Saying goodbye to Uncle Doug
“So you’re from Pittsburgh. Steelers fan?”
“Nope, I’m a Chicago Bears fan.”
“The Bears? Why?”
“Well, I have an uncle that played for the Bears for 14 years and I grew up in a Chicago Bears family.”
It’s a conversation I've had a hundred times since moving to Lancaster.
My Uncle Doug passed away this Monday and I’m still trying to compartmentalize everything and everyone he impacted.
From ESPN personalities to football fans in Bourbonnais, IL, there was a social media outpour of memories, laughs and conversations they shared with “Big Doug”.
To a lot of Bears fans, my uncle was a hard-nosed, linebacker who made 1257 tackles (surpassing the 100-tackle mark in seven seasons) and finished his career with 24 interceptions, the most amongst all Bears linebackers.
To the younger generation, he was the lovable and passionate broadcaster on Chicago’s 670-AM “The Score” who loved the Bears as much as anyone. His brutally honest approach to the team allowed him to become the “every man’s voice” for the Bears.
To me however, he was just Uncle Doug.
He was the butt of his three brothers’ jokes at hunting camp after he went on a decade-long buck drought.
He’s the guy who once tried to fertilize his own yard and ending up scorching it into ruins.
And he was the guy who loved being around his family.
After I got out of college, I landed a job hosting a sports show on a small, local radio station in Kittanning, Pa. My Uncle Doug volunteered to call in every week to break down the NFL to help me learn how an entertaining show is conducted.
While his appearance surely helped my ratings, my favorite part was just talking sports with my uncle, who actually lived in the world most people dream about. He originally said he could fit in a fifteen minute segment every week but it wasn’t uncommon for us to break all rules of radio scheduling and shoot the breeze about anything and everything for 30-40 minutes on-air. I just loved talking with him.
Every week, he gave me insight that was worthy of a national audience and I will forever be indebted to him for his generosity.
The last time I saw him; we sat together on a couch, surrounded by family and friends, and watched a basketball game while talking about his time at the University of Louisville. It didn’t hit me until recently how many people would have loved to be in my shoes at that time.
I was just visiting with my uncle.
Whether he knew it or not, Uncle Doug had a significant impact, personally and professionally, on my life.
He is the reason I am a Chicago Bears/Louisville fan, he made me a better broadcaster and he made me proud to come from a small, coal-mining town in western Pennsylvania.
I am amongst hundreds of people that truly feel blessed to have known him but I am one of the few lucky that were able to call him family.
He had such an impact on everyone around him and he did it simply by being himself.
He was so much more than a football player. He was goofy Uncle Doug.
I’m going to miss him a lot.