By Chris Rongey–
(CBS) So many have shared their Doug Buffone stories in the last day since he passed away Monday afternoon, and I shared this one at the end of the White Sox postgame show. For those who missed it, I wanted to share it again.
When I first started at 670 The Score in 2002, my first update shift was a Friday night that began during the final moments of Mike North and Buffone’s show. I would often work those weekday shifts, and I’d also work many Sundays during the Doug and OB postgame show. Like everyone else, I was just completely struck by that show and how damned entertaining, passionate and charming it was. And like everyone else, I got to know and love Doug for all the very same reasons they did.
I grew up in Granite City just outside of St. Louis, and even though we had the football Cardinals when I was young, followed by a few years of nothing and then the Rams, my grandfather, Dule, was always a Bears fan. He had known former Bears lineman George Musso, who grew up in Collinsville and, like my grandfather, worked in law enforcement in Madison County after football. That was the origin of my grandfather’s Bears love.
And he sure did love them. His living room on winter Sundays turned into a provisional shrine. Bears jerseys and blankets draped over the couch and chairs. Bears stuffed animals propped up in the remaining open cushions. There was nowhere else for the rest of us humans to sit. But it was gameday. We’re weren’t going to ruin grandpa’s mojo on gameday.
It was insane, but so are Bears fans. Even the ones who live 290 miles from Soldier Field.
The first day I ever handled updates during the Doug and OB Show was after a loss, and I remember vividly saying to myself, “Holy $*%# — Grandpa would love this.” I told him about it and even made a tape after one particularly bad game and gave it to him. It was gold, as usual. Grandpa thought so, too.
Years ago, before Alzheimer’s started to take hold, my grandfather and grandmother came up to Chicago to visit. It was late on a Sunday afternoon, and I thought I’d take them by the station to meet Doug and Ed O’Bradovich. They were in the middle of a commercial break, so I brought grandpa into the studio to meet them.
Obviously, he was thrilled. Naturally, he asked about Musso. Doug would’ve talked to him for another hour if the producer hadn’t reminded him a time or three that it was time to go back on the air. My grandpa loved it.
I had nearly forgotten about that until I talked to my mom Monday to tell her about Doug’s passing, and she reminded me of it. I know grandpa must’ve told her all about it because of how much that four-minute encounter meant to him.
I heard about Doug’s death via Twitter. Even though I immediately turned on the station to hear Dan Bernstein and Barry Rozner struggling to get through the conversation, and even though I read the avalanche of reaction from fans, it just didn’t seem real. It felt detached, I guess.
I knew it had happened, but I don’t know it had happened, if that makes sense.
It finally got me Monday night as I started to think more about that meeting and how wonderful Doug was with my grandpa, who died last August. I tried to talk about it during the White Sox postgame show Monday night, but it probably came out gibberish. It almost feels like I’m mourning them both at once.
I’m happy I knew Doug, but I wish I knew him more. I certainly wish I had seen him more often over the last few years of his Bears career. He gave me a big bear hug last time I saw him several months ago. A big hug from a big Bear. I never saw him play, but Doug is my favorite Bear.
I’m hoping he and Dule are somewhere right now discussing the team they both loved so much and complaining about George Halas’s manhole-size nickels, without being interrupted by the next postgame segment. Maybe they’re both watching a game and shouting at the TV together.
Maybe George Musso is even there.
Chris Rongey is the host of White Sox pregame and postgame shows on 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisRongey.