Thursday, July 30, 2009

every new beginning: a memorial

RIP Jim Johnson
May 26, 1941 – July 28, 2009

It won't be a stretch to say that Philadelphia sports fans are known for their passion-- and therefore also for their suffering. However, for the city to lose two keystone sports figures within a single year, a proper word for this is not available. Harry Kalas passed away this spring from a heart attack, and Jim Johnson passed away a few days ago, losing his battle with melanoma.

Harry Kalas was the play-by-play announcer for the Philadelphia Phillies, the "voice" of the team. I remember hearing him call the 1993 World Series games as a child, awake listening to the radio in my bedroom, and I'm sure others have similar memories. When Blanton throws three strikes, I hear Kalas's voice saying, "struck him out!"; when Ryan Howard hits one out of the park, I hear Kalas say, "this ball is outttaaa heereeee." These are things that do not leave one's memory. Click here for some memorable Kalas calls.

Tuesday afternoon, the Philadelphia Eagles announced the loss of longtime defensive coordinator, Jim Johnson. For nearly ten years, leading the Eagles to one Superbowl and five division championships, Johnson stood on the sideline, running perhaps one of the most interestingly structured defenses in the league. Known for blitzing an offense a tiring amount of times, Johnson's defense was, at times, considered the best. His slightly hunched figure, headphoned with a clipboard or papers in hand, will be something greatly missed when the Eagles' season begins soon.

Kalas and Johnson both led full lives outside of their contributions to the Philadelphia sports world. Both, until the days that they died, lived a dream: they did what they loved and what they excelled at until the end of their lives. This fact itself makes their deaths bittersweet. Kalas, at last, lived to see the Phillies win the World Series last year, in 2008. Johnson helped the Eagles to the 2005 Superbowl, though the result of that game is better left undiscussed with any Eagles fan. Philadelphia, in both baseball and football in 2009, has lost two of its behind-the-scenes greats. Neither will be forgotten.

RIP Harry Kalas
March 26, 1936 – April 13, 2009