Dateline: A dining room table column
“FYI, when I got off the phone with you at lunch time I got a call an hour later that my stepmom passed away. Weird how we were talking about it less than 6 hours earlier.”
Text msg 8:10PM 4/30/19
I was sitting up in my home office writing Frank Talley’s story, listening to the song play over and over, writing something, to be honest, a little harsh.
Early in the morning I talked with him on the phone before he left for practice. Nice talk, but I was concerned about a couple of things he told me, mainly family stuff like taking a day off from practice to go meet his daughter’s newborn baby, his first grandchild, other things about visiting sick friends and family during events.
I wasn’t going to rip him about it, but I was going to say that as a professional playing a professional sport during events, game days and practice days, you need to be 100 percent in it. You need hyperfocus. You need to be on the field of play 100 percent.
But then came that text msg.
And as I sat and texted back to him this: “Prayers for your family man,” I highlighted every word I wrote in the story and then hit the delete key.
Sitting here alone, writing only by the light from my laptop monitor, my wife safe and asleep in our bedroom down the hall, my children happy, healthy and safe with their loved ones, maybe, you know, it is really, just a game.
Just a game.
Back when I was at ESPN and before that WPXI in Pittsburgh covering professional sports, I worked with other professional journalists. Amongst us we had this kind of unwritten rule to never categorize a sporting event as “a battle,” or “a war,” or any hyperbole like that. We all know that during “sudden death,” no one actually dies.
And punting and passing a football is not combat. True combat is ugly and evil and people are maimed and killed, there is nothing like it on earth, certainly not in any sporting arenas since the Coliseum of Rome closed and the lions and tigers were sent home.
I don’t know Frank’s stepmother. I do know that she was his stepmother for the last 30 of his 44 years of life. I do know when he spoke of her to me he did so kindly. I also know that just a year ago Frank also lost his father, double grief in very short time.
I’ve always written that only life and death is life and death and everything else is just stuff to deal with. Tonight though life and death was life and death. One of our anglers lost a family member, and dealing with that, no matter what place you are in, is much more important than weighing in five big fish.
To Frank Talley; to his wife, Christy; to his daughter, Destiny; and his son, Frank “Chi” Talley IV, from myself, from B.A.S.S., from all our fans, our prayers and thoughts are with you in this time of grief.
Now comes the Frank “The Tank” Talley story, with no judgment, with no advice, no quotes or lyrics, that one upfront says it all, but in retrospect told with compassion and concern for a fellow human being in times of sadness.
Just wanted you to know the truth behind the words, as is your right.