Today would have been my brother’s 46th birthday if we hadn’t lost him earlier this year. Sad for sure so I wanted to share one of my earliest memories and hopefully bring a smile.
This may not be much of a surprise, but Chris was sometimes an annoying little brother… especially if sports were involved. People today talk about his passions for the Bears and the Cubs. Understandable considering how hard it is to ignore a man that size who’s very skin was emblazoned with Chicago sports logos. Yup. Super fan. No doubt.
The thing is, that’s not the Chris I first met and the Bears weren’t the first team I remember him being passionate about. For me, I’ll always think of the team he played on when he was no more than twelve years old and living in Hoffman Estates Illinois. I have no idea what the team name was as it’s lost in my memory somewhere. What I remember was that he would simply not shut up about his games. How he played. How they played. How the referees weren’t fair. How the wind hurt them. And on and on and on. If you have a little brother who played sports in their early teens, then you know -exactly- what I mean.
I remember going to one of his games back when we were all younger. I don’t think our parents had been married for very long at that point so it was a chance for me to get to know Jeff and Chris a bit more. I remember Jeff and I hanging out on the sidelines being typical brothers who didn’t really want to be at a game. Yet for some reason, they trusted Jeff and I to hold the 10 yard chains during Chris’ game. NOW I wanted to be there. My imagination had me just waiting for the referee to call us in to see if the team made a first down or was left with fourth and inches. What a thrill to be so important!
Unfortunately, I had no idea about one simple rule: if a player comes running towards you and is going out of bounds, drop the marker so they don’t trip and hurt themselves. I didn’t know and I still feel bad for whomever hurt their shin because of it.
Whoever you are that got hurt, sorry… but don’t worry. Chris spent the next few hours and many of the next few days “reminding” me of my failure as only a little brother can do. He had your back! Chris was, of course, right…. but did he have to be so damn right? And did he have to be right so often and for so long? Heck, it came up in a 2013 visit! Gahh. I think I’ve paid the price now, thank you.
Obviously, I still vividly remember that day and I’m reminded of it today as I sit in this now-empty field thinking of him. This spring the neighborhood kids will return and the field will again fill with sports fanaticism. I smile each time we drive by here and I think of him. But today it’s just me out in the field remembering his love of the game.
No teenager understands that annoying brothers are simply struggling to express love. In Chris’ case, his annoyance took the form of expressing his love for a game. He wasn’t trying to pester me (well, perhaps a little). He just wanted me to get excited about what excited him. At the time, it was frustrating. Now I see it for what it was.. the beginning of a lifetime of him passionately loving sports and helping others fall in love as well. I’ve never learned that love but I understand and miss his passion every time I see this field.
So, tonight I’ll be celebrating his 46th birthday by watching game three of the Cubs/Mets playoff series knowing Chris now has the best seat in the house. Win or lose, he’s enjoying the best tribute the Cubs could offer: a playoff game on his birthday. Too bad the Bears don’t play on Tuesdays.
Happy birthday Chris. We all miss you! Enjoy the game