I am a weird mix of jock and nerd. I love sports but I also love fantasy. These two things sometimes seem like they cannot or should not coexist. I get pushback form both sides my jock friends cannot understand how I can stand to read and write when I could be playing or watching sports. My nerd friends wonder why I would ever want to leave my temperature controlled office to go run around with a bunch of Neanderthals in the heat, rain, or snow. I am a bad jock because I will turn off a bad game to watch something with my wife or to read or write. I am a bad nerd because I will get so emotionally invested in sports that it can run my day and prevent me from reading or writing.
I suppose I can engage so strongly in both of these cultures because both draw me with the same things: vibrant characters, intense storylines, and intellectual stimulation.
The reason for this post today (not only to get back to writing on this blog, since Thanksgiving broke me of the habit) is to lament the passing of one of the vibrant characters that I had admired for a long time.
He was diagnosed with a deadly and misunderstood disease when he was little more than a child, but kept that knowledge secret as he pursued his dreams. He pushed himself to be the best even though his disease severely limited what might have otherwise been limitless potential. Never bitter but always intense, he reached his career aspiration in spite of his limitations. He fought daily against not only his disease but as word got out about his disease against an unfair stigma even though he was one of the best at what he did. He was a happy person, he was an intense person, he was a fierce competitor who boisterously celebrated victory and angrily rejected any defeat. He was despised by his peers for his passion and success, but he did not stoop to firing back at his critics he let his success speak for him.
Eventually time wore away his greatness and so he left the career he loved. His legend continued to grow and he became like a king and ruled well, trading the trappings and power of office and fame to become a voice for those whom he originally entertained. He did not grow bitter at losing his place of esteem like so many others but instead became the most ardent and joyful supporter of those who came after him.
Yet his two greatest aspirations were denied to him, for he sought for the group that he was associated with to be hailed as the champions and he sought to be rightly acknowledged amongst the best of history in his career. But in a cruel twist of fate, luck and poor management defied him the former, and the peers who had despised him so, blocked his attempts at the latter.
His disease eventually began to destroy his body and he lost both his legs. But still he remained joyful and jubilant, and dutifully continued to represent the people who loved him. Other sickness eventually began to attack his body and today he finally could fight no longer.
Ron Santo died today at the age of 70.
Ron was the great Chicago Cubs player and broadcaster who lived and died with the success and failures of his beloved team. He was a character unlike any that I have found in fiction, and his warmth and passion will be sorely missed. People like Ron are why I can love sports and love fantasy because he could have been a beloved character in a novel just as easily as he was as a beloved sports personality.
To read a less fanciful account of Ron’s life visit my other blog http://thecognitivecacophony.blogspot.com/ where I delve more into why he meant so much to me. And comeback soon to hear about my NaNoWriMo results!