ want to believe but can’t deny the knot of truth that has taken over your stomach. Then the numbness sets in.

               It got worse later on when I found out that Kobe’s 13-year-old daughter Gianna was with him and died with him. The numbness burned.

               Rightly or wrongly our athletic stars become our heroes and they are woven into the fabric of our passions. We root for them, we root against them but all the time they are there. You know what they are doing and how they perform.  We don’t escape them; they are always part of the passion.

               And when they are gone we mourn. When they are ripped from our world, particulary at a young age with family, we shake and wonder where the next deep breath is coming from. There is some solace when age is the culprit and with disease there is despair but some preparation time. All offering a tiny emotional edge to deal with it.

               There is nothing here, it is all raw and stings us to the bone. On a foggy morning Kobe was here, on his way to a basketball game. Then he was gone.  No warning, no nothing, just gone. With that finality there is a cruel helplessness and a gnawing with no magic elixir, no time machine to turn back the clock. It just is and it is a searing pain.

               That was Kobe. He carried one name like Magic, Larry, Tiger. You knew who he was and what he did. If you followed the sport you knew Kobe. If you didn’t follow the sport, you still knew the name. You didn’t have to like him, but you knew him. He had a world-wide audience.

               You knew the 81-point game and the 61-point career finale. You knew he came right out of high school and his 20-year career. You knew of the Olympic Gold Medal and the five NBA titles. You knew of the occasional barbs that flew back and forth between him and his teammate and friend Shaq.

               You knew of the sexual assault charge early in the career and his post-career Oscar for a video short on his career. You knew of his daughter Gianna and her growing interest in basketball.

               You knew of his final tweet the night before he died to Lebron James who had surpassed him on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. –“Continuing to move the game forward. Much respect my brother.”

               You knew because he was Kobe and he was part of your passion.  Maybe not your guy. Maybe not your style, but you didn’t escape him, always a presence in the corner of your eye.

               I had no connection to Kobe. I met him once, last year at the UConn women’s game against Houston and exchanged a quick two-sentence back-and-forth and a handshake with him. Gianna, a lover of the UConn women had that there’s no other place I’d rather be look in her eye that day. The Kind of look that sticks with you.

               It was Kobe, and you knew he was in the house.

               The rest of Sunday was kind of surreal, an exercise in flipping channels and watching the shock set in as the sports world found out. A devasted Laker legend Jerry West trying to put into words that numbness. West had been virtually a surrogate father to him. Clippers coach Doc Rivers barely able to talk.

               There was a shaken Tiger being told of the tragedy by his caddie Joey LaCava as he walked off the 18th hole at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines. Stunned NBA players being notified and taking deliberate 24-second clock shot violations or 8-second backcourt violations in a salute to Kobe and his two numbers that are retired.

               Later on our own Pat Tiscia, covering the UConn men’s game against Tulsa at the XL Center, posted an excellent piece on the reaction at the XL Center as world filtered out about Kobe’s death.

               The Grammy’s shared stage with Kobe. Music’s biggest night was at the Staples Center where Kobe played out much of his career. Give the music people credit. Starting with the Red-Carpet interviews in which most saluted Kobe, there was an inescapable pall to the night.

               Alicia Keyes with Boyz To Men started the show with a stirring rendition to a somber crowed of `It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye.”

               Athletes, politicians, enterainers none were immune to the pall of the day.

               Kobe was 41-years old. Half of his life lived with a large measure of success. Half of his life to go in today’s world. His playing days were over and will be immortalized in the Hall of Fame. His family life was in full gear with much of the journey to go. Four young daughters and a wife.

               Sunday afternoon there were three daughters and wife. Kobe gone; Gianna gone.

               Lazy turned to numb and there didn’t see to be enough deep breaths to be found or tissues. And there were no answers, nothing to stop the cold emptiness.

               Here one minute, gone the next. So much done, so much to do. Geez………

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