By Jeff Joniak-
I needed a day to write this after spending time with the man who defined integrity and class.
Broadcasters live forever. Their voices, their diction, their descriptions, their words, their perspective, their stories all come back to life simply by hitting play.
Recordings preserve history, and Eric Brown helped chart it since 1988 on WBBM. Sadly Eric was not afforded the opportunity to sign off on his own terms, taken yesterday after his brave battle with cancer.
Eric covered sports in this great city with humility, and genuine love for the games people play. He was there for Jordan and the Bulls championships, the Cup Chase in recent years by the Blackhawks, a Mark Buerhle no-hitter, a Cubs division title clincher at Wrigley Field, and an NHL All-Star Game at old Chicago Stadium at the height of the first Gulf War.
His love of sports was deeply rooted in his childhood. He loved Gale Sayers and the Bears, his beloved White Sox, and Pit Martin and the Blackhawks.
In looking back at his career at WBBM, one “quiet” moment stood out to Eric at the original “Madhouse on Madison.”
“Sitting in the penalty box with former WBBM reporter Brian Davis and former Blackhawks goalie and analyst Darren Pang after the last Blackhawk game ever played there, looking at all the scrapes on the door from skates of so many who played on that ice,” Eric said.
Eric Brown held “simple moments” in high regard.
A graduate of St. Norbert College in DePere, Wisconsin, Eric worked at WBAY-TV in Green Bay covering the Packers then at CBS affiliate WISC-TV in Madison. He piled up nine years of reporting and anchoring experience in both news and sports, while calling Badger hockey games. I never heard his play-by-play, but his family tells me Eric was a natural at calling the sport.
Over the course of his career, Eric demonstrated the ability to adapt to the ever-changing landscape of the radio business. He wasn’t always dealt the best hand, but he never complained. He just worked. He worked a lot of holidays, and a lot of weekends.
Eric went kicking, punching, and fighting into the digital age. The use of modern recorders for reporters raised on cassette tapes was simpler, but it took some strong-armed convincing for Eric to believe it. He wanted to get everything right. He would work until the wee hours of the morning after games to craft his post-game reports.
For noon starts during Bears season, I would frequently call Eric on my way to Soldier Field during his Sunday morning shift and talk about the game. He always gave me an encouraging word: “have a great call, you know you will.” He was always supportive, and at times I needed it more than he ever knew.
A friend of mine years ago shared a story with me about the final days of former Marquette basketball coaching legend Al McGuire. My friend asked Coach McGuire if there was one piece of advice he could offer after acquiring perspective of a life lived. Al simply told him “Kindness. Do more random acts of kindness.” That is exactly how Eric approached life; with kindness, so much kindness.
I never saw Eric get angry or heard him cuss, but when he was ever so slightly aggravated with something, he would start by saying “the thing of it is,” or “look here,” and you knew a grand statement was about to be unfurled.
He was a friend to everyone in the newsroom, always with a smile, always with his giant bottle of water.
As former WBBM anchor Chris Boden and I discussed the other day, E.B. is the last guy in the world who should have gone through what he had since last year when cancer struck.
E.B. rounded third and headed home yesterday. A good life lived. He’ll be missed, but the thing of it is family and friends need only press play to remember one of the nicest people we’ve come to know.